What Are You Chasing?

So much of our world revolves around self.  Have you noticed?  Commercials on television and social media tell us constantly that we deserve to have the best, the latest new gadget, the newest version of something, or the most up-to-date style.  In our daily lives, we throw away more good things than probably any other era of time.  I get teased for keeping takeaway plastic food containers from restaurants, wash them and reuse them.  One of my favorite fast-food restaurants uses these really neat plastic containers and on the bottom of the dish, it says they can be reused and are also microwave safe.  I love that!  Finally, someone gets smart.  I use their food containers for all sorts of things, cookies we have baked and take to someone as a gift, storage of sliced fruit in the fridge, Christmas fudge, and left-overs.  I just wish all restaurants would do the same, then, perhaps our landfills would not be so full.  But I digress!  What I really want to talk about is what we are chasing in life, what goals are we pursuing and what are we trying to achieve?  Some people say that they are doing all that they can to just survive and so they don’t have any goals except to survive.  Yes, there are times I think that we all have felt that way.  Perhaps I am old, but I see only two options that we are chasing….either we chase after God or we chase after the world that doesn’t know God.

Recently on social media a friend showed a photo of a woman that is only four years younger than my friend and asked why this woman looked beautiful and my friend didn’t?  She asked what makes the difference.  I have looked at celebrities and thought the same thing.  What makes the difference is easy to spot, the celebrities have a team of people behind their great looks, personal trainers to help motivate them to exercise, chefs who cook healthy and delicious meals, beauticians who take good care of their hair, make-up artists who can paint on a face that looks ten or twenty years younger, spas that do skin treatments to keep the skin looking young, nail technicians that do manicures and pedicures that make nails look good.  If my friend and I had that kind of a team behind us we would look great too!  It takes all of these people to make one person look good for the camera!  What the world won’t do to make women who are aging feel less-than is truly amazing.  I think that is why so many men and women chase after youthful looks because the world demands it.  How does the world view aging?

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. I have become a sign to many; you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together. They say, “God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him.” Do not be far from me, my God; come quickly, God, to help me. May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace. As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. Psalm 71:5-14, (New International Version or NIV).

These are the sad words of an old king, a man who had been loved by his people, King David.  He is old and growing older and nearer to death and his heart is heavy with grief.  I think this is the best description of how the world views aging.  Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together. Yes, the ones who are conspiring are his children, the younger advisors, and those who should be surrounding him and helping him rule the nation of Israel.  Instead, they want to get rid of him and take over the power seat of kingship themselves.  The thinking of people of the world is impatient and unkind and uncaring for this old dear king.  Isn’t that how the world today feels about old people?  Don’t most want the elderly out of sight and into homes for the elderly where they are someone else’s problem?  And if I am truthful here, there are many elderly people who don’t want to be bothered by the young families either.  Children don’t want to take care of their old parents and old parents don’t want to be taken care of by their children either.  Homes for the aged have become normal in our society.  I think that this is sad.  As an aging person, I am like David in that I also lean upon God to take care of me because God can be trusted in old age just as when I was younger.  God reminds the people of Israel that false gods (the world) can do nothing for them and maybe we need this warning today also.

Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low; their idols are borne by beasts of burden. The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary. They stoop and bow down together; unable to rescue the burden, they themselves go off into captivity. “Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. “With whom will you compare me or count me equal? To whom will you liken me that we may be compared? Some pour out gold from their bags and weigh out silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god, and they bow down and worship it. They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Even though someone cries out to it, it cannot answer; it cannot save them from their troubles. “Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do. Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are now far from my righteousness. I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendor to Israel.  Isaiah 46, (NIV).

The false gods of Babylon were no match for the one true God of Israel.  And yet the nation of Israel continuously returned to follow after the false gods.  Yet God kept His promise: I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendor to Israel.  Jesus came to earth and brought salvation not only to Israel but to you and me, we have salvation if we obey the teachings of Jesus because they point us to God and worshiping the one true God!  Chase after God and not the world who can only offer us self-centeredness and eventually hell for all eternity.  I want everyone to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior because that is the path to eternity in heaven with God.  Won’t that be grand!

Until next time…Katherine

The Curse Of Sex-Trafficking

In America, January is a month that is full of many celebrations.  We begin with New Year and often there are many parties to welcome it.  We celebrate the Christian holiday of Epiphany, Martin Luther King Day and the legacy of his work towards equality, and Inauguration Day when there’s a new President to be sworn into office.  There are trivial celebrations like National Pie Day or National Blueberry Pancake Day, and even National Croissant Day.  But the most important topic I think that is highlighted every January is the Sex-Trafficking that continues to plague our world.  I recently took a class to learn about this crisis and was shocked and saddened at just how prevalent sex-trafficking continues to be.  Take a look at the statistics from 2019 for the United States alone from https://polarisproject.org/2019-us-national-human-trafficking-hotline-statistics/

Did you notice that those under the legal age of consent are the largest majority of known trafficked persons?  Did you notice that the majority is female yet there are also males who are trafficked?  Did you notice that the majority of persons trafficked are not even citizens of America?  Did you also notice how many statistics are unknown?  If you want to see more stats then go to the website.  And be reminded that these statistics are only in the United States, yet all over the world there are thousands who live under the curse of sex-trafficking.  As a Christian this should haunt you, it should make you ill, and it should motivate you to do something about it.  If nothing else, pray for workers to come to this field of missions.  Here’s another sobering statistic from the same website.

These are the statistics for how sex-trafficking is perpetuated.  This shows how people are lured into the trap of working as prostitutes by their pimps.  A promise of marriage, a promise that he loves you and will take care of you and treat you like a cherished wife is the lure to young girls who are seeking romance and all that goes with that experience.  These are men who prey upon young girls and take advantage of their innocence and their vulnerabilities and then turn them out as prostitutes.  Or what about the second most common form of sex-trafficking?  Those people who are supposed to love and protect you and take care of you, your family, dad, mother, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, grandfather, grandmother, cousins…yeah!  How can a child fight back when it is a family member who is demanding that they provide sex for pay?  The list goes on and is fairly self-explanatory.  I ask you, does this make you uncomfortable?  If it doesn’t then you may be a part of the problem.  So what’s the Bible have to say about this topic?

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.   Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.  1 Corinthians 6:9-20, (New International Version or NIV).

The Apostle Paul lived in a world not unlike our own for sex-trafficking was common then also.  He states plainly what we are to do: Flee from sexual immorality.  And do you notice that Paul directs his message to men?  Yes, and do you know why?  It is the men who pay for sex!  Yeah, men, your next-door neighbor, the guy down the street, your uncle, or brother, or what about that elder of your church or your pastor or maybe even your worship leader!  Men!

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  Ephesians 2:1-5, (NIV).

Until next time…Katherine

The Battles Not Talked About

We have seen these past few weeks the battles Joshua had to wage against enemies and against those whom he was leading to the Promised Land.  We know of Joshua’s words in Joshua 24:15 and how he said he and his family would always serve the Lord: But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Josh made his choice to serve God always regardless of what others were doing.  This, to me, is significant and why I think of Joshua as such a man of faith.  He didn’t waver in his faith.  And yet battle after battle was fought in order to live in the Promised Land.  We have had a front-row seat to some of his major battles, like Jericho.  We have also seen some of the consequences of people who didn’t have a strong faith in serving God and obeying God’s orders, like Achan.  I know that we didn’t study the entire book about Joshua’s life, but I wanted to study enough to get you thinking about your own battles.  Facing battles is a part of a Christian’s life.  I doubt that non-Christians get a pass on battles either.  In fact, I see a lot of people who battle constantly and I think it is because they do not have the peace of God in their hearts.  What are your unspoken battles?  How do you handle them?

Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the Euphrates and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his family went down to Egypt. “‘Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I afflicted the Egyptians by what I did there, and I brought you out. When I brought your people out of Egypt, you came to the sea, and the Egyptians pursued them with chariots and horsemen as far as the Red Sea. But they cried to the Lord for help, and he put darkness between you and the Egyptians; he brought the sea over them and covered them. You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the wilderness for a long time. “‘I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I gave them into your hands. I destroyed them from before you, and you took possession of their land. When Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, prepared to fight against Israel, he sent for Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on you. But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you out of his hand. “‘Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands. I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you—also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow. So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’ “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:2-15, (New International Version or NIV).

Joshua is reminding the nation of Israel that having God helping to fight your battles is the only way to win them.  He tells the people what God says and God gives a very accurate account of the young nation and where they came from.  The ancestors of these people did not worship God yet God called Abraham out of the family of false god-worshippers and into a relationship with the one true God.  God has called you and me out of the world where false gods are worshipped and into a relationship with Jesus Christ His Son.  We have battles daily, some are seen by others yet many are hidden from view.  Like the young nation of Israel, we have battles to fight from our past, perhaps the consequences of our past sins or the past sins of others who were close to us.  We fight our own thinking and our own attitude daily.  For some of us, it is a battle just to get out of bed every morning because of pain or depression.  Some of us battle with addiction, either ours or someone we love who is an addict.  We battle with bad attitudes directed toward us.  We battle all day long in one form or another.  And most of our battles are not spoken about; we don’t talk about them because we know that no one can really help us.  But Jesus tells us how to battle and we should listen to our Lord.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:25-30, (NIV).

How refreshing Jesus is to us on a daily basis.  How helpful it is to know that at any time we can take our unspoken battle to Jesus and let Him take care of it all for us.  It sounds ridiculous to people who do not understand, I know.  But for me, and I suspect for you too, giving up the petty battles for power, recognition, wealth, standing, reputation, and everything else that is from the world is so refreshing.  Praying to God through Jesus is the most calming thing I can do, how about you?  Is this how you do battle or are you still fighting on your own?  It is a rare youth today that does not pursue wealth, fame, and happiness in choosing a career or marriage partner and instead pursues God and obedience to God by following the teachings of Christ.   I had to lose everything I held dear to my heart to learn the valuable lesson that only what you do for Christ will last.  To learn that doing for only the ones you love, for only those you choose to grace with mercy and love is the world’s path.  I went through a difficult divorce, I lost friends, I lost family members, and yet I gained a better understanding of how to give up the fight and let God battle for me.  My life is so much more peaceful now, and my attitude is far less arrogant than before.  I learned what Joshua is telling the people he spoke to that day that you have a choice.  You can go back to the false teachings of the world and do battle with false gods as your protectors or you can continue to obey and follow the one true God.  We, as Christians, have the opportunity to go directly to God in prayer through the name of Jesus, something the people Joshua spoke to did not have.  We have Jesus, the Messiah, on our team!  How great is that!  We can only win! Spoiler alert, read Revelation and you will see that God wins in the end!

Until next time…Katherine

Joshua, The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Joshua sure did have his hands full while leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land.  He was a good leader.  There was one bad apple in the barrel though, and we learned about Achan last time.  Achan’s sin was ugly and the consequences to his entire family were ugly too as they were stoned to death along with him and all of his animals and possessions were burned up then covered up with a pile of stones (Joshua 7:24-26). I fear that in our society today we gloss over sin as if it were nothing much more than a personal thing.  I fear that most people do not understand just how ugly sin really is and if they ever read an account like what happened in Joshua chapter seven, they would count it as a fairy tale and dismiss the real meaning and ramifications of Achan’s sin.  Life continues after Achan.

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.” So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night with these orders: “Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don’t go very far from it. All of you be on the alert. Joshua 8:1-4, (New International Version or NIV).

This time the battle is successful and no one hoarded plunder for themselves except what God instructed them to take.  The battle was not easy and the people of Ai fought fiercely, but in the end, God wins and so did Joshua.  We must remember that God always wins even though the battle is hard.  Your battle is hard.  My battle is hard even though our battles may not be of the same kind as Joshua where killing others is required.   

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 2 Chronicles 20:15, (NIV).

All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:47, (NIV).

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:11-13, (NIV).

What a great reminder to us that God is the one in charge of all our battles yet we must be equipped to go into battle.  Joshua was equipped and so were his troops.  They did not go to battle without proper equipment.  Sometimes it was to march around a city wall with the Ark of the Covenant while other times it was to fight as this battle, with a javelin. 

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand, for into your hand I will deliver the city.” So Joshua held out toward the city the javelin that was in his hand. As soon as he did this, the men in the ambush rose quickly from their position and rushed forward. They entered the city and captured it and quickly set it on fire. The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising up into the sky, but they had no chance to escape in any direction; the Israelites who had been fleeing toward the wilderness had turned back against their pursuers. For when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that smoke was going up from it, they turned around and attacked the men of Ai. Those in the ambush also came out of the city against them, so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives. But they took the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua.  When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai. For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed all who lived in Ai. But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the Lord had instructed Joshua. Joshua 8:18-27, (NIV).

Wow!  Did you notice that the trap was set and the warriors of Ai fell into the trap and every man and woman, twelve thousand, were killed that day?  Not one of Joshua’s soldiers was killed!  I wonder what they did with the children of Ai?  In the account of Jericho in chapter six we are told that everything was destroyed except Rahab and her family and servants.  That would have included children as well I would think. Yet here, specifically, only women and men were destroyed. I suppose they took them into their own families perhaps as slaves or maybe to raise them up as their own.  We aren’t told. 

So Joshua burned Ai  and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. He impaled the body of the king of Ai on a pole and left it there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take the body from the pole and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day. Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses—an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it they offered to the Lord burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings. There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on stones a copy of the law of Moses. All the Israelites, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord, facing the Levitical priests who carried it. Both the foreigners living among them and the native-born were there. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel. Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them. Joshua 8:28-35, (NIV).

Joshua was a warrior and a great leader because he understood that God is the Commander in Chief of every battle.  We should be like Joshua, don’t you think? We may not fight armies like Josh did, but we fight battles every day, and guess what?  God wins, in the end…God Wins!

Until next time…Katherine

What Comes Next For Joshua

What a fascinating story the story of Joshua is to me.  He was such a good leader and a good man I think.  No wonder God chose him to follow after Moses in leading the children of Israel into the Promised Land.  The past few posts have been following his amazing victory and his devastating defeat.  Now he has to do what no leader has to do, and that is an investigation into what happened, the after-action report, and find out who messed up and what to do with them when they are caught.

And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?” The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them. “ ‘In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe the Lord chooses shall come forward clan by clan; the clan the Lord chooses shall come forward family by family; and the family the Lord chooses shall come forward man by man. Whoever is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the Lord and has done an outrageous thing in Israel!’ ” Joshua 7:7-15, (New International Version or NIV).

I hate it when God tells me to suck it up buttercup!  It happens to all of us at one time or another when God has to tell us to stop whimpering and get going with what we are to be doing.  I can really relate to the concerns that Joshua has laid out before God, can’t you?  I mean, how was Josh to know what God already knew?  Joshua had no idea why the warriors were defeated, how could he know until God told him.  I feel the impatience of God here, don’t you?  God is being firm and blunt just as God has had to do with me a time or two, kind of like being taken to the woodshed for a readjustment of attitude I suppose.  Well, God gives Joshua instructions on how to handle this situation. “Go, consecrate the people. Exactly what does that mean, I wonder?

Consecrate, VERB (be consecrated), make or declare (something, typically a church) sacred; dedicate formally to a religious or divine purpose.  (in Christian belief) make (bread or wine) into the body or blood of Christ. ordain (someone) to a sacred office, typically that of a bishop. (https://www.bing.com/search?q=def+of+consecrate&form=ANNTH1&refig=08a8a1bd08924af6a6d2ac034884fa5b&sp=-1&pq=def+of+consecrate&sc=2-17&qs=n&sk=&cvid=08a8a1bd08924af6a6d2ac034884fa5b).

I guess this definition helps, but not really.  I mean how did the people consecrate themselves?  Did they baptize?  Did they pray and meditate?  It is almost like when my children behave badly and I send them to their room to think about the negative behaviors and how they can do better!  Is this God’s time-out for the people? 

Joshua 7:13. Sanctify yourselves — Not only wash your clothes and give yourselves up to religious exercises, meditation, and prayer, as you were required to do formerly, when called to meet the Lord at Sinai, (see Exodus 19:10,) and lately, when you were about to be led over Jordan, (Joshua 3:5,) but purify yourselves from that defilement which you have all in some sort contracted by this accursed fact, and prepare yourselves to appear before the Lord, expecting his sentence for the discovery and punishment of the sin. (https://biblehub.com/commentaries/benson/joshua/7.htm).

 Now, this helps me to understand a little better.  I love reading commentaries to have things I don’t understand further explained.  Get ready to meet the Lord is how I think of consecration and these people were about to meet God in a difficult situation, finding out who sinned.

Early the next morning Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was chosen. The clans of Judah came forward, and the Zerahites were chosen. He had the clan of the Zerahites come forward by families, and Zimri was chosen. Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was chosen. Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and honor him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.” Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the Lord. Joshua 7:16-23, (NIV).

I wonder how Achan felt as he saw tribe after tribe, family after family go forward and be questioned knowing that they were innocent yet also knowing that he was guilty.  I wonder if he planned to tell the truth all along or if he planned to lie but at the very last minute could not lie before God.  It must have been sobering to him to realize that he was the reason thirty-six men died that day when they went to battle.  He told the truth and the consequences for all his family are swift. 

Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor.  Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today.” Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since. Joshua 7:24-26, (NIV).

Until next time…Katherine

Joshua After Jericho

We have been following Joshua as he became the leader of the nation of Israel and the monumental task of moving into the Promised Land has begun.  Last time we talked about how Jericho was taken and learned about a prostitute named Rahab who was King David’s great-grandmother. 

Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.” So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel. Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day. At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: “At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates.” So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land. Joshua 6:22-27, (New International Version or NIV).

It is interesting this side story of Rahab.  She was not a pillar of society as she ran a house of prostitution and she was smart too.  We are not told how it is that she became a prostitute, perhaps she was born into the profession as many women are generational prostitutes.  Or, perhaps her family could only survive by her becoming a prostitute.  There is so much we don’t know, but we do know that one thing is very true.  But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day. Rahab not only is a part of Jewish history but she is also a part of the Christian’s heritage because she is in the bloodline of King David who is in the bloodline of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and our Savior!  What can we learn from this fact?  I think we learn that if God can accept Rahab the prostitute into His family, then God can accept you and me also and anyone else with a sorted past.  God’s grace and mercy extend to every sinner regardless of where they have been.  The blood of Jesus shed on the cross for the remission of sins cleanses us and makes us new creatures in Christ Jesus, clean and holy in God’s eyes (2 Corinthians 5).  She was spared that day because of her willingness to hide the Jewish boys who came to spy in Jericho and Joshua honored their word to her.  She rebuilt her life and became a wife and mother and grandmother and great-grandmother to a King!  What a wonderful reminder of how renewal and regeneration work in the lives of those who love God. 

Joshua continued the mission given to him by God and did not spare anyone who lived in Jericho except Rahab and her people.  The city was burned and the gold and silver collected for future use but there is always the one who seems to think that orders are for others to follow, those who think they can get away with stealing, those who never seem to understand that God sees everything and I do mean EVERYTHING!

But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel. Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there.” So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water. Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. Joshua 7:1-6, (NIV).

Poor Joshua, I really feel for him right now in reading this account of his life.  He was a good and honest man, a devout Jew who obeyed God and followed the rules laid down by God for the nation.  He was a good commander and leader, but even the best leaders can’t always trust everyone under their command.  What a picture of how sin affects and taints other people’s lives, sins that they are completely unaware have even happened.  God knew about the sins of Achan, but Joshua didn’t know about it and neither did anyone else.  Joshua didn’t know that God was angry with the whole nation.  So often in my own experience, it is the innocent who doesn’t have a clue that another is sinning yet endures the consequences and sometimes has to endure them for the rest of their life.  I see it in my own family and circle of friends.  Someone is secretly committing adultery, God knows it but the innocent spouses don’t nor do the children.  An employee is stealing from their employer and no one knows except God and yet it is the employer who suffers the loss of income which really is the consequence of the employee’s sin.  Yes, I feel for Joshua, how was he to know he was sending good men to their death and all because of someone’s hidden sins.  Everything as far as Joshua could see was going according to plan so what could possibly have gone wrong in this defeat?  Oh, poor Joshua, people will blame him, they always do blame leaders when things go wrong.  No wonder he is grieving.

What can we learn from this experience, this situation that we can apply to our own lives?  Oh, there is much here for us to pay attention to.  First of all, we need to be certain that we are obeying all of God’s commands, and not just the ones that are easy for us to obey.  Our actions have ramifications that can last throughout the generations.  Thirty-six men died because of the sin of one man…let that sink in.  Thirty-six men no longer procreated the next generations because their lives were cut short because of the sin of one person.  Be honest with yourself for a moment, have you sinned and your sin has affected future generations?  What about in the case of having an abortion?  You may have thought it was the best thing for you at that moment, but what about the future generations? What about speeding or drinking and driving or doing drugs to escape reality for a while?  Do these things have an impact on the next generation?  How many lives have been lost because someone refuses to wear a seatbelt which then causes their death in a car accident?  Who suffers the consequences of their sin of disobedience to the law?  The innocent parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends, right?  Yes, there is much we can learn from this moment in Joshua’s life that we can apply to our own lives today.  So let us be cautious and do our best never to sin, for the weight of sin is crushing to bear.

Until next time…Katherine

Joshua, The Mission Is Jericho

Last time we learned that Joshua was summoned for the mission of taking Jericho in basically the same way that Moses was summoned by God to lead the struggling nation of Israelites out of Egypt.  When God wants you to do something He makes it obvious what is to be done.  So what does the commander of God’s army tell Joshua?  We shall now see.

Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.” Joshua 6:1-5, (New International Version or NIV).

Ummm!  Commander of God’s army, what kind of battle plan is this?  Don’t you see that the city is on high alert probably ever since we crossed over the Jordan River and their water supply was disrupted?  I’m sure they have been spying on us and know that we are young and strong, so why are we to be so weird in the taking of this great city?  That is probably what I would be saying and if not courageous enough to say it I surely would be thinking this in my mind.  I mean, this is weird, isn’t it?  Why not send bombs via homemade catapults or something?   So what did Josh do?

So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.” When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there. Joshua 6:6-11, (NIV).

Like a good military commander, when the Lord’s Army commander A(most likely Jesus) pulls rank on your plans you obey orders and that is exactly what Joshua did.  Day one’s mission is complete and it is time to rest the troops so back to camp they go.

Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. Joshua 6:12-14, (NIV).

Can you imagine what the people inside the walls of Jericho must have thought about this tactic?  They probably thought it wasn’t very militaristic.  I bet that this band of brothers marching around Jericho was the highlight of the six days and very entertaining to the inhabitants of Jericho.  I can imagine that there were bets placed on what the outcome was to be and when these weirdos would stop marching, give up, and leave.  So what happens next is truly astounding.

On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.” When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. Joshua 6:15-21, (NIV).

“And the walls came tumbling down” just like the children’s song we all used to sing as children and we would then fall to the ground. The city had been breached in a fantastic way, something that all the other city leaders and kings were observing.  That display of God’s mighty power was magnificent to see if you were an Israelite and horrific to see if you were a Gentile living in the region.  Rentals for wagons and carts just went up in price as many began to flee the region I suppose.  But what is this about the prostitute, Rahab?  What do we know about her? She is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Matthew 1:1. Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. Matthew 1:5-6A, (NIV).

Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.  The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut. Joshua 2:1-7, (NIV).

Rahab was a gutsy lady, brave, a great negotiator, not afraid to lie to her king and his soldiers, and saved the Israeli spies in exchange for her life. What next for Joshua after this first great victory?

Until next time…Katherine

Joshua, The Mission Continues

We learned last time about the death of Moses and the change of leadership where God tapped Joshua as the new leader to take the nation of Israel into the Promised Land.  They crossed the Jordan River and it was thrilling to see how God worked in their favor.  Not a nation in that vicinity had any doubt as to how powerful the God of Israel really was.  I must be honest; there are times I wish God would show His mighty power to the nations of the world today.  I know that God is at work within the nations, I have lived long enough to see things happen, nations that existed when I was born sixty-five years ago are no longer in existence and new nations have been formed.  But the power that God displayed throughout the Exodus from Egypt and the taking of the Promised Land is astounding! 

Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until they had crossed over, their hearts melted in fear and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites. Joshua 5:1, (New International Version or NIV).

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt the hand of God moving in your favor?  I have.  Several times in my life I have felt that extra bit of protection that can only come from God or that extra bit of courage to speak out that can only come from God.  I have seen people back down who were in the wrong, who lied about me and tried to harm me yet, could not destroy me.  This is what is happening to the kings that are watching the Israelites cross the Jordan River.  What God does next, knowing full well that everyone is watching is rather interesting.

At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth. Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt—all the men of military age—died in the wilderness on the way after leaving Egypt. All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness during the journey from Egypt had not. The Israelites had moved about in the wilderness forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the Lord. For the Lord had sworn to them that they would not see the land he had solemnly promised their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. So he raised up their sons in their place, and these were the ones Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way. And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the place has been called Gilgal to this day. On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan. Joshua 5:2-12, (NIV).

Can you imagine what the kings watching this encampment of people must have thought when the camp did not move for a few weeks after they crossed the Jordan River?  I am sure that they had spies watching and knew that the men of Israel were being circumcised, something very unpleasant to go through as an adult male by the way.  This would certainly have incapacitated the men of the camp for a while.  Yet the kings did nothing to this camp of people, why?  Again, the fear that God had placed into the hearts of those kings watching the people of Israel had frozen them from acting against the encampment.  What a great reminder to us today.  Do we need to fear our enemies? I think not!  I am glad to see that the Israelites celebrated Passover; they needed to be reminded that God spared them for a purpose.  We need to be reminded of that too; we are Christians who have been spared for a purpose too, spared from the world and from our own sinfulness by the blood of Jesus.  We, like the nation of Israel, have a purpose to fulfill in our lives, to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone we meet.  I am doing that through this blog and you are reading it to learn and to be encouraged as you work to spread the good news to those around you.  We are all working together to fulfill our mission, just like Joshua fulfilled his.  Love that!  So what next for Joshua?  Did you notice where they are camped?  This gives us a clue as to what next is coming.

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord e have for his servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. Joshua 5:13-15, (NIV).

Say what?  Holy ground?  If this doesn’t give you goosebumps then nothing will.  Joshua immediately bows low to the ground, you and I would too.  God again is about to show great power designed to weaken the resolve of the nations in that region to leave the Israel nation alone.  I think God does that for many of us today in various situations.  God makes a path for this nation and He makes a path for us too, the places He wants us to go and the things He wants us to do.  I have experienced something similar in my lifetime and I suspect many of you have also.  When God gives us a mission to do we do not have to worry about how to get it done, things just fall into place, things we never imagined before and never planned for just happen.  I love that about God, don’t you?  Where have we heard these words before in the Bible?  Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.”   

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.  Exodus 3:1-6, (NIV).

Until next time, Katherine

Joshua, A Man With A Mission

I was thinking the other day about the various Bible heroes that I really respect and love to read about.  One of my favorites is Joshua because he was given a mission and was appointed by God to fill the shoes as a replacement for Moses when he passed into eternal rest.  I was a military spouse for many years and I have heard the stories of great heroes.  I have heard the groans of soldiers who are under the command of someone who doesn’t seem to know what they are doing.  I have heard about the good leaders and the bad ones too.  Maybe that is why I like Joshua so much because he reminds me of a good military leader.  He is given a mission and he doesn’t complain about it, he just gets busy doing it!

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; 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. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’ ” Joshua 1:1-11, (New International Version or NIV).

What a huge undertaking this whole operation had been as Moses got the nation of Israel gathered under his guidance to take them to the land God had promised to give them, a place to build up their nation.  No longer would they be slaves and no longer would they be a collection of nomadic tribes, but a nation, a real nation, one guarded and guided by God.  Now Moses and almost all the adults that began the journey are dead.  Joshua has to lead a group of people all under the age of forty to live in this new land.  Have you ever tried to lead a group of people under the age of forty?  I have, and the number of opinions on how things should be done by this less-than-forty in age people is as numerous as the number in the group.  Everyone has their own way of thinking and everyone thinks they are right!  Some will be loud while others will remain silent yet talk about you behind your back.  All will think that they would make a better leader than you.  Well, that has been my experience and quite honestly the young people do have some great ideas, fresh ideas, new ways to get things done, but as Solomon also said, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:4-11) and sometimes, maybe more than sometimes, the older persons have some wise ideas to get things done.  Of course, I never thought so when I was younger…I guess it makes a difference when you are looking back on many years rather than looking forward to many yet to come!  Joshua has a big job to do but he also has a big God standing behind him helping him and clearing the way for him. So what could possibly go wrong?

Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.  Joshua 3:9-17, (NIV).

The people all gathered and they were able to cross the Jordan River on dry ground because God made the path for them as long as the Ark of the Covenant remained in the middle of the river by the priests who were carrying it.  Can you imagine how this disruption of the flow of water would have made all the nations around the region take notice?  God is showing the power that is behind this small nation of former slaves.  So far so good. 

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” Joshua 4:1-7, (NIV).

Why twelve stones from the middle of the river Jordan, what can it mean?  I think each stone represents one tribe of Israel; after all, there are twelve tribes that make up the nation of Israel begun by twelve sons of Jacob (Genesis 25-50).  Why from the middle of the Jordan River were the rocks to be chosen?  I think it is to remind the people that God stopped the water for the nation of Israel when they crossed the Red Sea to leave Egypt, and God stopped the water of the Jordan so this new generation could cross over into the Promised Land.  God is reminding these young people of where they came from and where they are going and who got them there safely.  We need to be reminded by God of our own journey in life too, reminded of how God has weaved our lives into a beautiful pattern of His grace and mercy, protection, and favor.  What’s next for Joshua, I wonder?

Until next time…Katherine

A New Year And A New Beginning

So 2020 is now imparted to the history books and we are experiencing a whole new year and I for one have made some plans.  Making plans is rather an interesting process, don’t you think?  Sometimes we make plans quickly, like needing to stop at the grocery store or getting gas for the car.  Other times we take our time making a decision and explore all the options before finalizing the plan, such as when thinking of making a new purchase of furniture or a car, or even a house.  But there are other plans that we agonize over, like whether or not to move and change jobs, or whether to save money instead of going on vacation somewhere expensive, or whether to remain in a hopeless situation or walk away from all the drama.  We Christians do have help in making decisions.

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. PSALM 37:23-24, (New International Version or NIV).

I think for many of us the year 2020 was one where we had made many plans but God changed our plans for us.  At the beginning of 2020, I had many plans.  I was excited that my son would get his driving license and that would free me from his schedule and I could go and see friends and relatives that I hadn’t seen for some time.  Yet I was not able to fulfill these plans due to the pandemic that caused many of our plans to change.  I wonder what plans God has for all of us in 2021.

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar. The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble. Proverbs 19:20-23, (NIV).

I like to get good advice and there is none better than what we find in the scriptures.  Perhaps 2020 felt like a year of being disciplined to you.  Perhaps you felt frustrated at times.  I know that I felt lonely a lot of the year, but I also knew that God was my protector and so I never feared getting the virus yet I was wise enough to take all the precautions necessary to remain healthy.  You and I make our plans and who are we when God intercedes and changes them?  Perhaps God protected us from a worse calamity than staying in our homes.  I can honestly say that I have lived long enough to know that my plans are not always the best ones for me and so when my plans are changed (and I have had many plans changed in my life, big plans too) I have learned to trust God because I already know that He knows what He is doing!  Learning to obey God even though we do not understand the whys and wherefores is all part of being a Christian.  We must learn to surrender our wishes, our desires, and our will to God!  Does this mean that we stop making plans for our daily lives?  I wonder what Paul would say about that?

Because I was confident of this, I wanted to visit you first so that you might benefit twice. I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both “Yes, yes” and “No, no”? But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.  I call God as my witness—and I stake my life on it—that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm. 2 Corinthians 1:15-24, (NIV).

Paul changed his mind several times about returning to Corinth because he knew it was not the right time to go there.  How did he know this?  I think it is because the Holy Spirit was informing him it wasn’t the right time.  Here’s another example.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. Romans 1:8-13, (NIV).

We must make our plans but we must also be aware that sometimes when our plans are not going the way we want them to that God is changing and altering our lives for His good purpose.  We must be tender to the path changes in life and be certain that they are from God.  Sometimes another reason was why Paul’s plans were changed and this can also be why our plans are seemingly changed too.

But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.  1Thessalonians 2:17-20, (NIV).

You see, Satan doesn’t always want us to make plans especially if our plans are for the glorification of God.  Satan is a powerful force here on earth and we need to acknowledge that.  However, we need not fear Satan for God’s power is much greater and God protects us.  Perhaps the year 2020 was a year where Satan frustrated the plans of us humans.  I used the year to rest and I sense that I am being prepared for something that I am to do in the future.  Whatever is coming for all of us in 2021, we can be assured that God will direct us where He wants us to go, when He wants us there, and we can be assured that all will go according to God’s plans even if it isn’t necessarily what we planned.  I love that, don’t you? 

Until next time…Katherine