No Mistaken Identity

September 10, 2019 at 12:31 pm | Posted in Grace and Faith, It's All About God, Security and Assurance | Leave a comment

We just finished a sermons series called “No Mistaken Identity.”  Each week we took a biblical word that describes who we are, if we trust in Jesus Christ.  We defined those words and studied them in the Bible.  Then each week we read a “major truth” defining who we are.   What follows is all the major truths we read with the passage we studied that day.  I hope this summary is a good reminder for you.

Justification:  By his grace, God has declared me not guilty.  My righteousness is not based on what I do but on what God has done.  Romans 3:21-26

Forgiveness:  By his grace, all my sins against God have been cancelled and will not be held against me.  Colossians 2:13-14

Redemption:  By his grace, I was delivered from the slavery of sin and am free to serve and worship God.  Colossians 1:13-14

Regeneration:  By God’s grace, I am a new creation who has been born again. Titus 3:3-7

Reconciliation:  By his grace, I have an intimate relationship with God and can introduce others to Him.  2 Corinthians 5:17-21

You can listen to the messages here.

The Plain Language of Scripture

March 21, 2019 at 4:13 pm | Posted in Grace and Faith, It's All About God, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Security and Assurance, Theology | Leave a comment

I have been preaching through the spiritual blessings we have in Jesus, as they are spelled out in Ephesians 1:3-14.  Throughout the series I have encouraged the congregation to accept the plain words of the Bible even when they are hard to understand or hard to accept.  Because the first two of these blessings are so hard for some to accept, I took time to go through the Bible and show how these two blessings are not stand-alone scriptures but are spelled out clearly in other places.  I wanted to get those notes written out here as well, for future reference.

The first of the six spiritual blessings we have in Jesus is that God chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him.  The second is that we were predestined to adoption as his children.  The language is very clear, and no other translation of the words is really possible.

Below are some other passages of scripture that also teach this doctrine.  I know this is lengthy, but its very length is what adds so much support to the case.  Let the plain truth of God’s Word speak.

Genesis 25:23.  Jacob was chosen over his brother even before they were born.  See also Romans 9:13 quoting Malachi 1:2-3.

Genesis 45:5, 7, 8.  God not only ordains the steps of nations, but also of individuals.  Joseph could say (three times) that God sent him to Egypt.

Jeremiah 1:4-5.  Jeremiah was chosen to be a prophet even before he was born.  Thus the Old Testament shows a pattern of God choosing people before they choose him.

John 6:37, 44.  Jesus said “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,” and “All that the Father gives me will come to me.”

John 17:2. On a related note, Jesus said in his priestly prayer, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”  Coming to Jesus is something we cannot do apart from a work of God in our lives to draw us to him.

John 15:16. Jesus said to his disciples, “You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you . . .”

Acts 9:4, 15.  Paul was God’s chosen instrument long before he accepted the Gospel.  In fact he was hell-bent on destroying the followers of Jesus, yet Jesus said, “He is a chosen instrument of mine.”  So Ananias could say to him, “The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth.”  (Acts 22:14)  And that’s why Paul could say God had set him apart before he was born (Galatians 1:15-16)

Acts 2:39. Peter’s Pentecost message ended with these words “The promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord God calls to himself.”  Not the other way around, “everyone who calls on the Lord God,” as I so often read it in my earlier years.

Acts 13:48.  After Paul’s first recorded sermon, Luke tells us that “all who were appointed to eternal life believed.”  Again it’s not the other way around — it’s not “all who believed were appointed to eternal life.”

Acts 16:14.  The Lord opened Lydia’s heart to accept the words of Paul.  And so she became the first known convert of the Western Hemisphere.  It took a work of God before she responded

Acts 18:10.  Before they were converts, Jesus spoke of the people in Corinth,  “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.’”

2 Thessalonians 2:13.  “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”  God chose you to be saved — pretty clear.  NOTE 1 This is not deliverance from the antichrist, as someone tried to tell me, because he clearly spells out what he means by salvation; it’s sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  Not one word study I checked (five of them) or commentary (seven of those) listed that idea as even a possibility for this passage.  It clearly means spiritual salvation.  NOTE 2 The ESV says “God chose you as the firstfuits,” but it also could be translated “God chose you from the beginning,” (see NIV, NASB, KJV, NKJV, HCSV) which makes the point even more clearly.

2 Timothy 1:9-10.  God “has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”

Revelation 13:8, 17:8.  Who will worship the Beast?  “All who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”  “And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.”  Those who might point out that the Greek of these passages says “from” and not “before” should note that the verbs are perfect tense.  In other words, it doesn’t mean “names that were written since the beginning until now,” but “names that already stood written at the beginning.”  That’s why some translations not incorrectly use “before;” it clarifies the meaning in English.

Revelation 17:14.  I taught this to my New Testament students as the theme verse of Revelation.  “They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings — and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”

The language of these passages should cause us to worship in awe a God of such incredible grace.  We deserve nothing, but God has chosen us of his grace.

Slow Down and Enjoy Life!

June 14, 2017 at 9:46 am | Posted in Books and Movies, Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, Prayer | 1 Comment

I’ve often said that as Americans we are way too busy.  It only seems to get worse as time goes on.  Each time saving device we add to our collection only serves to make us busier, as we try to accomplish more and more.  I read the following today, and thought it was worth the time to share.  It’s  from an interview with Jennie Allen, author of Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard

I think most of us are running on this treadmill that we don’t even realize is happening, we don’t even realize it’s turned on.

We’re just running every day.  I think we notice it most when we’re still, but the problem is even when we’re still, we have a phone pinging us or even just distracting us and causing us to check out rather than self-diagnose or self analyze what’s happening.

.  .  .  even when I was alone with God or just alone, I was performing and executing things that I needed to get done.  So because my job is largely talking about God and teaching and writing, whenever I was alone with God I was getting the next thing ready that I was going to deliver rather than actually just enjoying his presence.

So I think what’s happened is everything has become a performance or something to achieve rather than something to enjoy.  .  .  .  I feel like as Americans and as young people today that we’re all trying to prove ourselves and we’re exhausted and we’re actually not enjoying the best parts of life.

The entire article can be read here.

Slow down!  Take some time to enjoy God and family.  It’s healthy physically, mentally and spiritually!

Great Biographies

June 5, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Grace and Faith, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Sunday I encouraged our congregation to increase their faith by reading biographies of men and women God has used in mighty ways, and then I mentioned a few that have had an impact on me.  I was asked to repeat that list.  So here are the ones I mentioned Sunday.

You can read my post from a few years ago called “Ten Influential Books” here.  It lists most of these with a few comments about them.

Through Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot is the story of Jim Elliot and four other men who were martyred taking the gospel to a tribe in South America.  George Muller, Man of Faith and Miracles by Basil Miller is the story of a man who built a huge orphanage on nothing but trust in God.  I’ve read three biographies of William Tyndale, who is my hero in Church history.  The best was the longest one by David Daniell.  Finally, I have recently read Saving My Assassin by Virginia Prodan, a powerful story of one woman’s life in communist Romania.

Happy reading.

Cell Phones and Fast Horses

April 16, 2015 at 12:17 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, Personal Testimony | Leave a comment

I wrote this story over ten years ago and ran across it while looking for another old file in my archives.  The lesson is just as timely today as it was then.

Cathy and I attended a Pastor’s Getaway at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs.  We were refreshed, albeit suffering from input overload, the feeling one friend of mine called “getting a sip of water from a fire hydrant.”  We were then to have a few days vacation before returning home.  Earlier that day, I had been thinking about what one lesson God wanted me to take from the conference, or at least what one lesson, of numerous ones written down, he would have me ponder while on vacation..

Driving north to Denver, we were to have Sunday dinner with some seminary friends.  It was heavy traffic — the kind where driving the speed limit is almost impossible, because there are only two lanes — the right lane traveling below the posted speed and the left lane moving significantly faster.  A person in the right lane, who wanted to pass the vehicle in front, had a hard time moving left to do so.

There was a slow-moving, big truck in front of me.  When I finally managed to get into the left lane to pass, I noticed there was another slow truck about a quarter mile ahead.  I didn’t want to get trapped between them, so I increased my speed and stayed in the left lane.

That’s when I first saw him in my rearview mirror; he jumped into the right lane to pass the cars behind me.  I just knew he intended on passing me and cutting me off before I caught up with the truck on the right.  Instead, he cut off the car behind me and rode my bumper, until I passed the second truck and moved over, then he sped passed me on my left.  As he passed, I noticed one of his hands on the steering wheel, the other pressed a cell phone to his ear, and he seemed to be reading something on the passenger seat.  Immediately I thought, “Now, there’s an accident waiting to happen.”

It occurred to me that the cell-phone driver typified so many people in our society, always moving full speed ahead, juggling more responsibilities, tasks and adventures than one can safely manage.  Most of our lives rush on so full of activities that we are accidents just waiting to happen.  We are caught in a busyness trap, and someday it will come crashing down.  One of the breakout sessions from the conference came clearly to mind.  We had discussed Isaiah 30:15-18 and the necessity to slow down in rest and quietness rather than flee on swift horses in so many different directions.  The cell-phone driver is the perfect picture of a man on his fast horses.  I laughed at myself, because I saw my life portrayed in his driving.

I could see we were going to arrive at our destination with plenty of time to spare, so I decided to relax my pace and stay in the right lane.

A few miles later, traffic slowed to a crawl.  I could see the vehicles on the left merging into my lane, and I wondered if the cell-phone driver had an accident.  Sure enough, there was an accident ahead, but as I got closer, I saw it wasn’t the man with the cell phone.  However, I recognized one of the vehicles: a pick-up pulling a four-wheeler on a trailer that had passed me right about the moment I decided to slow down and stay in the right lane.  Had I not been reminded to slow down, I may have been the one in the accident.

God’s protection on our trip and the lessons for driving are obvious, but I hope I can also learn a lesson for life.  God reminds us that our strength is in repentance, rest, quietness and trust.  It is not found in fast driving, cell-phones and busyness; these are the things Isaiah would call “fast horses.”  It’s not from driving in the fast lane that God calls us; it is from living in the fast lane that he invites us to quietness and rest.  I have to ask if I am living life in the fast lane, if I am an accident waiting to happen.  Am I getting the necessary quiet time with the Lord which offers strength in and salvation from the rat race?  I hope memories of the cell-phone driver will remind me to slow down in quietness and rest.

The Lord Will Keep Your Life: Memories of 1990 and 1991 (part 2)

June 24, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Posted in Grace and Faith, Personal Testimony | 4 Comments

On Monday, January 7, 1991, I wrote these words in my journal:  “Maybe the emotional roller coaster ride is over for a little while anyway.  The foreseeable future looks ‘normal’ as far as I can see.”  (To see part one of this post, click here)  Little did I know the ride was just beginning!  About one week after I wrote that entry everything in our little mission’s mother church began to unravel.  The United States went to war in Iraq on January 16, but it seemed in my soul that the biggest war was in our mother church, and I was drug into it.

There were many complaints about the leadership brewing, and that week many of them were brought to me.  The complaints were valid, but regretfully, I didn’t send those people to the source of their complaint.  When the church called a meeting to voice concerns and to explore possible solutions, I was asked by people on both sides of the issues to come as a “neutral observer.”  Due to the complaints I received, I may not have been neutral, but I did attend anyway.  Some suggestions involving me were put on the table, but in reality the meeting didn’t accomplish anything, and as the weeks progressed, I was thrust into the middle of the storm.  I was considered by some to be the problem and by others to be the solution.  I had recently read Frank Peretti’s Darkness books, which were very popular at the time, and at one point I wrote in my journal:  “I feel like a character in Piercing the Darkness.  I can’t see what’s going on in the spiritual realm, but am caught in the middle of it.  It appears that my destiny and ministry are in the hands of other people, and some, maybe even all, of them are not seeking the Lord.  My sight is limited, but God is sovereign; this is my confidence through this unsettling experience.”

The situation got ugly at times, and though I usually wasn’t in on the ugly meetings, I was lied to and lied about on some occasions, even by those considered to be spiritual leaders.  Looking back, it is easy to see how people believed what they did.  It was certainly unintentional lies, like bad assumptions or rumors thought to be true, but it hurt nonetheless.  I probably didn’t know the entire truth either, and I’m sure I also spoke more than I should have.  The director of the college ministry we eventually became a part of gave a talk about that time on patience.  Two points he made had quite an impression on me, and I also recorded those in my journal.  First, he said, patience is not a blind resignation to circumstances but a quiet confidence in him who controls those circumstances.  And, two, the best thing God can give us is not changed circumstances but a better relationship with him.  In spite of the pain, God was especially close in those days.  I was reading through First Samuel at the time, and many of my notes reflect encouragement from David’s waiting in confidence and trust for God to open the right doors.

In time, the situation became such that I felt compelled to resign my position at the mission.  In May we left there and stepped into student ministry in Laramie; that was a great fit for Cathy and a learning experience for me.  In all this, I was learning that God made me to be a Bible preacher and teacher, a fact that was confirmed even more through three years on campus.  Though I liked what I was doing, it became clear that God had other plans for me, that I was wired for a different ministry.  Another journal entry from those days is interesting in this regard:  “Last night I was reading No Compromise, the life story of Keith Green.  At one point he quit playing music in public because he wasn’t sure that’s what God wanted him to do.  A few months later while doing a benefit concert, God moved among the audience, and Keith realized God made him to play music for people.”  I too had wondered if what I was doing came from pride, and the entry goes on, “Last night, after reading the book, I woke up in the middle of the night with the realization that expositing scripture is what God created me to do.”

Though those first five months of 1991 seemed like a desert in terms of ministry; God was working in our lives, conforming us to him, teaching us his will, and bringing about his desired ends in ministry.  That was one of the most formative times in my life.  And looking back, we see the incredible faithfulness of God.  Such a reminder has been needed in recent days.  God is faithful; God knows the end from the beginning; God is in control!  In his amazing grace God has an amazing way to use sins against us, and even our own sins, to bring us where he desires in character, place and ministry.  “The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”  Amen.

The Lord Will Keep Your Life: Memories of 1990 and 1991

June 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Posted in Grace and Faith, Personal Testimony | Leave a comment

This morning I read Psalm 121 in my devotions.  It was appropriate because Cathy and I have been talking about how God watched over our lives through a particularly trying time of ministry and emotions in 1991.  The encouragement is that God is watching over our lives during the trying time we are in now as well.  This hasn’t yet been as trying as that period was.  Here is the text of Psalm 121 followed by the first installment of the story about that year.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?  My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.  The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.  The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”   –Psalm 121 (ESV)

It had been over a year since Cathy and I discovered we couldn’t have children, and we had been jumping through the hoops of the adoption process ever since.  Probably in November of 1990 we heard about an adoption situation through the Cheyenne Crisis Pregnancy Center that we would pursue.  There were many emotional ups and downs before we learned that the mother had chosen another family.  The emotions settled, and life seemed to return to normal, until the middle of December arrived.  The first bump in the road was the death of my aunt.  Though not particularly shaking for me, it was the second of my mother’s siblings to die that year and was hard on everybody in the extended family.  We went to Fort Collins, Colorado so I could be a pallbearer in the funeral.

The day after the funeral, I had a temperature of 101°F.  I was down with the flu for three days, including a Sunday where I missed preaching – still the only time I’ve missed a Sunday in my 26 years of ministry.  In our little mission church, in a rural area, there wasn’t another preaching option, so Cathy led some songs and a prayer time, and everybody went home.

About the time I started feeling better, the extreme cold weather hit.  As I recall, it was below zero Fahrenheit for a week straight with lows colder than 20 below for many days.  This was extreme, even by Laramie, Wyoming standards.  We had to take our batteries into the house every night so the cars, especially the old truck, would start the next day, but even then it took some work and special attention to get them going in that weather.  We lived in a rural setting and getting to town, a normal 40 minute trek was taking an hour and a half.

I was to perform a wedding in Laramie on December 21st, so the rehearsal was on the 20th, a day when the high temperature was about 20 below zero.  The rehearsal was fine, but the next morning our thermometer read -47°F!  (We took a picture of the thermometer which was already catching the morning sun!)  We told the groom we knew he wasn’t going to marry until hell froze over –which appeared to have happened over night!  While getting ready for the ceremony, the door of the church fell off its hinges, so we worked that old, and already stressed, furnace way too much.  In that environment, it’s no wonder that one of the bridesmaids passed out during the ceremony!December 21, 1990 Thermometer

That evening, we picked up my two nephews to spend the Christmas holiday at our mountain home, where a white Christmas was almost always guaranteed.  The boys’ parents were to join them in a few days.  We really had to bundle them up for the cold ride in the old truck.  But we got home fine, company came, and, even though we had to do everything indoors, Christmas went off without a hitch, and the weather began to warm up.   But that’s when things got really crazy.

The next week is just a blur in my mind, but, according to some old journal notes, here is what happened.  My best friend’s younger sister passed away from a genetic disease.  We received the news the night we arrived home from the cold wedding with two frozen kids in tow.  On Thursday, December 27, we drove to Cheyenne for our second funeral in two weeks.  It was particularly hard, because their brother had died from the same disease just a few months prior.

We arrived home that night to learn that the adoption situation had changed dramatically, and we were now to be adoptive parents.  On Friday we again drove to Cheyenne to meet with the CPC counselor, the birth mother and the lawyer.  The child was to be delivered by C-section on Sunday.  After preaching two services, because I was also filling the pulpit in our mission’s mother church that day, we drove to Cheyenne, a third time in four days, where the mother placed a little boy in our arms and announced that he was our baby and we should raise him well.  However, on Monday we received word, from the lawyer, that the birth mother was refusing to sign the papers; she had decided to keep the baby.  That was a tough blow.  Since we were in Cheyenne, we went to my best friend’s daughters’ birthday celebration.  After all they’d been through, that family needed a reason to celebrate something positive, and so we joined them in the party.

The next day was New Year’s Day, 1991, and we returned to Cheyenne because the New Year’s party was at my sister’s house and because the next day, Wednesday, January 2, my mom was scheduled to have surgery.   She checked in early and had all the preoperational tests and medications, some of which made her sick, only to discover that the hospital had so many dire emergencies that her surgery was postponed.  We were all in the hospital, waiting from early morning until late afternoon, and then she was released.  On Friday, she was in the hospital again, and this time the operation went as planned.  We made our fifth trip in nine days over that familiar road.  We got home that night to a message that the pastor of our mother church had cut his wrist, was in the hospital, and unable to preach on Sunday, so I was requested to fill in.  It turns out he was fine and just needed time to heal, but that brought us half way to Cheyenne anyway, so that afternoon we drove over to check on my mom.  Everything turned out fine for her as well.  I didn’t get done preparing my sermon for that Sunday (surprise!), so I told the story of our last ten days of life, with a reminder from Psalm 46 that God is our refuge and strength, even if the earth seems to give way.  I was preaching to myself!

On Monday, January 7, I wrote these words in my journal: “Maybe the emotional roller coaster ride is over for a little while anyway.  The foreseeable future looks ‘normal’ as far as I can see.”  Little did I know it was just beginning!  But that has to wait for the second installment of this post, which is now available here.

The Basics Are Always the Basics

April 30, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Posted in Grace and Faith | Leave a comment

On Saturday I was in a board meeting for Campus Ventures college ministry.  We spent some time with campus ministers discussing the question of how we can know a student has a genuine relationship with God.  Over thirty years of my association with Campus Ventures, as a student, a staff member, and now a board member, we have seen too many who were very involved as students, apparently growing as followers of Jesus, who completely fell away after college.  The discussion was to the effect that it is better to do less with students and impact their entire lives than to do more but only impact their college years.  But how can we know when the relationship is genuine and when it is just a fun thing to do or when they are going through the motions to please a peer or campus minister?

There were a few things on which everyone agreed.  First, students must truly understand and live the lordship of Jesus; he must be the centrality of their lives.  This would be demonstrated in attitudes about doing hard things and submitting to leadership, and by priorities students set while in college.  Second, they must have a true commitment to the authority of scripture, an understanding that the Bible really is the Word of God.  This is demonstrated by a desire to be in God’s Word beyond the basic assigned duties and by decision making based on biblical principles.  Third, students must demonstrate a life of grace, recognizing the sufficiency of Christ in all things.  This is demonstrated by their motivation for doing what they do; by getting away from the performance track; by an attitude of grace toward others.   This one is difficult in a disciple-making ministry since so much of what is done can be interpreted as performance based activities.  Things like having quiet times, memorizing scripture, and going through discipleship materials can easily become performance rather than response to God’s grace.  Finally, students who have a genuine relationship with Christ will be committed to Christian community.  This could be demonstrated by their involvement with, and enthusiasm for, church and small groups.

One of the campus ministers pointed out that these issues are all presented in the Navigator’s “Wheel” illustration about the Christian life in balance.  That illustration is often used by Campus Ventures.  My thought, being the theologian I am, was that the first three items are all foundational issues of the Reformation:  The lordship and sovereignty of Jesus, the authority of the Word, and grace.  Sola Christus, Sola Gloria, Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia!  It seems, as I was taught in Campus Ventures, the basics are always the basics.

It’s All About God — Joshua Edition

March 13, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, It's All About God | Leave a comment

The book of Joshua is the story of God’s people entering the Promised Land.  The book makes it clear that the land the people were going in to possess was given to them by God – that it had nothing to do with their goodness but was all about his grace.  And it makes clear that they were his people by his grace and not by their choice.  The book begins with God’s first words to Joshua: “Arise, go over this Jordan, you and all the people with you, into the land that I am giving to them.” (1:2 ESV)  In that same commission are these famous words for Joshua, “I will not leave you or forsake you.  Be strong and courageous.”  The reason for this is clearly stated:  “for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.”

I underlined every reference to what God did as I read through this book this past week.  I was surprised at how often it shows up.  There is only one two-page spread where I didn’t underline anything, and that is in the list of how the land was divided between the tribes in chapters 18-21.  But even that section ends with these words: “The LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. . . .  And the LORD gave them rest on every side. . . .  Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” (21:43-45)

Finally, the book ends with a renewal of the covenant at Shechem.  Here God again reminds the people of all that he did for them.  He is the subject of the entire section.  “I took your father Abraham from beyond the river . . .  I gave him Isaac . . .  I gave Jacob . . .  I sent Moses . . .  I plagued Egypt . . .  I brought you out.”  And so it goes for 13 verses – half a page in my Bible.  That section concludes with perhaps the most famous verse in the book, Joshua’s challenge: “Choose this day whom you will serve . . .  As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (24:15)

And then the people made their commitment to God.  “It is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from Egypt . . .  who did those great signs in our sight. . . .  And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples who lived in the land.  Therefore we will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” (24:16-18)

This is how it always works.  God did everything for a people who didn’t deserve anything – that’s called grace.  Their choice to follow him and serve came as a result of his goodness and grace.  It isn’t the other way around.  God does it all, and he gets all the praise.

Be Strong and Courageous

March 6, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, Personal Testimony | 1 Comment

I have a confession to make.  As I get older, I seem to get more fearful of change.  I hadn’t realized that until just recently.  In these past few months I have been more uptight than ever before about talking to certain people, about e-mails or phone calls from certain sources, about anything I perceive as a challenge to my current comfort level.

Our church is working through a “Retooling” process, but these insecurities have made thinking about retooling rather difficult.  I know we need change, and though in the past I’ve always been one who has been able to welcome change in the church, I don’t feel like I am as open to it now.  I am very comfortable with my job and could easily spend the rest of my career doing what I currently do.  When something threatens that, insecurities and anxieties arise.

I also have sensed more insecurity over things like church finances, worship changes, attendance numbers, and families that decide to leave.

All of this was on my mind the other night; I was awake for a few hours in the middle of the night thinking about it, or maybe fretting about it would be more accurate.  When I got up in the morning, I was scheduled to read the last few chapters of Deuteronomy in my devotions.  These words are the final speech of Moses to Israel, just before he died and they were to enter the Promised Land.  This part jumped out at me:

 “The LORD your God himself will go over before you.  He will destroy these nations before you.  . . .  The LORD will give them over to you, and you shall do to them according to the whole commandment that I have commanded you.  Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you.  He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it.  It is the LORD who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.”  Deuteronomy 31:3-8 (ESV)

Now I am not saying that I am a Joshua or that God has promised us a great land, or that every place our foot touches will be ours.  But I am reminded that God gives the strength for us to do what he wants us to do and the courage to face what he wants us to face.  The command to not fear and the command to be courageous are scattered throughout the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua.  The following morning I read them numerous times again as I began through Joshua.  For example:   “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (1:9)  I was encouraged, and I pray for more courage to face whatever God may have us face.

Isn’t it amazing how God uses his word to speak so clearly to us in the situations we face!

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