God’s Word Amidst Hard Changes (Part 3 of 3)

In our third and final guest blog from Tana Tuttle, Tana starts again with verse 2 of Joshua , but moves quickly on through verse 9:

 2b Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success[a] wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 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.” (ESV)

In the second part of Joshua 1:2 we see that the people were told to cross over “into the land I am giving to them.”tana Christmas

Note the implication that all the Israelites were going, not one would be left behind, as they enter the land God is giving “to the people of Israel.

In case they don’t get it, God clarifies in verse 3: “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.”

This is covenant language, this is what God had already told the Israelites through Moses back in Deuteronomy 10:24. God is saying, “I told you. I promised!” God’s intentions were clear; He did not bring them out of Egypt to harm them. He did not set them up to be destroyed. He promised them a land flowing with milk and honey. They may have taken a 40-year detour, but now they were to prepare—to get back on the track of God’s good intentions.

The times when it seems God is silent, or that He has taken something from us, we must remember what God has said, and that God is faithful to fulfill what He has promised.

General promises are wonderful, but the specific promises He has made to you are equally sustaining.

We must know God’s unchanging character and His unchanging Word.   We must cling to what God’s Word ways. Never give up on what God has promised you.

God desires to fulfill His promise to you, to extend your influence, to take you to the next level, for you have been called to bear much fruit.

Verse 4 continues with God’s reminder that He will fulfill His promises: “From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory.”

But did you notice that the Israelites’ territory includes the “wilderness”? Does it seem odd to you that the “promised” territory of the Israelites includes the wilderness?

Ever been in a wilderness? It’s usually characterized as a dry, barren place, a mysterious, unwanted, get-me-out-as-fast-as-you-can kind of place. Who wants a wilderness? Hmm. Apparently God does. The wilderness was not a good place for the Israelites. They spent 40 years there. I’m sure they wanted to leave it behind as fast as they could.   But God included it in their territory. You know what this tells us?

God never throws away our past, it is included in everything He is doing in and through us. The wilderness will work for us, even if all it does is remind us that we don’t want to go a certain place or do certain things again! Remember:

All your experiences work together for your good because God includes the wilderness! 

As we move along, the passage switches its focus from the land to God’s relationship with Joshua, and by extension, with us.

Verse 5 tells us: “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” You can face anything and anybody with God. God is a very present help in trouble. (See also Psalm 46:1.)

Never face anything alone. You don’t need to! Bring your life and your stuff to God. No matter how bad it is, He will be with you and never forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

You will always need God’s presence with you ~ past, present and future.

Moving along to verses 6 and 7, Joshua is told to “be strong and courageous” (and again to be strong and very courageous).

What’s the opposite of strong and courageous? Weak and fearful, right? Well, there you go. Only two choices—strong and courageous or weak and fearful. Which do you prefer? Which will you choose?

Every day, we must make the choice; and remember, if we do not intentionally choose to be strong and courageous, we will by default choose weak and fearful.

Who wants us to be weak and fearful? That is Satan’s desire and intention for you, you never have to wonder about that. God will never wake you up and tell you, “Today, I prefer you to be weak and fearful all day long!” As soon as we open our eyes in the morning, I believe God whispers to each of us, “Do not be afraid. Be strong and courageous, for I am with you.” I have read that the Bible contains 365 “do not be afraid” verses…..one for each day. How like a gracious God!

God’s call to every believer, not matter what, is to be strong and courageous. 

As a summing of God’s instructions about how to live victoriously, let’s look at verses 7 to 9. These instructions are vital if we seek to make it through change and on to what God has ahead for us:

  • Obey the Word (Be “careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.”)
  • Speak the Word (“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth.”
  • Meditate (or chew) on the Word (“You shall meditate on [the Word] day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

 And now, let me leave you with one final instruction from verse 9:

Do NOT be discouraged!

I may not know what you are facing or going through right now, but no matter what it is: do not be discouraged!

Discouragement is one of Satan’s biggest weapons against us. God will never discourage you and He will never call you to discourage others! (See Numbers 13:26-33 and 14:36 to find out how God feels about discouraging others.)

1 Samuel 30:6 tells us to encourage ourselves in the Lord. If one of the biggest weapons against us is discouragement, then the counter weapon is to encourage ourselves in the Lord. Many times in my life, I’ve had a crisis with simply no one to call on for encouragement. I’ve learned that I must encourage myself in the Lord by remembering truth—truth I’ve stored up over time in God’s Word and presence. The Holy Spirit will not fail to remind you of the truth you need! (See John 14:26 for some super-charged truth!!).

So, dear sisters in Christ, be encouraged today if you are facing change. He did not fail the Israelites, He has not failed me, and He will not fail you!

–Tana Tuttle

 

 

God’s Word Amidst Hard Changes (Part 2 of 3)

 

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites.

Last week Tana Tuttle began to share with us practical truths from Joshua 1:1-9. We made our way through the first verse and a half with these highlights:

  • Sometimes for us, like for the Israelites, God doesn’t speak because He has already spoken.
  • God will always acknowledge the truth that needs to be faced.
  • God never plans to leave us in the past; there is always a “now” word coming from God.

I love how Tana highlights the relevance of God’s Word is to each of us. I can’t wait to read more!

                                                            –Sandy MacMillan

In Part 2 of 3, we begin mid verse 2, with “Now then…

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Tana and her daughter Kara

The next word in our text is “you”. You. A very personal word. You want to know why? Because you are important to God. What you are going through is important to Him.   God is very much into individuals. You are never an impersonal being to God. You are never overlooked, or pushed aside. You, your life—fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together in your mother’s womb (see Psalm 139)—is of utmost importance.

Yes, “you” in the text was referring to Joshua, but don’t miss that “you” also means you! You are just as important to God as Moses was, or Joshua.

Really? Really. Does that mean that you will have the same call as Moses or Joshua? No, but it does mean that the call you have is just as important. I’ll tell you why in just a bit, but for now:

Remember that God’s present (now) word is always addressed first to you, personally.

After the word, you, the very next words extends the “you” to “and all the people”. God is saying: “You are important (see above). You and your family, you and your friends, you and your church, you and your generation. You are included in what I am doing in their lives and they are included in what I am doing in your life.”

God is working out a plan, a purpose that we cannot see right now, but we are important in what is happening on this earth. What happens in your life affects others, and what happens in others’ lives affects your life.

God is going somewhere with whatever you’re going through!

That’s why you are important, and so are others around you. You are just as important as Moses or Joshua and God has planned accordingly.

We know Moses and Joshua cooperated with God. Will you? Will I? That’s the question before us. If we do not know and understand our importance to God and His plan, we will whittle away our lives and we, as well as others, will suffer.

What is God calling you to do?   It is just as necessary to what God is doing as Moses and Joshua’s calls were for their generation.

God’s present (now) word will be addressed to you, personally, and expand to include the people around you.

Next word?

“Prepare.” Or as the NIV says, “Get ready.”

On the surface, when Moses died, it looked like God had abandoned the Israelites, that He had taken something from them, something important, something vital.

The enemy of our souls will tell us, “Look what God took from you; if He really loved you He would not have let this happen. If He were a good God, He would not let you suffer. This is unfair. God obviously doesn’t care about you.”

Have you heard this in your ear like I have? You know by now that these are the enemy’s lies. God is not a taker, He is a giver, or as I like to say, “God is an exchanger.”

God may take something away, but He always gives something in exchange. You will never be left with a minus (see 1 Cor. 4:7 and Romans 8:32).

God was going to exchange 40 years of wilderness wandering for the land of milk and honey. The incredible thing is, those 40 wandering years included many good provisions and promises from God. But there was more to come.

You and I know the story. These people, of course, did not yet know that the land of milk and honey was right up ahead or have confidence that they’d ever reach it. They needed a time of preparation, an in-between time.

You and I must have a time of preparation also. The things that are in your life, that you would never choose, are a preparation time for what is up ahead. It is an in-between time, in between n-o-w and n-e-w.

God is sovereign over everything in your life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Now, prepare. God is up to something you cannot see that will turn out good. This is for you—and for others.

Now is the time to be expectant, to put your hope in God, to let Him walk you through the preparation time to the next place in your journey.

In your present circumstance, your new normal, God desires that you prepare for where He is taking you, for He is up to something good in the midst of your life.

(From Sandy:

We’re out of space for this week! So, like the Israelites, we can use the time to “prepare” for where God is taking us, while we wait to hear more from Tana next time!)

Aside

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Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

What does it really mean when we say “I’m blessed”?

One popular blogger says that “I’m blessed” is the one thing Christians should stop saying. He reasons that when we say “I’m blessed” because of material blessings (or I would add, things like good health), we are in danger of making God “some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy who spends his days randomly bestowing cars and cash upon his followers.”1

I agree that we need to be careful about how we use the term “blessed.” A friend— the mom of a special needs child—recently related a conversation she had with an acquaintance. The acquaintance told her that her own family had been “so blessed” to have a healthy baby, after being told the baby might have a diagnosis similar to that of my friend’s child.

My hackles raised at the implication that my friend was somehow less blessed than this woman; her absolutely adorable child is indeed a blessing. Yet—like the acquaintance—I remember feeling relieved and blessed when each of my children were born in perfect health.

So, is it wrong to thank God for things we have that others don’t? Is it ok to feel blessed that your child got into his choice of college, even when his best friend didn’t? Should we consider a new job a blessing even when others are unemployed?

These questions have started me thinking—what does it mean to walk in God’s blessings? I do believe that all good things come from God. And I want to “praise God from whom all blessings flow” as the traditional Doxology exhorts us. But I’m not sure I have a good understand of what those good things are; maybe I’m not sure I have a Biblical understanding of what it means to be blessed.

So, I’m on a quest to understand better what it means to walk in God’s blessings, to be able to recognize “every good and perfect gift [that] is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”

The quest may take a while…the concept of blessing is all over Scripture. The New American Standard Bible uses some form of the word “bless” in 486 verses, translating a variety of Hebrew and Greek terms.

But if the idea of blessing is that common in the Bible, it must be important, and I’d like to get it right.

How about you? Would you like to join me on my journey?

In the weeks to come, I’ll share the insights I glean, and I would love to hear yours as well. Please post your comments, and perhaps–as we journey together–we will be truly blessed.

1Dannemiller, Scott, “The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying.” Weblog post. The Accidental Missionary. 20 Feb. 2014. 5 May 2014 (http://theaccidentalmissionary.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/the-one-things-christians-should-stop-saying/).

 

 

Discouraged for a Reason…

I’ve felt like a failure quite often lately.

I’ve dropped balls on tasks I promised to do. I’ve watched helplessly as friends and family struggle with problems for which I have no answers.

ImageI can’t even keep my house clean. (Seriously…this picture is of my desk right now!)

And this morning, as I struggle to write an encouraging word to my sisters in Christ, I can’t seem to finish a thought.

But I don’t share this so you’ll feel sorry for me. Or even try to make me feel better.

I share because I believe that God has allowed me to come to a place of discouragement for a reason:

Discouragement has reminded me once again of my desperate need for God.

Discouragement has forced me once again to decide: will I try to live life on my own, or will I trust God to be who He says He is, to do what He says He can do?

This spring, our Thursday morning small group studied the book of Ephesians. In the first chapter, Paul prays for the readers of his letter, saying:

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:17-19)

Paul goes on to say that “this power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.”

Paul wants his readers to know that they have access to the same power that brought Jesus back to life. He wants them to believe it, to live according to this truth.

I confess that I often doubt God’s Spirit will really work in me and through me. But I am encouraged to know that the Ephesians apparently struggled too—I figure if they had already mastered this truth, Paul wouldn’t have needed to pray for them!

So, as I face today’s impossible list of things to do, as I watch loved ones struggle with issues beyond my help–even as I wade through papers to find the desk underneath–I am making Paul’s prayer personal. Perhaps, if you need to trust in God’s power at work in you as well, you’ll pray with me:

God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, I ask that you give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that I may know You better. I pray also that the eyes of my heart may be enlightened in order that I may know the hope to which You have called me, the riches of Your glorious inheritance in the saints, and your incomparably great power for us who believe. Amen!

The Hope of “So That”

by Sandy MacMillan

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Romans 15:4

At the BSUMC women’s retreat this weekend, we heard some amazing stories of heartache and of God’s presence with women in the midst of their pain.  Thank you Janet, Amy, and Mara for sharing your stories so that we could be encouraged.

As we heard these women’s stories, as we cried with their retelling, we were left with the assurance that each knew God was with them in the midst, redeeming their hard times so that they would come to know Him better.

So that…

BSUMC’s Women at the Well is getting ready to start 6-week Bible studies at a variety of times and places; we hope that many of our women will find a group that works with their schedules.* Each group will be studying Wendy Blight’s new Bible Study called Living So That.

In the first pages of her book, Wendy talks about how, in Scripture, the phrase “so that” is used over and over again to show purpose. It connects God’s actions with God’s promises.**

I don’t know all that Wendy will share about this so that theme; I’ve only read the first chapter (which is awesome). But she’s already got me thinking….

Romans 15:4 talks about the Biblical stories of hardship written “so that through…the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

In Scripture, in the lives of our testimony women, and in our own lives, God works His purpose through our stories. We may not think that our stories are “testimony worthy,” or our stories may be too painful to share (at least for now) beyond our most trusted circle of friends. But, as Christians we can all know that God will enter our lives with His comfort, His love, and His “so that.”

As I think about the so that’s God has worked in my life, I think of things like:

  • The times I have felt helpless so that I will learn that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
  • The scary steps of faith God’s called me to take so that I will know God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV)

And even

  • The weaknesses that have been exposed “so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

How is God working His so that in your story?

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Dear Heavenly Father,

We are so thankful that even in our pain, you enter with Your purposes.  Help us to look to You, to recognize the so that’s at work in our lives–so that we will have the kind of encouragement that will offer hope. In Jesus name, Amen.

 *If you’re in the Greenville, SC area, and would like to join a study, email us at bsumc.watw@gmail.com and we’ll give you details!

**Go to Wendy’s website, www.wendyblight.com to download the first chapter of Living So That  for free!