Saddle Up!

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Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9, NIV 1984).

My Musings – This is a charge given specifically to Joshua.  What could he possibly have to fear?

  • He Succeeded Moses, the only person that God spoke with face-to-face.  Talk about a tough act to follow.
  • But because Moses messed up, God did not allow Moses to lead the Israelites into the promised land.  Something that Moses had been anticipating for over forty years.  Better not mess up, Joshua.
  • And now Joshua was being told to cross over the Jordan to lead these “obstinate, stiff-necked” people to battle multiple kingdoms (Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites), drive them out, and take possession of the land.  No small task for a group of wandering nomads.

Yet Joshua “saddled up anyway.”  Why wouldn’t he have wanted to run the other way?  Not because of the subject of his  faith (capability of accomplishing the task at hand), but because of the object of his faith (capability of the One commissioning him for the task at hand). “No one will be able to stand up 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.”  (Joshua 1:5, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Do you have a tough act to follow?  Are you afraid of messing up?  Do feel inadequate for the task you face?  I know this charge was given specifically to Joshua, but I believe we can appropriate it for ourselves.  “Have I not commanded you?”  If God calls you to it, He will see you through it.  So, “be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged.”  Because “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”  (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV 1984).  If God has indeed called you to it, you don’t have to scared to death. Saddle up. Ride to victory, not retreat.  He “will never leave you nor forsake you.

Sharpening The Saw

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Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  (Mark 1:35, NIV 1984).

My Musings – The above verse is just one among many where Jesus withdrew to a solitary place to commune with the Father.  Why was this so important?  “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” (Abraham Lincoln).  So what’s so important about having a sharp saw?

Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.  “What are you doing?” you ask. “Can’t you see?” comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down this tree.”  “You look exhausted!” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?”  “Over five hours,” he returns, “and I’m beat! This is hard work.”  “Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you inquire. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster.”  “I’m too busy sawing!” (Dr. Stephen R. Covey, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”).

Sometimes we get so busy going about the work we have to do, that we neglect the things that would make those things so much easier.  Jesus understood this about His ministry.  For example, one of the times He withdrew by Himself to pray was immediately before He chose the twelve disciples.

My Advice – Time spent in prayer and in the Word is crucial in as we journey through this life.  How about you?  Does your saw need sharpening?

Sent Into The World

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I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.  My prayer is not for them alone.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.”  (John 17:9, 15–18, 20, NIV 1984).

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33, NIV 1984).

My Musings – It is a human trait that we often say things with equal passion and deep conviction that are contradictory.  A first impression of the two passages above, quotes from the lips and heart of Jesus, that they are also contradictory.  We might dismiss this as merely a manifestation of His fully human nature but not a reflection of His fully divine nature (perhaps we’ll discuss this apparent contradiction in a future musing).  But we would be missing the point altogether.

In the first instance, Jesus speaks about protecting us from (insulated in) the evil one, while not praying that we be taken from (isolated from) the world.  He is, in fact, intentionally sending us out into (included within) the world while not being part of (integrated into) the world.  In sending us out as “aliens” into the world, He us sending out into hostile territory.  There we will encounter natural dangers (curses of a fallen world) and be confronted by supernatural dangers (curses from a fallen angel).

Jesus does not pray that we be protected from natural dangers.  Some He will prevent and some He will permit, according to His divine will. But not without eternal purposes.  But He does pray for protection from supernatural dangers though a new divine nature (“if anyone is in Christ He is a new creation” – 2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV 1984) and indwelling by the Holy Spirit (“I will not leave you orphans” – John 14:18).  This does not mean we will never give in or bow down to supernatural confrontations (temptation, persecution), but it does mean that we do not have to give in (“for the grace of God teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live upright and Godly lives in this present age” – Titus 2:12, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Just say no (by the grace of God).

Born (Again) Free

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It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1, NIV 1974).

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.  (Galatians 5:13, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Those who are in Christ (saved by grace not merit) have been freed from the “yoke of slavery” to measure up to the law.  Nevertheless, this does not give us carte blanche to “indulge the sinful nature.”  Rather, as we grow in Christ, we choose (exercise of freedom) to live our lives in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord instead of pleasing the flesh.  It is a mark of maturity not a sign of slavery.

My Advice – Stand firm in the faith, freed from the law but choosing to be obedient nonetheless.

 

Given From Above

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The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”  When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”  (John 19:7–11, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”  The power given is not from Rome.  It is not from the Sanhedrin.  It is not from the High Priest.  Not even from the crowd that would later yell “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”  The power over Jesus was given by God.  Without it, no one could touch Him.  And since Jesus and the Father are one, the power in essence is coming from Jesus.  He is willingly granting it.  “I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17–18, NIV 1984).  But why?  Because the good work of redemption could not be accomplished in any other way.

So what does this mean to us as followers of Christ?  When we encounter persecution or suffering, we have the tendency to cry out “why me?!”  Rather we should be crying out “why not me?!”  Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33a, NIV 1984).  And why not?  Are we any better than Him?  Certainly not!  But I think, that the power of persecution over us is also granted from above.  Nothing touches us, without the permissive will of the Father.  I am convinced, that when this is the case, it is because something good is being accomplished in us or through us that could not be accomplished in any other way.  Because,  “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  If it could be accomplished in any other way I am convinced that the “cup” would pass from us.

My Advice – Going through a tough patch?  Hang in there.  “Take heart! I [Jesus] have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33b, NIV 1984).  It’s okay to pray “Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”  (Matthew 26:39a, NIV 1984).  But also be prepared to pray “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39a, NIV 1984).  Because, if it is possible, the cup will pass.  If there is no other way to accomplish what is necessary and good “do not lose heart. Though outwardly [you may be] wasting away, yet inwardly [you] are being renewed day by day. For [your] light and momentary troubles are achieving for [you] an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So fix [your] eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18, NIV 1984).  Take heart!  You too are an overcomer.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

The One You Feed

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My Musings – Two Wolves is a Cherokee Indian legend that illustrates one of the most important battles of our lives – the one between our old self and old new self.  An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.  “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”  The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”  The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

So, which wolf are we feeding? The “old corrupted deceitful desires,” or “a new attitude of righteousness and holiness?”  The sad reality is, if we do not feed the “new self“, the “old self” will prevail.  If we do not allow the Holy Spirit to feed us with “joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith,” then Satan will try to feed it with “anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

My Advice – Feed the good wolf.  For “the acts of the sinful nature [evil wolf] are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit [good wolf] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  (Galatians 5:19-23, NIV 1984).

What God Unwillingly Does

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My Musings – Is it possible for us to cause God to do something against His will?  Apparently it is. God “does not willingly bring affliction or grief.”  But He does bring it on nonetheless.  Why would He do something that He is not willing to do, that He does not have to do?  It is motivated by “compassion, so great is His unfailing love.”  The Father will discipline the children He loves, in order to bring correction and growth.  If there were a gentler, less grief bringing way He would undoubtedly choose that way.  But when there is no other way, He is compassionate and loving enough to permit bring grief our way.  When this was not enough,  He took it upon Himself, through His only Son.  For “it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer (Isaiah 53:10)” on our behalf in order to bring salvation to His creation.  He was willing to do what He did not willingly want to do (say what?).  Now that is love and compassion!

My Advice – We can rest assured, that in all these grief “things,” God will bring about good to those who also love Him and are called by Him (Romans 8:28).  Are you feeling “affliction or grief?” Don’t ask why, as in why me? Ask why as in, what correction (repentance) is needed in my life? What do I need to learn from this? What growth is not otherwise possible without this?  Don’t let the thing that God did not willingly want to do be wasted.  Use it!