Dangerous Love

Dangerous Love

I have a problem with forgiveness. I cannot let go of the afflictions I’ve suffered at the hands of a loved one. I lay it before the cross one day, and creep back in the dark of the night to steal it back again.

Pain is powerful. It controls us. In a sick way, it seduces us and makes us to believe that we are justified to cut off the flow of love in the direction of the offender. In one fell swoop of the mind we make ourselves the judge, displacing the real Judge whose ways are as high as the Heavens are from the Earth. Is that really what it looks like to commit my ways to Him?

Why must we always allow others to dictate whether we obey and follow the Lord’s call to holiness? We may not think that’s what we do but it is whenever we withhold love from others.

I’m not doing (blank) for her… she never (blanks) for me

This sentiment, coming in many forms in our day to day conversation, is a regular one in my attitude. Whether it’s a rude customer, or difficult friend, or someone I’ll never cross paths with again – I love others based on how they love me. That is called conditional love.

But being righteous and perfect, as the Lords desire is for us, means unconditional love which is love that is not dictated by any other force than love, of which God is the ultimate source.

I think unconditional love seems dangerous ground for us because it pulls the rug of control and security from beneath us. It says, “You’re not in charge of policing the actions and attitudes of others. Your hurt feelings are not relevant when it comes to the love God commands of us for each other.” Harsh as it may sound at first, it is true. We avoid it because it feels unnatural to our natural flesh, but

Unconditional Love…

Is NOT being a pushover // It is strength under control

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness..png

Unconditional Love…

Does not render justice impotent // God has promised justice for sin and mercy for sinners who turn to him.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (1).png

Unconditional love…

Is the defining characteristic of God // We love in this way if we claim to belong to God.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2).png

Take some time to sit with the Lord and answer these questions. Tell Him honestly where you struggle. I pray and ask that God would gently reveal in His time what you need to hear.

How are you loving others today?

Have you ever experienced unconditional love? (In addition to Salvation)

Is there something standing in the way of loving certain people?

What would it take to remove that obstacle?

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this-6 He .png

When love is not enough to make a marriage work

When love is not enough to make a marriage work

A response to concerns that my marriage and my self-worth are in danger.

Your points are not unfounded when it comes to come hurtful things you’ve witnessed and I don’t intent to offer excuses or cover up imperfections. I’m so sorry that you have seen warning signs that are troubling- I consider it a very serious wake up call. We certainly have lots to work on individually and together, but I’d like to offer my opinion on the subject, as there seems to be a mixture of misunderstandings and assumptions that make our marriage reminiscent of a mid-century man and housewife. Luckily, it’s not at all that you fear for two reasons:

First – My self-worth comes from God alone. Not my husband, not my career, not any created thing. I am totally secure in who I am, who God is, and who He says I am. My husband could be the most perfect being and still he would be insufficient to “save me”. But it wasn’t always this way and I want to share some of our background.

About 7-8 years ago I did think he was going to save me. I was in a depressed and confused season of my life when he showed how much love and stability was possible in a relationship. I had never seen that before and I wanted to rely on it. But after dating about 9 months he decided to call it off after much deliberation (as he always does – he never makes rash decisions) He told me that he wasn’t comfortable being responsible for my happiness. “I don’t want to be on your pedestal,” he said. I was, of course devastated at the time and it took me time to understand that breaking up was the wisest decision for us. Dependency like the kind I had on him, is NOT a foundation for a lasting relationship – friendship or otherwise. I could cling to him all I wanted, but I was going to find out eventually that he wasn’t perfect. And what a disaster it would be if I built my fragile and precious self-worth on anything less than perfect.

This is precisely why I believe most marriages don’t last long. We build our hopes on each other instead of something stable. In our culture we labor under the idea that “things” make you happy – and that happiness is the goal of all things. But I do not subscribe to epicurean-ism or any of the world’s philosophies.

Of course that wasn’t the end of our story – several months later we reconnected but this time with a solid understanding of our goals and commitments to each other. We started again with a clean slate of forgiveness. Neither of us felt like wasting our time if this wasn’t leading somewhere. Ever since we began to discuss the possibility of getting married we have both agreed on one vital point – that the goal of marriage is holiness. He and I are on our own paths to be like Jesus but we travel together.

I realized that much of your worry is that you might not fully understand or agree with what we believe. You know so much intellectually about the “game” of religion, but I venture to guess that you have not spent much time in the company of people who genuinely seek to live it out. Not that anyone does perfectly all the time, but we want to. It defines who we are, what we are doing here, and what truly matters to us. The hypocrisy and sin of others who call themselves Christian is just a symptom of the brokenness, but it doesn’t deter us from seeking to do it right. If I do one thing right as a Christian, I hope it’s to live so that others cannot deny the presence and wisdom of God.

The second reason I do not want you to worry is that we do handle conflict on a regular basis even if it’s not in the public eye all the time. Only being married four years we know that there is a long way to do but we aren’t deterred. We live by a simple unspoken rule, and that is to “heal the relationship, even if the problem is not resolved”. Meaning that a problem (circumstance) is not larger than our mutual commitment to love and protect one another.

One of my favorite things about my marriage is the fact that neither of us are able to ignore or rest in discord. As you know, it’s unspeakably awful to live intimately with someone where agape love is not a given. If something is ruining our peace, it is not welcome in our home and we can’t help but isolate and destroy it. Easier said than done. That process is painful because pride is powerful and addictive. It takes serious humility and patience to come to a point where we can move on. In this way, nothing festers.

But it’s not just that. In order to even get that far, both of us must continually make the decision to work toward resolution. For example, choosing reasonableness instead of insisting on our own way, or changing my tone of voice, or choosing to hold back a really good (hurtful) comeback. Whatever it takes to just have the conversation, is worth the trouble because neither one of us really wants to live with distance between us.

Of course we can’t always get into it right away. This process might be delayed if we are in public. We still strive to heal the relationship first, and then talk when its appropriate to talk. Unfortunately, when you see it happen on the surface, it might look like “shoving everything down and proceeding as though everything’s fine” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If I’m hurt, I’m just never going to exact revenge on him to punish or try to make myself feel better by making him feel bad. (And don’t think for a second that I can’t deal a good blow myself!) We have to deal with it though, and soon, because as I said, we can’t handle discord; our hearts are made for peace.

Now with the baby coming, there is about to be a shift as we figure out how to be a family. I am not so naive as to think it will be easy or pain free. But I’m so excited for this challenge and I can’t bring myself to worry like I would have a decade ago. I tried, but couldn’t because we never thought marriage was for happiness in the first place. So when things don’t go our way, when we hurt each other from time to time, it’s all about the choices we make individually and as a team that decide how we will conquer them.

All that being said, there is always the danger of regressing back to “worshiping the creature”. I still have to remind myself when I’m hurt or angry that he will never give me what I need, fully. My comfort in those times is knowing that God sees me, hears me, and that he does respond. I know this because he’s done it before. The peace we have through faith is supernatural. It makes it easier to forgive later even if I don’t think he deserves it. I remember I don’t really deserve it either.

To the point of Paul’s verse you mentioned, I think you’ll be relieved to know that the context of that verse has to do with corporate worship – not marriage. It’s saying that women should not lead or teach in church – another difficult idea for sure. But not enough to throw away my faith.

I know it’s tough to swallow an idea like biblical submission, especially if you don’t fully agree or want to understand why it is worth the work. At first glance, submission is a four letter word. It conjures images of abuse and inequality. It goes against every natural logic we have. But to a Christian it is the only way we can live in peace together. Ephesians 5:21-30 is about marriage. Paul exhorts us to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” and he’s talking to both husband and wife. You no doubt know the idea of marriage reflecting the relationship between Christ and the Church. Submission means “strength under control”. Done right, submission gives so much more than it takes.

To us, submission is both of us putting our respective strengths under control and bending our wills for the good of one another. So yes, I do most of the shopping and cooking, I make sure his clothes are clean and ironed for special events, I am usually the one to make his lunches and I love to do it. Just like I serve God out of gratitude and freedom, nothing I do for husband is ever under the weight of duty. Doing things out of obligation or duty means paying back someone’s kindness; it means conditional love. Agape is the opposite of conditional love. And if my freedom ever changes to duty, that will be a sign that something has gone wrong and that my priorities are out of order. For now I do everything I can for him – simply because I’m in love with him and what helps him succeed makes me glad. After all, everything that happens to him happens to me too. And that’s to say nothing of all the ways he lays his life and comfort down for me – something I regret that you don’t always get to see.

Just as the world is imperfect and full of sin, men have taken this out of context throughout history, as moral justification to “enslave” their wives – there’s no denying that. But just because some people have perverted the original intent of God’s design, does not make it any less true or worthy.  I don’t mean to say we always apply it perfectly, but when done correctly it works – I know now even from the tiny taste of experience I’ve had so far.

So you see, we are not a typical couple. We take our faith seriously. Our life is built on a foundation that isn’t swayed by human imperfection. That’s why I think some of the little things bother you a lot more and longer than they do for me. All this being said, I want you to know (and I’d tell you if it wasn’t true) that I AM completely secure and totally loved.

Anxiety is not too big for God

Anxiety is not too big for God

I am starting to experience the first of probably many anxiety dreams about having this new baby. Over the weekend two dreams carried a common theme, both of control and loss of control. In my waking thought life I understand intellectually that I will make various mistakes when handling this new little person, but I also am confident that I will get the hang of it. I’m not that worried when I’m awake. However, my dream life paints a different picture. Here’s a little taste from my journal:

I dreamed I was babysitting my 6 year old nephew and allowed some lady I didn’t know, but who claimed to be a professional, cut his hair. As she began he chopped chunks off here and there until he was partially bald in several spots. I was horrified, anticipating what my sister in law would say, since she is also a hairstylist. (Why was I getting his hair cut in the first place?) I angrily took him home and as I attempted to strap him in his car seat, he became an infant and fell right out of the car, hitting the curb and rolling into the gutter. Suddenly it was my own baby that I was holding close and kissing, apologizing to her over and over again. I couldn’t believe how I had allowed this all to happen under my supervision.

And then the following night, I dreamed I was caring for a salamander and a frog. In efforts to keep them safe, I held on to them firmly in my hand until I could place them in a larger tank. When I opened my hand, I realized to my horror that I had been holding on so tight that I had actually dismembered the poor frog at the midsection. The legs and some organs fell through my fingers and I woke up in a state of panic and sadness at the pain I had caused.

In the Bible, dreams are used by God to communicate to us, sometimes by clear instruction or else by symbolism. (See Genesis 37, Daniel 2, Matthew 1, etc.) As for myself, I’m not sure I am capable of discerning whether my dreams come from God. All I know is that the fear and anxiety I face at night may be what lies just beneath the surface of my distracted day times.

It makes me wonder about the mystery of our minds and sub consciousnesses, and whether there lurk other thoughts and emotions which I cannot consciously access.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

What does it mean that His Word is living and active? First, we now that the Word is also the name given to Jesus at the beginning of the book of John: “In the beginning the was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus will also be the one in the last times to judge: “Then I saw Heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war… He wore a robe dipped in blood and his title was the Word of God” (Revelation 19:11,13).

It is not just referring to the fact that the literal “words” of the Bible which are inspired by the Spirit of God to be recorded by men, are wise and life-giving. We take these things for granted. But there is another dimension altogether that we often miss when trudging through our verse-a-day Bible checklists.

I think His word is described as living and active, for a simple reason – that God is living and active in our lives. He IS his own Word and He cannot betray Himself.

Jesus admitted that he had so much more to say to us, but lacked enough Earthly time. Instead he comforted us by sending the Spirit to carry on: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13).

We must also consider the passage in context. Hebrews 4:13 goes on to warn us not to get too comfortable in our salvation. If we stop pursuing God because we believe are “good to go” to enter Heaven, our attitudes have changed. We no longer rely on Jesus’s mercy, but have now switched over to reliance on our self assuredness.

As long as we are alive on Earth we are still able to reject our own salvation. We must sill keep sober watch over our hearts, thoughts, actions, and attitudes.

Not a creature exists that is concealed from His sight, but all things are open and exposed, and revealed to the eyes of Him with whom we have to give account.

Hebrews 4:13

So as long as I remain always turning toward God and His will for me, even though disobedient trips and falls, and how I might appear to others, I can rest assured that He knows the inner motives and attitudes of my heart. PHEW! What mercy and comfort in knowing this! I am giving this fear of messing up as a mother way too much credit. The fear is there, but so is God.

The bathing suit argument

The bathing suit argument
I had just zipped up a new pair of skinny jeans in the Target dressing room when I heard a familiar conversation. It’s one I’ve had many times with my own mother in a department store dressing room. It went something like this:
Mother: “No, I don’t like it”
Daughter: “What?! Mooom… you said it was cute”
Mother: “Yeah, well now that I see it on, I don’t think it’s appropriate”
Daughter: “But you already SAID I could get it”
Instantly I was back in the dressing room with my own mother, skillfully trying to nudge her in the right direction, as she clearly did not get 90s fashion, what with all its spaghetti straps and brightly colored bare midriff tops.
Mother: “It needs to be more modest”
Daughter: “What does that mean?”
Mother: “Modest means not sexy, not revealing”
I glanced in the mirror at my own “modest” figure and felt that definition left a bit to be desired.
Of course, in colloquial language, modest is almost universally an antonym of sexy, but I see it a little differently. The world would have us believe in one specific definition of sexy. You know the one, Tina Fey summed it up perfectly in her book BossyPants:
Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.
But instead of framing modesty as a list of what it isn’t, I would explain it in terms of what it IS which is so much more inspiring and attractive, especially to a teen whose future will inevitably be shaped by what she believes about beauty and herself. This is how I would explain it to my daughter.
To be Modest is to have dignity and respect for oneself. It means you have confidence in your own value as a unique individual made in the image of God.
But modesty is not just about the things we do, say, or put on our outsides; that’s called Legalism. Legalism is when we put the laws we made up ourselves above the laws God made for us. It means adding-on our ideas to the already-perfect requirements for salvation: repentance and faith in Jesus.

Legalism puts words in God’s mouth and makes outward things higher than the matters of the heart. No tattoos, No piercings, No plunging necklines. Our concerns are so much deeper than what is on the outside.

It’s not wrong to want to look attractive. In and of itself it is out of respect for others that I bathe and put on tasteful clothes and makeup. The danger is when we want to look attractive for the wrong reasons.
To a Christian who has been saved by grace which is undeserved favor, the natural response to the call to modesty comes from a place of gratefulness. We desire to preserve God’s wisdom simply because it pleases him. it’s an attitude of the heart that causes that alignment of priorities from my own…to His.
So once my heart has been changed, I may still desire a tattoo or to wear a certain thing that other believers may oppose. Be very careful not to confuse the general consensus, even of Christians, for God’s opinion. Because more times than not, we get it wrong. We put words in Jesus’s mouth and say he likes black and white only, but not grey. When the truth is, we miss the forest for the trees.
…but modesty also is not an excuse to hide.
It means not having to compensate or fill perceived gaps in the eye of the beholder.
It means you can just be, as you are without shame, without needing to cater or pander.
and that is exactly how God wants us to come to Him.
I’ve said it and I’ll say it a thousand more times, as long as Jesus’s message is trampled underfoot of our culture: There is no work, no “cleaning up”, no possible action you can take to EARN Salvation. It is a free gift, available only to those who realize their need and ask for it with a genuine heart.

What I’ve learned from keeping a faith-based blog

What I’ve learned from keeping a faith-based blog

After 4 1/2 years of more or less consistent blogging, I feel I have earned a bit of wisdom I would like to share. This is not only what I would tell any beginner, but also what I use to preach to myself (no pun intended); sometimes the advice we most need to hear is what we are already telling others.

Trust your calling. love inspire encourage . How did you know you wanted to write

Stay connected to God. If I am not consistently walking in obedience and living step of God’s will, all is in vain.

Perseverance. breaking through the demon voices. conquering my own guilt over my sometimes unpractical expectations of myself.

Relevance is key. Care what people want to read. My calling is to share what I learn and teach through experience and writing. If it’s not relevant to anyone but me, it’s great but not helpful. “If you speak to people in words they don’t understand, how will they know what you are saying? You might as well be talking into empty space,”1 Cor 14:6-9

Refuse to be limited. At the same time, don’t care what people want to read. Don’t be hung up on numbers. This is a real problem self employed creatives face everyday, and there are tons of opinions on the subject. Some people believe you need to maximize numbers in order to maximize your  arc of  influence. You want it to matter to as many people as possible, but at the same time, I’m of the personal opinion that you can’t grow in a box. Like all plants, you can start out small, but as your roots grow, they need space to stretch out and explore new and exciting places. I speak from experience when I say – It will not do to limit yourself to what brings in the numbers; you will soon find that you become a slave to likes and followers, instead of the One who called you in the first place.

Be yourself, apologetically. (Unless you are actually just a troll. Then I’d say do some soul searching) Boldness is non-negotiable. I struggle with this one. The age of the Internet is truly one for the history (e)books. Blogging and social media have totally changed the way I interact with my friends, family, and world. Being that Facebook/Instagram is the only means of interaction I have with many, many friends and acquaintances, what I decide to post (or not to post, that is the question) can be powerful. If my words turn someone off, they will probably unfollow me or unfriend me. If my words inspire and encourage, they might still not be interested in what I have to say next time. That’s not to say that we need to pander to what we think people want to hear; I am not in the business of tickling ears. Rather I think it’s important to be respectful. (A dying breed, it seems!) I’m not trying to troll, nor will I be so afraid of what others will think of me. Rather, I want to find a happy medium where I can be myself according to my best judgement and conscience. Sometimes my conscience will not allow me to continue unless I have said something (e.g. Cupgate) and then very often, I find myself writing back to someone’s comment I think is stupid – step back, take a look at myself and ask if it’s really something I want to have spent my time doing. Oh how Facebook commenters enrage me someimes! But – again, respect. And remembering my calling: love, inspire and encourage.

Don’t be discouraged by lack of response. 4.5 years of blogging has generated very very little response.  Anyone working hard at their calling can agree that it’s very encouraging to witness a response.  I have a few regular readers (that I know of) I will shamefully admit that I have personally reached out to several friends and family members to incite some degree of participation, to no avail. Like Eve with the serpent, I have little Stats demons whispering in my ear-  Did God really say you should write? Maybe you heard him wrong because I don’t see him coming on the clouds to ‘Lazarus’ your ratings… While my focus has never been Stats, I do realize that any response good or bad is something. At least I can discern it from there. And part of this is my own fault (see Boldness above). I am introverted (meaning I recharge and gather strength from being alone rather than being around people) and I am private about my thoughts. So I find it more difficult than others to be open.

In the next 5 years I’d like to grow to be more transparent in my writing, allow more of my personality to shine through, and be consistent. to never stop creating. Blogging is an excellent exercise in getting consistent with any type of dream you might have. Whether it’s writing, drawing, learning something new it’s a great way to jot down some thoughts and have a sort of journal of your progress. The fact that it’s made public is all the more exciting to share with others. because what is the point of creating something you were called to do if it is not shared with the world to add beauty?

 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:14-16

Refocusing within the flames

Refocusing within the flames

Hi Friends! After a long break, Joshua chapters 23 & 24 are finally up.

Over the past several months I have come to realize that my focus has truly been split between wanting what the world has to offer, and wanting what God has to offer.

Joshua 24 speaks beautifully to that point. First he reminds us of where we’ve been and then where we are now. God has already proved his faithfulness to us – what more can he do to show he is worthy of our trust?

Joshua doesn’t demand the same answer from everyone. He simply requests that each and every one of us take a hard look at what we want out of life and then commit to it.

If you want to follow the world, do it with full-fledged commitment. If you want to follow the Lord in faith, don’t just say so – really do it and just watch God transform you and your path.

It’s up to you and no one else can make the decision for you. Not your parents, not your peers, not your pastor. Just choose something – or else allow yourself to become a terrible waste of perfectly good potential.

I love this word, not only because it’s challenging and bold, but because it is so applicable in every season of life.

As for me, you might have noticed that I’ve been MIA over the past several months. For those of you who don’t know, I’m now 5 months pregnant and experiencing all the pleasures of pregnancy, like being told the same cliche advice over and over, and having total strangers touch my belly.

It’s great, but it’s made me realize something important. There will soon be a little sponge who will witness everything I say and do, and naturally, want to imitate me. I am about to become an example -one of the first and most profound examples- of faith in Christ to another human being. Does that just blow your mind? It does for me.

As such, a holy fire has been lit under my bottom to strive for more scripture-soaking than ever before. If following Jesus was important to me before, it is now a matter of life and death.

Not that I look forward to coercing my child into faith – I’m not that naive. Rather, to practice what I preach. My goal is to be a living witness to the transformation faith in Christ brings – not only in our individual lives but here in the midst of a world falling apart. The last thing I want it to see is another hypocritical Christian family who says one thing on Sunday and does another on Monday.

I’m sorry that I haven’t always been this zealous, but He’s faithful in giving me a fresh new reason to go forth on the directive I received many years ago. It was to learn, live, and share with others how Jesus is the only thing I need to navigate my life.

I’m not sure yet what this will look like for the blog, but I’m planning – God willing – to incorporate more scripture study, more discussion, and more application to the 2017 world in which we find ourselves.

Molly

Joshua 24

Joshua 24

Joshua 24

“Choose today whom you will serve”

As his last recorded discourse, Joshua recounts once more all that God has done for their people, starting all the way back with Abraham and ending with the present day situation. After many years of conflict, slavery, war, exile, and wandering – during which God did not fail to deliver, I might add – they are now comfortably settled in towns they did not build, eating from fields they did not sow, drinking from vineyards they did not plant. All because of our Lord’s faithfulness and love for our welfare.

Take a moment to look back over the journey God has brought you so far – over victory, difficulty, danger, illness – whatever it may be. Acknowledge the distance you have come and recall His provision among the events of your life. He loves us so much that he will stop at nothing to provide deliverance.

The Israelites had come to a point in their journey where things seemed to be going very well for them. They have just come out of success after success and were now slaves to no one and free. Joshua challenges them next.

“So now: Fear God. Worship him in total commitment. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped on the far side of The River (the Euphrates) and in Egypt. You, worship God.

“If you decide that it’s a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you’d rather serve—and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country beyond The River, or one of the gods of the Amorites, on whose land you’re now living. As for me and my family, we’ll worship God.” (Joshua 24:14-15).

Make the decision today about who you choose to serve. God has already proved that he is trustworthy. But just like the Israelites, we live in a place where not everyone worships the same God. Our friends, neighbors, colleagues worship and live for different things. We are not exempt from the temptation of turning our trust towards what is around us.

Our culture upholds ambition, success, pride, fame, money. Our friends who do not believe the same way, live their lives in search of these things. But as followers of Jesus we are called to a different lifestyle.

We are to seek God and imitate His ways, in order to become more holy like Him. Our goals are different. And our focus becomes diluted when we allow our hearts to wander over to the world’s view of success. This is why there are so many self-proclaimed Christians whose actions and attitudes have no resemblance whatsoever to the Gospel.

However, there is hope. Jesus chose only imperfect people to  be his disciples. That includes you and me. We are ALL subject to abandon love and take advantage of others. We are ALL able to be seduced and misled by the sparkly promises of YouTube stardom and loads of cash.

Joshua’s warning here is timeless – make your choice. If you want the world’s way of living, chose that and commit. If you would rather worship the Lord, chose that with all your heart and do not waver from it.

Jesus says in Revelation that he would rather we be “hot” or “cold” in regards to our faith, not lukewarm. And take heart – there is time while your heart still beats:

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:19-20)

Only choose something and stick to it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

 

 

Joshua 23

Joshua 23

Joshua 23

“If you disobey the Lord will no longer fight for you”

In Joshua’s last warnings to Israel, he repeats two concepts several times. The first, to remember what the Lord has done for them, in fighting for them to conquer many peoples and give them the land He promised them. None of the successes Israel experienced would have been possible without God being on their Side. The second, to strictly obey the Lord’s will. Without constant acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty and turning from sin, Israel would be bound to lose their tight connection with God and ultimately get tangled up in their own folly.

The Message puts it plainly:

 “Now, vigilantly guard your souls: Love God, your God. Because if you wander off … know for certain that God, your God, will not get rid of these nations for you. They’ll be nothing but trouble to you—horsewhips on your backs and sand in your eyes—until you’re the ones who will be driven out of this good land that God, your God, has given you.” (Joshua 23:11-13 MSG)

And this isn’t the first time the people of Israel have heard this warning – see also Leviticus 26, where Moses delivers sobering warnings that they will fall out of the Lord’s favor if they are disobedient.

Thankfully we are not under the same law that Joshua and the Israelites were at this time. For those of us living today, we have Jesus. Because of Jesus, it is possible for God to keep fighting our battles even when we mess up. We don’t need to take part in ritual sacrifices anymore now that the ultimate sacrifice was already made. 

“But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded? Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.” (Romans 3:31 MSG)

No, for us living today, our job is to stop trying to save our own souls with our own human power and sincerely pursue relationship with God. He is the one with the wisdom and power needed to sanctify our lives. His glory is meant to reflect off us and into our dark world.

Joshua 22

Joshua 22

Scripture

“As a memorial… it is a reminder of the relationship both of us have with the Lord”

Observation

Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, was allotted land on the East side of the Jordan river. This was too far away from the original altar at Shiloh where the rest of the tribes of Israel lived. However, they had such a strong commitment and need of easy access to a place of worship that these outlying tribes decided to build a new altar at Geliloth.

Application

How important is the habit of meeting for worship together, really? Is it required, or just an extracurricular?

It’s a good question and I wrote all about it here–>> Is it a sin not to go to church?

There are some who believe that since God is everywhere, and the individual’s salvation is based on a personal relationship with God, church must be secondary, or even unnecessary. They think, If I have direct access to God, why even bother with church people? 

And it’s true – God is everywhere, but let’s not forget the founder of the Church universal Himself. While we don’t get “good points” for sitting in a room with other believers once a week,  we have been deliberately created to need each other for growth, support, and encouragement. We were not meant to live alone.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:2-25

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12

 

 

When we look further into scripture, God makes it abundantly clear that to follow Jesus is to also be part of his church. Each and every one of us are necessary for mutual edification of the Body.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the example of these faithful men and women. May we be convicted to attend church, not to “earn” favor with you (which is impossible) but to take up our position as part of the body of Christ and be functioning and active members of it.

Joshua 21

Joshua 21

Scripture

43 So the Lord gave to Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them, for the Lord helped them conquer all their enemies. 45 Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.

Joshua 21:43-45

Observation

The last to receive their allotments of land were the members of the tribe of priests, the Levites. Verses 1-42 of Chapter 21 outline the different towns given to the many clans of Levi by the other Israelite tribes. In this way, priests were peppered (or salted if you like) among the settlements of Israel so that all the people had access to religious events and activities.

The last three verses (Joshua 21:43-45) declare that all of God’s promises were fulfilled to completion. These promises were:

  1. The descendants of Abraham would possess the land of Canaan
  2. Rest and peace in Canaan
  3. Success and victory in their wars

All these things came to pass and the so the people experience God’s faithfulness. As Matthew Henry says eloquently “God’s word and his works mutually illustrate each other”. His promises show his blessings, and his blessings prove his promises.

Application

Have you ever questioned God’s faithfulness because he doesn’t seem to answer you?

Take a moment to close your eyes and answer honestly. Sure, it’s easy to say pretty words like “God is faithful, God never fails”. But do we really believe that in a practical way?

I used to believe that if God did not answer my prayers, it was because he didn’t understand, didn’t see, didn’t care. I treated God as though he had the same capabilities as a human – indifferent and prone to failure. The Israelites also had a problem understanding God’s faithfulness. Even though they experienced his provision and miracles over and over again, they still vacillated between trust and skepticism constantly.

However, as I have grown up in my faith by genuine prayer, seeking, and studying God’s word, he has given me the special understanding I needed in order to trust Him. Meditate on the following verses and ask God to show you his faithfulness in a personal way.

If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
2 Timothy 2:13

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Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,
Deuteronomy 7:9

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For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13

Prayer

Lord, you are faithful. You always keep your word, even though we don’t see it at the time. Help us to continually seek you in the confusing and dark places so that we will have wisdom for moving forward.