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Never ForgetJoshua also set up another pile of twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, at the place where the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant were standing. And they are there to this day. Joshua 4:9

I have an infatuation for old abandoned houses and buildings. When I drive through our beautiful countryside you’ll see them. Tucked away among trees and brush you’ll see them. Broken or non-existent windows. Trees growing out of what used to be a living room or bedroom. Holes in the walls or roof completely expose some of these buildings to wildlife and the elements.

Some people look at these places as eyesores and I suppose they are. Others see them as safety hazards and I’d have no argument to that either. So why the infatuation? The answer is simple. I don’t see the broken glass or falling walls. I see the stories.

These broken buildings, especially the houses, are full of stories. One day, that house was someone’s new home. Perhaps it was a dream home of some young bride, or the home a farm wife always hoped for. At one time the walls were full of stories of babies being born and grandparents dying. Of young men and women graduating from High School and going off to college or war.  There may have been Christmas celebrations and Memorial Day picnics. There were baptisms and perhaps weddings.

Many people drive by these monuments without a thought of the stories. This past week we celebrated Memorial Day, a day set aside originally to remember those who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. Then it became a day to remember all those who have gone before us. Now, for many of us, it’s become a day to celebrate the beginning of summer and vacations.

When Joshua led the people into the Promised Land they were entering into a whole new lifestyle. He knew that many would soon forget everything they had gone through. They’d forget all too soon the lessons learned from the victories as well as the defeats. The stones set beside the Jordan River were a reminder to never forget what it took to get them from slavery to freedom.

Just as Joshua put stones on the river bank as a reminder, we place stones in cemeteries for much the same reason. Those stones may mean nothing to most people, but if it is the stone of a relative, it means something to you. Hopefully, if it is the stone of a member of our armed forces, you admire them for giving their lives so that you can be free. We should never forget the sacrifice that was paid for our freedom.

There’s one more stone of remembrance we should never forget. That’s the stone of an empty tomb. Just as the members of our armed forces have sacrificed their lives for our political freedom, Jesus sacrificed his life for your spiritual freedom. Religion and all its activities can’t buy your freedom from guilt. Only the sacrifice of Jesus and his resurrection can do that.

PRAYER: Lord of the universe. You have crafted me in your image for your glory. Let the stories of my past and the legacy left by others be a continual reminder of your love and grace. Amen.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13

Americans spend over $100 Billion on multi-vitamins every year. We spend huge amounts on health clubs, fitness equipment and other things to keep us healthy. New laws are passed every year to protect us from dangerous products, threatening situations and even ourselves! Why do we spend so much time, money and effort on these things? Because we want to be protected and feel the need to protect others from things that will harm or even kill us.

We need protection from water, so we require Personal Flotation Devices. We need protection from the sun so we’ve developed sunscreen. We need protection from people that are irresponsible so we’ve created laws and entire agencies to protect us from evil minded people. Protection is on the minds of all of us and is not only big business but an important part of our society.

What’s ironic about the whole protection issue is that we often go through our days unprotected from the most important things that threaten us. Virtually all of the money we spend to protect ourselves is geared towards protecting our lives. It’s time and money spent on keeping us healthy, wealthy and able to function in society.

At the same time we neglect protecting ourselves from the spiritual dangers that lurk in the shadows. In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul tells us to put on our spiritual protection every day. We are to arm ourselves for battle before we step foot out of our homes, or even our beds. Still, we have to admit we often start our day vulnerable to all kinds of spiritual attack.

Why do we avoid protection?

  • We can say that time is a factor, but if we really realized how dangerous our enemy is we wouldn’t think twice about being protected. The Bible describes Satan as a roaring lion seeking to devour us. He’s cunning, wise and very real. His purpose in life is to destroy us and keep us from the joy we have in Jesus.
  • For some of us, protecting ourselves is a sign of weakness. “Praying, reading God’s Word, fellowshipping with like-minded believers is okay for some, but I’m pretty self-sufficient. I can handle whatever is coming my way today.” God never, ever intended us to walk alone. That’s why He sent His Holy Spirit and gave us the Bible and tells us to pray. He wants to be involved in every part of your life and knows you will need him for battle.
  • Sometimes we go unprotected because, if we are honest with ourselves, we lack of faith in the equipment God has given us for life. He’s given us His Word. He’s proven to be powerful, honest, caring, loving, full of grace and mercy, able to heal and provide. We can trust God even during the times when we doubt His presence.

If you are a great swimmer and going out into the ocean on a boat you take your PFD (Personal Flotation Device). On a calm, sunny day you lay it on the deck, in plain sight but don’t plan to use it. If a storm comes up you may pull it closer in case you need it. But if your boat is in danger and land can’t be seen, you know to put on that PFD because it is your tool of survival in the storm. Think of your faith in Christ as a PFD. Life is a storm and our lives are fragile. Wear your PFD, your trust in Christ. He will help you weather the storm.

PRAYER: Holy Father, I thank you for the many ways you have protected me during my life. I acknowledge that there are many times I’ve been protected without even knowing it. I confess to you that I often go into my daily life unprotected. Empower me through your Holy Spirit to take life seriously and to protect myself with the truth of your Word on a daily basis. In the powerful name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Joshua 2:11

The Israelites were about to enter a new chapter in their history books. Joshua had taken over leadership after Moses, the servant of God, had died. Now it was time to enter the land promised by God years earlier.

Joshua sent two men to spy out the land in much the same way he himself had been sent by Moses. These men secretly entered the city of Jericho to gain information on the city and how it could be conquered. They hid in the house of the local prostitute, Rahab, while the King of Jericho sent his men door to door to find the spies. Rahab lied in order to spare the lives of the men sent by God.

In return for her actions, the men promised her that she would be spared when the Israelites came to overtake the city. Not only did this woman’s courage spare the lives of her family and herself, it earned her a spot in the genealogy of Jesus Christ!

The story of Rahab should give us courage as we face insurmountable challenges in life. Difficult as the road may seem at times, it’s imperative that we remember, as followers of Jesus Christ, the God has gone ahead of us to prepare the way. The King sought to capture the spies out of fear. Two men would serve as no threat to a king in a walled city with an army at his disposal. But it’s important to remember that the King wasn’t afraid of the men. He was afraid of God.

The king wasn’t the only person who was afraid. In fact, Rahab tells us that the entire city was in turmoil over the rumored attack of God’s people. Rahab’s fear however, wasn’t due to men. Rahab was afraid of God. In fact, her fear of God was so much greater than her fear of men that she risked her life to save the spies from being captured.

During those times in life when we are afraid we can gain comfort by learning from the story of Rahab and the spies. We need not fear what men can do to us. This is true in the political realm as well as in the personal realm. Our real concern isn’t what others think of us. We need to focus on what God thinks of us.

The spies didn’t need to proclaim the power of God. God did a fine job of letting the world know about His power and strength. They didn’t need to protect themselves from the King. God provided a way for them to be safe, accomplish their task and return safely from their mission. Rahab was saved from death because of simple faith. She didn’t know all the rules and regulations that God had set out for His people. She didn’t know about sacrifices and all that went with the Israelites faith. She knew God’s power and that was enough for her.

God’s people need not fear man made systems. As Christ-followers we can go confidently into the future knowing that our God, the creator of the universe, has gone before us. We can go with confidence and power to do the work that He has planned for us. Our past and our own strength are meaningless to an all knowing, all powerful, loving and merciful God. All he wants is for us to trust His power on the journey He has carefully planned out for us.

PRAYER: Father God. You know my heart. You know the fear that I have. I fear that the ‘secret places’ of my life will be found out. I fear the political and economic woes of our world will destroy me. I fear for my children and my family. Fear seems to be a constant shadow in the back of my mind. I ask that you would give me the courage of Rahab and the spies. Help me to focus more on your power and less on the power of others in my life. Empower me through your Spirit to be free me from the fear that overwhelms me. Amen

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2

The fairy tales of old all have a familiar ring to them. They all start ‘once upon a time’. It doesn’t matter when they started or took place or where. They started. That’s all that needs to be known. The other thing that rings true is how they end. ‘They all lived happily ever after.’ The tyrant or big, bad wolf, or wicked witch all vanished. The flowers grew, the birds sang and life was good. Forever.

As children, perhaps one of the reasons we loved fairy tales so much was that they give us a glimpse of life that we know, as adults, will never really happen. Wolves win sometimes. Wickedness doesn’t just go away. Giants still roam the land and the walls of our unseen prisons seem inescapable. Fairy tales gave us hope that someday things will work out. Our dreams can be attained. Miracles will happen.

Isaiah 43:2 gives us a more realistic view of how life happens and what we can expect. There will be waters to pass through. The original languages describe this water as ‘deep water’ such as an ocean. There will be rivers to cross. Rushing, rock smashing rivers that threaten to tear our boats apart. There will be fire. Consuming fires that have no regard for the sanctity of life or the treasures we possess. Fire destroys everything.

But along with the horror Isaiah describes comes hope. When the Israelites were trapped at the edge of the Red Sea. And Pharaoh’s army was closing in. And there was no way out, no hope, nothing left to do but surrender and hope for the best. God made a way through the deep waters. He took a hopeless situation and brought His people through it.

When Israel needed to cross the mighty river Jordan to enter into the land promised them long ago. God parted those waters. The rushing torrents were silenced. He delivered His people safely through to dry ground.

When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to give into an evil world system. Innocent as they were and following God’s law to the letter, their fate was sealed by an evil king bent on proving his power. Yet when the King looked into the furnace he saw the impossible. The men were walking around in the midst of the flames. When they were released, they didn’t even smell of smoke!

Three lessons. Three examples of life’s attacks. The open attack of an enemy. The barriers to our dreams. The attacks when we are innocent. They each come into our lives. We were never promised that we would not see adversity and calamity in our life time. We were promised that in the midst of the most violent circumstances our Heavenly Father will walk us through. He loves us. Even in the direst of circumstances He will see us through.

PRAYER: Father God. I thank you for the promise you made that my life is completely and totally in your hands. Today I have many worries and concerns. It seems like my enemies are surrounding me. Sometimes I think I’m my own worst enemy! Help me to trust you in the midst of the trials of life. Thank you for loving me. Amen.

If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” Numbers 14:8-9

It had been a long journey for the people of God. After years of captivity they had been rescued from Egyptian bondage after a series of miracles in which Pharaoh allowed them to leave. Now they reached the border of the Promised Land. During the journey God had provided them with fresh water, fresh meat, and shade from the hot desert sun by day and the warmth of a pillar of fire by night. All of this in the face of constant complaining on the part of the Israelites.

Now 12 spies were being sent into the land to scout it out. The excitement these men must have had! This was it! After years of waiting all their dreams were to be fulfilled. They gave their wives and children a final kiss and hug and walked into the land that had been described to them as a ‘land flowing with milk and honey.’

Their mission? To gain information that would be helpful for conquest. What were the people like? What did the cities look like? What was the land like? And perhaps most importantly, ‘Bring back some of the grapes!” Fresh fruit would surely be a treat that most of these people had never tasted!

Imagine what it must have been like for the families who stayed behind. Watching daily for the familiar figures of the men to come over the mountain. Dreaming of having a home again and no longer being nomads; the children excitedly bragging about what they would do once they got there. It must have been a very exciting time.

Finally, one day someone shouts “They’re back!” A cheer erupts as the 12 figures approach the camp loaded down with huge bunches of sweet, ripe grapes. What a celebration must have ensued as the men told stories of what they had seen and the adventures they took part in.

Then, the most important news of all, “What are the people like?” And a hush falls over the crowd. The countenance of the men grows grim. “They are too big,” They speak softly and shake their heads “The cities are walled; the men are huge like giants. A group such as ourselves doesn’t stand a chance against them.”

Women wept. Children stared with disbelief. Men grew angry. The turned on Moses and Aaron first. It was their idea to drag them into the wilderness. Then they turned their anger towards God. It was so much better in Egypt. The food was wonderful. They had homes and good land. Now they were doomed to life in the desert.

In the midst of the chaos two of the twelve spoke up. They had been largely ignored at first as they were the youngest. Now they raise their voices. “Listen! If God is in this, and He’s told us He is, then the size of the enemy doesn’t matter! Don’t blame God. Give Him a chance to show His power. If He is on our side it doesn’t matter how big they are or how tall their walls are. Protection comes from God not men and not buildings!”

The message is the same for us today. When we are walking in God’s way and following His direction and guidance, His protection is upon us. That doesn’t mean we won’t endure the wilderness from time to time. Being a Christ-follower doesn’t exclude us from suffering.  What it does mean is that eventually, if we are patient and trust Him, He will bring us to the ‘Promised Land’.

PRAYER: Father God I thank you for the protection you promise us through your Son, Jesus Christ. I confess to you the times when I’ve complained about life and questioned your direction. Forgive me for the fear I have of the giants in my life. Help me to rest on your promise that your protection is with me as I war against the giants I encounter. Amen.

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January 2023
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