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Joshua 12-14
Part 5 of 6

Caleb’s example is amazing for all who follow the LORD.  He was perfectly content with God’s sovereign distribution to him.  There was no hint of whining.

Instead a courageous man sees the blessing of the gift and the challenge to secure the gift that was given to him.  Caleb went about making God’s distribution his and then expanded it.  God’s pattern for many is similar: gladly accept what God has given, then maximize that potential in a life of service.

Surround yourself with others who have the same godly perspective.  When they follow your lead and act as stewards of God’s provisions, they too will be a part of a growing ministry.  Then, be sure and reward those who serve alongside of you.  This will seal their loyalty.

God never sets up a pattern of entitlement for people.  At least not while on this earth.  Our eternal reward is in the future.

On earth it is a matter of living faithfully according to His instructions.  Our obedience and mutual loyalty are the functions in daily living.  Whining is never an option.  Fussing and comparing with others is not a part of obedient living?

More later…

There was a day when Jesus was walking with His disciples.  They were going to Jerusalem for a festival.  This company entered the city through the Sheep Gate, near the pool of Bethesda.

Five covered colonnades near the pool marked this distinguishing site.  A man was there who was born blind.  Jesus engages him in a conversation.

Many who are disabled crowd around these waters.  Those who are blind, lame and paralyzed make this location their daily routine.  The expectation of a miracle is on everyone’s mind.

Israel 2014 IFL 349The man talks with Jesus but has no idea who He is.  Instead, he only talks about his predicament.  When the waters are stirred, he is frustrated because there is no one who can help him into the waters.

Jesus asks the man the obvious, “Do you want to get well?”  Even the man does not pick up on this query.  He answers with his predicament.

Then, Jesus declares that the man is healed.  He orders the man to pick up his mat and walk.  The healed man does so.

Everything about this  miracle is immediate.  There is rehabilitation.  No transition time is necessary.

Although the man has never seen since he was born blind, his mind can process people and he can negotiate his physical locomotion.  The miracle is total.  Yet, the mystery that surrounds it linger.

But there were sour legalistic people around.  Some took the rules of living to the extreme.  They criticized the healed man for carrying his mat.

Israel 2014 IFL 348In their perspective it was work and no one who was serious about their Judaism worked on the day of rest.  It is ludicrous to understand the rationale of this encounter.  Nevertheless, this extremism speaks to the unwillingness of people to see their own sin and stubborn refusal to humbly come to Jesus and believe in His message of grace.

The man who was healed kept on expressing a simplicity of his faith.  He simply told his critics that he was just doing what the man who healed instructed him to do.  When challenged to identify Jesus, the man honestly responded that he did not know who He was.

Later, in Jesus’ quiet way he met the man who He had healed.  He told him to go and sin no more.  Bad things happen to those who sin.

This is the message at the pool of Bethesda.  God’s mercy comes to those in need.  When it does, then humbly obey with simple faith.

photo credit: brucefong photography


Joshua 12-14
Part 4 of 6

God pulls no punches about Joshua. In Scripture, Joshua is identified as being “old”.   The Bible punctuates his years saying that Joshua was not just “old” he was “very old.” That makes old bones creak.

It was time for a transition. Joshua would no longer be the swashbuckling leader that he has been. Instead, the individual tribes will need to step up and take the land that they have been given and secure it from the remaining Canaanites that live there.

As Caleb demonstrated with his vigor and determination, God would give each tribe the strength and fortitude to drive out the last vestiges of the enemy and secure their land. God never leads His people without providing all of the resources and energy that will make their faith endeavor successful.

Half-hearted efforts to obey lead to an incomplete mission. Each tribe is perfectly able with God’s help to secure their borders. If they would simply obey, trust God and act decisively then their military efforts would be rewarded. Faith looks beyond what the natural eye can see.

The tribe of Levi had no real estate parcel per se. They were given cities and pasture land, but their reward was doing the service of the Lord. In the ministry that was sufficient for their satisfaction.

Those two and a half tribes who settled on the East side of the Jordan River chose too early. They settled and as a result became fodder for the eventual invasion forces that swept Israel off to captivity. Never settle and justify accepting less than what you know is what God wants for you.

More later…

Joshua 12-14
Part 3 of 6

Life needs moments to pause from busyness and reflect. In these times of assessment reviewing what has happened brings meaning into life. God gives Israel a chance to remember the blessings under the leadership of both Moses and now Joshua.

The victories that God gave to Moses on the East side of the Jordan River are rehearsed. Then, a review of Joshua’s victories is revisited. It is fascinating that Joshua’s victories are over 16 kings in the South and 15 kings in the North.

In the book of Joshua there were not 31 battles recorded for us to read. These actual numbers are accurate but clearly the record of these battles was selective. Only certain ones are included in the Inspired account.

These battles show that the people of Israel are becoming a nation. Every nation needs two things: a constitution and real estate. The constitution was the Law of Moses. Now, the Land that God was giving the people would be their real estate.

More later…

Israel 2014 IFL 335There is a narrow road that swing uphill from the Kidron Valley.  The descent from the Walls of Jerusalem are not far behind.  It is natural to look up when the road starts to climb.

The road is narrow and winding.  Modern designers never would have planned the route like this.  It is another indication that today’s roads have simply followed the old roads of the past.

Lining each side of the now paved route are tall stone walls.  You feel penned in.  Yet, the sense of being on the right road is assured by our guide.

Israel 2014 IFL 336Not far along this journey is a gate off to the right.  Many pilgrims are filing in.  The sense of this being a very special place is in the air.

Once inside the gate, our guide gives us quiet instructions to follow the pathway and to speak softly.  People are meditating and this is a sacred site. Those words are just a vanguard of what our spirits have already sensed.

Israel 2014 IFL 338Inside the walls a security fence surrounded the grove of olive trees.  Down the middle gravel pathway stood the largest and apparently the oldest olive tree in the garden.  Its trunk was massive.

Scarred and twisted this old tree was still sprouting shoots into the sky that were dressed in new leaves.  Botanists tell us that this tree could very well be two thousand years old.  It stood tall, solid and unmovable before us.

Israel 2014 IFL 339Maybe it was a mere sapling when Jesus came here at night and wept tears of blood. The agony of the Savior may have soaked the ground with His ignominious perspiration.  Here He accepted the Father’s will to take on the sin of the whole world.

This task meant that He must die.  It is the penalty of sin.  Death is the only option available to bring sin to justice.

Our only redeeming option is to have a substitute that will die in our place. Jesus agreed to take our place.  He died on our behalf.

Israel 2014 IFL 342It meant that He would be separated from the Father.  That reality was what weighed on  Jesus’ heart that night.  Yet, out of love for us, He agreed willingly to do it.

No wonder a church stands next to this garden in commemoration of this great sacrifice.  Nations from around the world contributed to its construction.  Enter this garden, His garden and sense the forgiveness given through the great gift of love.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Joshua 12-14
Part 2 of 6

We all make decisions that end up being determinative in our lives. These decisions are the result of choices that we make. Some times these are agreements others are partnerships and still others are unilateral promises.

God leads us into challenging situations in life. When He does we must be ready. Decisions and choices will meet us. Wisdom to choose well and complete any steps of obedience will be essential to faithful living.

Over the years I have taught many students. I make them a promise that no matter where they are or what happens in their lives, if they are hurting and need someone I will be there. They can call me or come and see and I will help them.

Whenever that call has come I have answered. It calls for some immediate decisions and choices but God has always been faithful through helping those in need. Tough moments have come along with those cries for help, but God’s mercy has always been a part of those moments to come alongside someone in need.

More later…

Israel 2014 IFL 326There is a special quiet place in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of the crowded active city of Jerusalem.  It has a panoramic view of the Ancient City.  The setting today is still serene.

After the miles traveled and arrangements that mark this once in a lifetime visit to the Land, it is well worth the altered course to visit this special site.  Traditionally, Jesus was here.  When His busy ministry captured all of His brief days in this region, He paused here.  The Gospel of Luke in chapter 19 verse 41, the event was captured.

Jesus looked over the city of Jerusalem and knew what would transpire. Israel 2014 IFL 324 As grand a city as it was and as fabulous a location of strength and faith that it was, it would fall because of sin.  Its people would be carried away into the Dispersion.

The heart of God for His people is captured in this tender moment.  Love clashes with the reality of impending judgment.  It is not cruel but necessary and consistent with the holiness of God.

Israel 2014 IFL 331Sin can never be tolerated.  It must be dealt with swiftly and definitively. Hope for a future is just as real.

Grace comes from the Almighty as well. He will bring the nation back.  Our moment of the hillside marks the reality of that anticipation from ancient days.

Here coffins are laid above the ground.  Families bury their loved ones here in sight of the city walls.  The closer they are to the walls the hope is that their resurrection will be splendid when the King returns.

Israel 2014 IFL 332Family members leave a stone on top of the grave tops to mark their visit.  Some day a reunion would take place.  All in the family would be reunited and their hope in the city when Jesus would reign there would be the focus of their faith.

Israel 2014 IFL 333A church stands on the grounds of this serene location.  It is surrounded by a grove of olive trees.  The design of the building depicts the shape of a human tear.

While our busy pilgrimage schedule was full, it was well worth the time to pause here and take in the love of God for His people.  Like a loving father who disciplines his children, our Heavenly Father will bring His holiness to bear on our lives when the ugliness of sin makes its presence known.   He loves us and does what is right.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Joshua 12-14
Part 1 of 6

A traveling salesman was on a routine drive through his Southwestern region.  His territory included the vast and sparsely populated area of New Mexico.  During his journey from one population center to the next, he spies a lonely Native American woman walking along the highway.

Not only was it odd to see anyone walking in the harsh desert, the notion of a woman walking alone was very curious.  As he drew closer, he was even more surprised that she had a burden.  In her arms she was carrying a saddle.

He pulls over and offers her a ride.  She climbs in and after a few moments he comments, “That is a very nice saddle.”
“Thank you…got for husband.”
Smiling while running her hands on the finely tooled leather works she nodded and then continued, “… good trade.”

More later…


Joshua 11
Part 6 of 6

The test of leadership is the satisfaction that we achieve what God wants done, nothing more and nothing less.  If we are greedy or steal His glory in the process, then God will not let that theft go unpunished.  Leaders are as much about stewardship as they are about courageous initiative.

A confidence among spiritual leaders is self-evident.  Leaders know that when God clearly directs He also makes it possible to achieve what He asks us to do.  It is never about our assessment of the likelihood that a task can be done; rather, it is discerning what He wants us to do then stepping out in faith to do that specific task.

Mixed in with spiritual leadership is the high level of concern that leaders have for those that they lead.  Caring for our troops reflects the heart of God in every leader that He chooses.  Motivating others when they know that we love and lift them up is a combination for success.

God loves peace.  Ultimately, discern that His values are consistent with this.  When we know what He wants then we can practice great insight into what He wants to accomplish in our lives and those who are His.

Thanks for joining me on this journey through the Scriptures.

Joshua 11
Part 5 of 6

Joshua’s success is indisputable. The military conquests are a historian’s marvel. Yet, the Scripture is clear. It was the LORD who directed this acquisition to Moses.

Nevertheless, God fulfilled this direction to Moses through his successor, Joshua. If God skips a generation to do what He says He will do it is not His failure but His mysterious timing. No one can ever say that God is late.

Furthermore, Joshua seemed to know that he was fulfilling what God had directed his mentor. He himself was not selfish but carefully and responsibly gave to the tribes what God wanted them to have. Leaders who are unselfish bring even more glory to God through their honoring God’s people than they do by what they achieve as a leader of men.

Peace from war comes when God wants it to happen. War can be God’s way to bring about the peace that will give people real rest. Peace is not a matter of the absence of conflict but the application of divine justice against the lives of those who rebel against the Almighty.

More later…