Joshua 9-10

This is what is beautiful about the Bible: it is still relevant and applicable! It’s not a dusty history book. It’s alive. It moves, breathes and speaks to us. Do you agree with that? 

Among verses of impaled enemies and slaughtered cities, sits pieces of stories that speak to me today. In my day of nannying, cleaning up my house and preparing a simple dinner. That’s amazing. 

So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies.” 10:13

Our country is getting a new President today. I feel overwhelmed, in general, about America’s future. I don’t think our leaders consult with God before making choices. And today, reading about what happened when the Israelites relied on their own leadership strength (9:14), I fear what’s in store for us. I wonder if God’s anger towards our country is a slow-burning wick; our nations choices will catch up with us. 

Then comes along this beautiful verse about God holding the sun in place and holding off the moon. Sentences before, God took down Israel’s enemies with gigantic pieces of hail. 

Weather. Sunsets. Moon rises. These are a few things we can absolutely not control. They feel inevitable, set in stone. Yet God calms the storms, parts the sea and holds the sun when we ask

Is there something you wish he would do that seems impossible? 

I can’t control our nation’s future. But I can pray, ask and rely on God’s faithfulness and expect him to be just. 

What battles are you fighting? Are you consulting with God before you make decisions? 

If you think I’m sweeping over all the intense violence we read today: I am. I see it. I wince at it. I wonder about it. But I’m making a choice to lean not on my own understanding. God would rather we draw near to him in moments of doubt or confusion, and not cower away. If something about what you read today bothered you, bring it to him. Knead the verses in your hand and look for God’s grace. It’s always there. 
-Carly 

Joshua 7-8

How many times have we mistaken the consequences of our disobedience as abandonment from God? Joshua immediately went to the dark place along with everyone in Israel! “Oh no! We’re done fore!”

“The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?”

God is not full of tricks, waiting for us to fail. Like I’ve repeatedly said, this was a very sensitive mission and there was no room for improvising. The LORD didn’t leave Joshua on his face for long. He got him up, showed him where change was necessary and got him back to work.

Too often we let our failures sideline us, as our ego demands a time out to mourn its bruises. God only needs the amount of time it takes to get back on our feet. 

I’ve totally been in a place where I felt I’d put all my trust in God and He let me down. I dispaired, I cried, I “how dare you”ed. He always graciously gets me back up and grants me a little perspective. We need His perspective to not make more or less of our sin. He is faithful to show us the truth of the matter.

Is there something you’ve let sideline you? Bring it to the LORD and allow Him to shed His truth light on it, so you can get back in the game. 

-Bethany 

Joshua 5-6

Has God ever prompted you to do something really weird? The other day I was driving home from the library and I saw a gangly teenage boy waiting on a corner nervously checking his watch. For some reason, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was suppose to ask him if he needed anything. That’s silly. He probably has a smart phone, is waiting for a ride, and is just cold. I talked myself out of approaching him. I thought about it the rest of the day! I wish I more easily responded to the Holy Spirit instead of being incredibly distracted.

I love imagining all the soldiers rising at dawn, tugging their boots (sandals?) on, and raising their eyebrows at each other as they headed out for another day of silent marching.

Following God means doing weird things, and believing in the unrealistic things he has and can do. I believe this story really happened. It takes some faith, because it defies logic, gravity and common sense. But I believe it. If he is so capable, why do I struggle to believe he can knock down the metaphorical walls in my life? 

It takes patience, a quieted heart, diligence and faith. Sometimes, so, so much faith. Faith that defies all logic and reason.

What wall does God have you trudging around? An unbelieving friend or family member? A hardened, bitter marriage? A job that wears you down? A relentless health issue?

Take heart this morning, reader. You are not alone in wild, seemingly-impossible tasks laid on you by the Lord. He doesn’t call us to things alone, he is God with us. Read this story and be encouraged.

“And he said to the people, ‘Go forward.’ “6:7

 

 

Joshua 3-4

“He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.” (4:24)

The lesser known parting-of-the-Jordan-river is terrifying. As Rahab told the spies, everyone in the land was already quaking in their boots. The God of Israel had a pretty intense reputation. Canaan was the major trade route of the world, connecting Africa to Asia and Europe. It had been 40 years since the Exodus and everyone had heard the stories. 

They probably eased their fears by supposing the Exodus saga was sensationalized. “No way all those plagues happened to everyone but them.” Or “I’m sure their God doesn’t really lead them as a pillar of fire.” And “Maybe their God made the Red Sea shallow and they were able to wade through it?” 

But now, as their hearts begin to give way, something terrifying confirms all their deepest fears: the flood-stage Jordan stops, piling into a heap, and Israel indeed crosses on dry ground. They even bring rocks from the middle as menacing souvenirs! The God who is with them, is most certainly the most power God anyone has ever known: Creator God.

Now notice the end of that last verse: so that you might always fear the LORD your God. 

God’s people have the unfortunate tendency to get cocky and entitled. Yes they are chosen, yes He is with them, yes He has promised them blessing, but blessing in obedience. Obedience must be married to humility. 

As you will see, the LORD does not spare the Israelites who act wickedly or disobediently. This is a specific moment in time they’ve been trained for, like I said at the beginning of Deuteronomy. The people occupying the land are deeply evil, descendants of Ham, recreating the pre-flood society in the most influential part of the world. The LORD, who promised not to flood the place again, seeks to replace these influencers of evil, with His representives, intended to bring blessing to all nations. It’s a sensitive situation, and it will require undivided attention to His leading.

Not everyone is intended for complete annihilation. God directs who to take out and who to spare. Just as He spared Noah’s family, Lot’s family and now Rahab’s family, He’s all about making exceptions for anyone remotely interested in surrender. 

The chapters ahead can be hard to swallow. Please, don’t hesitate to engage, ask questions and press the Lord for insight. We know God to be good and the things He commands in this book feel impossible to reconcile with His goodness, from our point of view (which, we must humbly admit, is small and confined to our culture and place in history). My prayer for us is to face these questions head on and come out the other side with a deeper love and understanding of God’s goodness, along with a healthy dose of humility and fear. If I watched God stop a raging river for someone, I probably wouldn’t be waiting on the other side, hands on hips, taping my foot and announcing “I’ve got a bone to pick with you!” However, I am confident we will all find in this saga, glimpses of Christ and the “New Testament God” we feel much more comfortable with. So hang on! Our purpose is still to declare His power to the nations.

-Bethany 

Joshua 1-2

The book of Joshua explains Israel’s shift from wandering nomads to settling in the land God provided-finally. Joshua is commissioned to take over for Moses and gets a pretty good pep talk from God first hand. He’s told “be strong and courageous” over three times in one paragraph.

“For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 1:9

How come this isn’t enough for us sometimes?

Rahab, a marginalized Gentile and a known prostitute, saves the day. She’s brave and bold in this story. She recognizes the power of God (2:9), betrays her own people to protect these men and boldly bargains for her life to be saved.

Don’t you love the type of people God chooses to use? We’ll see Rahab’s name later, in the genealogy of Jesus listed in Matthew. He uses the ‘least of these’ to do his work. When I read this story, I’m encouraged that God can use me despite my story. No one has a past too dark to be used for God’s will.

Are we making ourselves available to be used by God? What’s stopping us?

 

-Carly

 

Deuteronomy 33-34

“Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.” (34:10-12‬)

I’m going to piggy back off what Carly wrote yesterday, because in this season of my life, it’s a deeply important point to drive home. 

“What makes someone a success?” This is a horrible question, which tumbles around the thought life of every western minister of the gospel. Pastors battle the temptation to rate their churches by size,  membership or participation percentages. Missionaries feel pressure to report large conversion numbers. YWAM bases want full schools. This is fueled by many factors, a large one being “what will we tell our benefactors, supporters or board of directors?” How do we measure success and productivity in ministry?

By all these accounts, Moses was a pretty big failure. He didn’t even have enough personal self-control to not disqualify himself from entering the Promised Land. The numbers he reported were: how many were swallowed up by the ground, biten by poisonous snakes or killed in battle?

Normally, right about now, I could turn this around and say “what really made him a success?” But that word sucks. I’m going to abandon that word altogether. 

Because who cares?! Moses knew the LORD face to face. “As one speaks to a friend.” (Exodus 33:11) No matter what the fruit of his life on earth, he was the luckiest man to ever live. Don’t we see? The highest thing we could ever do, or experience in life, is intimate friendship with the Great I AM. Moses was the first to hear His Name. He was the messenger delivering all the LORD’s commands, chiefly to LOVE Him with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength.

I don’t know what expectations people had when I came to Greece to serve refugees. I don’t know what I expected of myself. I can’t speed up the asylum process, bring them home with me, or make them convert to Christianity. All those outcomes are way outside my control. 

All I know, is that I’ve fallen in love with a group of people and it’s deeply mutual. I spend my days cooking, playing cards, learning Arabic, laughing with people, crying with people and, more recently, cat sitting. 

Maybe all this, for a season, has merely  starved off hopelessness and depression for a handful of people who didn’t deserve to see their homes bombed and families killed. I will never know. By God’s grace, none of it can be measured or boiled down to a power point presentation. 

One thing I do know is that these people have shown me the face of God in a way I’ve never seen Him before. I worship Him now, like I never could have before. 

My foreseeable future will be dedicated to loving these. I have no idea what will happen or what it will look like. It’s a crisis. It changes every hour, every day. Its exhausting trying to make sense of things enough to write an update that won’t change in 3 minutes. I do my best, because I absolutely couldn’t do any of it without my supporters, prayer warriors, family and friends. 

What if I, like Moses, get tired, overly traumatized, frustrated and snap? I worry about this. This week, as I say goodbye to my team, I have been teary, wondering what everyone will think if I get overwhelmed, “strike the rock” and disqualify myself. I’m sure I’m not alone in this worry, and I’ve seen many pastors and missionaries “fall from grace” because of this very thing.

So today, as I read God’s sweet tribute to Moses, I’m actually crying quite a bit. Because no matter what I am a friend of God and I have seen His face.

I don’t know what this looks like for you, but please consider with me the grace of God, which is made perfect in our weakness. 

Israel may be about to turn to foreign gods, but they’re out of Egypt. They will experience major ups and downs for the next 3000+ years. Their response isn’t Moses’ responsibility. By God’s push and power, Moses got them out of Egypt, delivered the Law, and got them to the edge of the Promised Land. 

No one ever found his body, and the next thing you know, he’s hanging out with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Moses never stepped into the Promised Land, but he got to hang out with the Promised One. I think we’d all agree that’s better. 

-Bethany 

Deuteronomy 31-32

What a rough ending for poor Moses. I can’t help but think it’d be kinda nice to get a head’s up on death, though. God delivers some disappointing news to him:

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘You are about to die and join your ancestors. After you are gone these people will begin to worship foreign gods, the gods of the land where they are going. They will abandon me and break my covenant that I have made with them.” 31:16

Moses spent his entire life leading these people, traveling in the wilderness and mediating between them and God. Now, nearing death, he is told that after all that, they will rebel and abandon their relationship with God.

If you’ve ever poured into someone (this is Christian speak for “have an intentional relationship”), you can imagine how much this would break his heart. It’s tempting to put expectations onto people or turn them into ‘projects’. I hear that a lot. “Don’t treat them like a project.” It took me a while to realize why that’s a bad thing. As a creative person, I love projects. What’s wrong with throwing yourself completely into someone, dedicating time and effort into it because you love them? Because with projects, you have an outcome in mind. There’s an end in sight and you are working until it’s finished. People are never finished. We are a work in progress until the day we are lowered into the ground. Expecting some sort of result doesn’t leave room for grace. 

Is there someone you’re mentoring or leading? A co-worker, a foster child, a friend, your kids, a neighbor, a spouse? What are your expectations for them?

When I find myself getting frustrated in a relationship like that, it’s a red flag that my intentions are off. I’m trying to squeeze self-worth out of it, not trusting God and not leading like Jesus. 

Jesus leads perfectly. He pursues us, but let’s us make our own choices. He gives boundaries and he gives grace. He loves unconditionally, forgives constantly and asks questions.

Moses’ last move with his people before death is to teach them a song about God. He proclaims God’s goodness, sweeps over Israel’s history with Him and gives a final reminder of the dangers of turning from His ways.

Let’s lead that way: reminding our people what God has done, teaching them to give thanks and steering them away from a life apart from Him.

 

-Carly

 

Deuteronomy 29-30

“The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” (‭30:6‬)
The LORD is our Maker. He knows fencing us in with rules doesn’t work. He knows Israel will fail. He knows our hearts are stubborn and bent on rebellion. His plan was always to change us at our core: “To circumcise our hearts”. The mark of the covenant wouldn’t always be birthrights and blood lines, but obedience motivated by love and thankfulness. 

The book comes to its apex here:

“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach… No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to Him, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.” (30:11-16‬)

Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him.” (30:19-20‬)

The creator of life is asking us to live. We can be so bent on self depreciation and destruction. He knows our tendency to implode  and explode. 

As I read this, I can feel His hands on my shoulders as he bends to look intently into my eyes. “Please, my love, trust me and follow me.”

Choose life. 

What does it mean for us to choose life today? With all these laws and commands swirling around in my recent memory bank, I consider these points:

The LORD loves justice, reconciliation and amends. He hates dishonest scales, making more or less of offenses than what’s true. Choosing life means keeping short accounts, forgiving and mending broken relationships. Is there a dishonest scale in my heart? Is there someone I’m refusing to forgive even if my sin outweighs theirs?

The LORD teaches hygiene and preventative health care. Am I making healthy choices for myself and the people around me by keeping my body and environment clean?

The LORD prioritized relationships. How can I put people before projects today?

Let’s honor our Maker by honoring each other. His heart is to care for us, so let’s join Him in this beautiful labor of love. Take time to adore Him.

-Bethany

Deuteronomy 27-28

I don’t really like these chapters. It reads like a fire and brimstone God. Harsh, wrathful, legalistic and threatening us into obedience.

Richard Rohr addresses this well in his book Falling Upward. (If I was further along in my cup of coffee, I’d dig the quote out for you.) He compares the first half of the Bible to childhood. Young children need a lot of strict rules to learn obedience. It’s how we learn right from wrong. Later, like Jesus does in the New Testament, we move beyond the rules. We realize following the rules won’t save us and they’re not ultimately what’s important. Yesterday I power-struggled with my toddler to get him to apologize to his cousin. Eventually he forced a mumbled “sorry”, faked a hug, and went back to playing. I don’t think he was truly repenting, but I want to establish the habits and rules of relationships now. My hope is later, when he’s older and gains more understanding, his heart will follow. He’ll apologize because he’s truly sorry and he’ll know how to do it.

This perspective has helped me immensely as I have grappled with the Old Testament over the years. God is establishing his relationship with Israel (and mankind), and he wants them to be set apart and special.

But just because they’re chosen as his covenant people doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed blessings no matter what. Something I have always admired about the Bible is it’s honesty. I grew up attending church my entire life and often heard about the free gift of Christ and how it doesn’t cost you a THING! All you have to do is raise your hand during this random alter call, pray some generic prayer with acoustic guitar playing in the background and you get into heaven forever. Later, as I started reading my Bible for the first time, I was really confused. Jesus insists that following him will cost you everything. The God I read about in the Old Testament, that was hardly mentioned in youth group, scared me. (I’ll set aside my youth ministry soap box for another time.)

God’s blessings must not be taken for granted. Read these chapters and remember that God is establishing himself with his people; telling them what it will look like if they step outside of their relationship with him.

 

-Carly

Deuteronomy 25-26

I love that there is a speech attached to tithes and first fruits; a recounting of personal history in correlation with the faithfulness of God. I love that tithes go straight to orphans, widows and foreigners. I love reminders that every good gift is from God.

“And the LORD has declared this day that you are His people, His treasured possession as He promised, and that you are to keep all His commands.” (26:18‬)

Everything is relationally driven. The whole “line of the Unsandeled” thing seems strange to us, but having children and continuing the line was everything to Israel. This was the promise of God to Abraham, and who is this guy to try and exclude someone from that promise? Children, offspring, heirs, lines… the sign of the promise was circumcision, for crying out loud.

Western culture has made marriage all about ourselves. Narcissistic is a word that’s resurfaced in recent years, and cited in many divorce cases (along with Facebook, God help us). Marriage rights for homosexuals, aside, we went wrong with marriage a long time ago. God honoring marriages are good for everyone. Whole communities benefit from in-tact families with stable environments for kids. 

So, hey, if God thought it was best to take a shoe from the man who didn’t want to be a part of the family, He was probably right. 

Paul, in 1 Peter 2:9, restates that we are God’s treasured possession. I like being called that. It’s the best title any of us could hope for. What will be our response? 

-Bethany