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

 

 

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God’s Word Amidst Hard Changes (Part 1 of 3)

One of my favorite things to do is to listen to the speakers during the gathering time right before our women’s Bible Studies on Thursday mornings. Though I haven’t gotten to many gathering times this fall, I am always encouraged by the gifted speakers.

A recent talk I attended was so good I want to share it with you. So “listen” in the next couple of weeks, as Tana Tuttle gives us her insights on the first 9 verses of Joshua 1:

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.                     Joshua 1:1-2

Change is almost always hard! Everyone faces this unwelcome guest many times throughout his or her life. We may not know when change will hit, but there are ways to navigate through it. In Joshua 1, we find several concrete and substantial elements that are essential to move through those changes.

We can always find the direction we need in God’s living and active Word. God is up to something in everything He sovereignly allows in your life and mine ~ be encouraged that His unchanging character and nature will undergird all the changes we will encounter. Let’s turn to Joshua 1 and see how!

First, however, we need a little background. As we come to Joshua 1, we see that a chapter in Israel’s history had come to an end. Moses, having heard from God out of the burning bush, had returned to Egypt to lead this group of probably two to three million people from Egypt to the Promised Land. Moses had been their strong leader, one who knew God face to face. In fact, the entire book of Deuteronomy is Moses recounting what God had said specifically to the Israelites (see Deuteronomy 1:3).

But now their fearless leader is dead. We are told that the Israelites mourn for Moses for 30 days, then, as we see in Joshua 1:1, the Lord speaks. This implies that for 30 days the Lord didn’t speak.

This would have been one of the most difficult times in Israel’s history. They were on the threshold of the promised land when Moses died……and then God was silent.

I wonder if perhaps some of you are in a “30 days” when God is not speaking. Perhaps something has happened ~ medically, financially, relationally ~ in your extended family , or maybe there’s just a host of difficult challenges confronting you, and God seems silent.

There will be times in our walk with God that He doesn’t “speak.” Often these are times that we feel we need Him the most.

But I believe that the reason God didn’t speak to the Israelites is. . . that He had already spoken.

Moses had faithfully recorded everything God said, everything the Israelites had needed to know. (see Deuteronomy 1:3 again) This 30-day period was a time not only to mourn Moses death, but to remember what God had said. God desires that we focus on what He has said, not on who delivers the message. God wanted the Israelites to depend upon Him, and He had already given them everything they would need for the next stage of their journey.

God had not changed His mind about anything He had said. Sometimes for us, like for the Israelites, God doesn’t speak because He has already spoken. 

In Joshua 1:2, when God speaks, He says “Moses, my servant is dead”. Well, now, that seems a bit obvious. God waits 30 days after the crisis, and then God tells them the obvious, Moses is dead. There was no question about that.

So why in the world would God’s first word in thirty days be to speak the obvious? I believe that God was helping the Israelites to acknowledge the facts. He was telling them the obvious because it had to be faced. God never asks us to pretend everything is just fine, or to sweep a hard situation under the rug and hope it goes away. God is a realist. God “honored” their loss and their grief; He designed us to need the release of emotions loss brings, whether it is the loss of a job, a pet, or something catastrophic. Big or small, He will allow us time to grieve our losses.

God had given the Israelites 30 days to mourn, to regroup, to get their emotions out, to face their loss. He was acknowledging how their lives had changed, giving them time to accept their new normal. I don’t know about you, but my life has gone through quite a few “new normals.” The Lord has never rushed me through my grief, but there comes a time when it is unhealthy to continue grieving, and God will gently move us on. In verse 1, I believe God makes a clear statement. He is saying: “This is your situation. It’s time to acknowledge and accept it.”

God will not pretend. He will not sugar coat anything. He will always tell us the truth. Remember, God will always acknowledge the truth that needs to be faced.

What’s the next word in your Bible? In my translation it is “now”. “Now” means….Now! In the present! Right away! Such a little word, but so important. Why is “now” such an important word?

tana photo

Tana and her daughter Kara

The first statement God made when He spoke after 30 days of silence was what had happened in the past (“Moses, my servant if dead”). But “now” implies the present.   Why is this word “now” so important? Because no matter what your situation is, no matter what has happened, no matter what your new normal is, or your current difficulties, God desires to speak into the present “Now.” Today.

Remember, God never plans to leave you in the past; there is always a “now” word coming from God.

(To be continued next week!)

Remembering Who We Are

When someone asks who you are, what do you say?Woman_love_question.svg

I’m guessing it’s some version of “I’m a … mom, wife, aunt, grandma, teacher, graphic designer, lawyer, church volunteer….”

This kind of answer tells a lot about what you do and how you relate to people. But does it really tell who you are? What happens if you lose one of these things—for good reasons or not so good ones. You choose to stay home with kids so are no longer defined by your career—or you lose a job. Your kids head off to college, your grandkids outgrow you, or you lose a spouse to death or divorce. So who are you then?

When I answer the “who am I” question, I often tell people that I direct Take Heart or work in women’s ministry leadership at my church. But recently, I started looking for a job. It meant, potentially, that the volunteer activities I let define me would take a back seat. It wasn’t a complete separation from those activities, but I couldn’t commit to things I loved to do, like leading a weekly Bible Study. I felt kind of lost and purposeless. Who was I?

In the midst of my floundering, I wanted God to quickly show me what the new me would look like, so I could settle into my new identity. Instead, God reminded me that who I am has nothing to do with what I do. Rather, who I am has everything to do with who God is and what He has done for me.

Did you get that?

Who I am has nothing to do with what I do. Rather, who I am has everything to do with who God is and what He has done for me.

God began to take me to passages like Ephesians 1: 3-13, challenging me to personalize them. Check it out:

  • God has blessed me in Christ with every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven.
  • God chose me in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world.
  • God destined me to be his adopted child through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan and to honor his glorious grace that he has given to me freely through the Son whom he loves.
  • I have been ransomed through his Son’s blood, and I have forgiveness for my failures based on his overflowing grace, which he poured over me with wisdom and understanding.
  • I have also received an inheritance in Christ.
  • I was destined by the plan of God, who accomplishes everything according to his design.
  • I was sealed with the promised Holy Spirit because I believed in Christ.

It’s a pretty impressive resume, isn’t it?

It would be a lie to say that I’m all-of-the-sudden secure in who I am apart from what I do. But I’m beginning to think differently about my identity, to look to God for my answers, and to trust that God’s truth will make the journey from my head to my heart!

Image by Sunset_02459.jpg: Nevit Dilmen Do_you_love_me.svg via Wikimedia Commons

Happy to Try

nicholaseditedAt that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Mathew 18:1-4 NIV

Our 8-month-old nephew, Nicholas, was just learning to stand. He happily balanced on wobbly legs, then just as happily fell onto his diapered bottom. He moved on to the next attempt—or to the toy that caught his eye as he fell—totally unfazed by his success or failure.

I, on the other hand, can let the smallest failure ruin my day. I tried a new pilates class recently and left in tears because I couldn’t do all the exercises. My discouragement as I compared my efforts to those of others in the class (who were more experienced or simply more fit) put a damper on an otherwise great day.

Nicholas and I both “failed,” in a sense, but Nicholas was unfazed while I was distraught.

So what does an 8-month old have that I’m missing?

Or maybe the question is, what do I have that I need to get rid of, so I can be more like Nicholas?

Nicholas experienced the joy of something new. I traded the joy of new experiences for damaged pride.

My pride led to embarrassment from unmet expectations. My pride experienced fear of being judged for what I couldn’t do. In hanging on to pride, I lost the chance for joy. I traded the joy of learning a new thing for a pride that worried what others might think.

When Jesus told the disciples that they needed to become like little children, he was talking about becoming like the lowliest of people—humbly receiving God’s gift of salvation as those who are helpless to earn it on their own. As those without pride. And as those full of joy for the gift of life.

I wonder how often I have missed the joy that God calls me to because of my pride. I wonder how many times I have missed a chance to grow as a Christian because I was afraid that in trying something new I might look like a fool.

Perhaps if we can remember, when we try something new, that God looks on our efforts as we look at Nicholas—cheering him on with each attempt to stand, heedless of his fall—then we too can be like little children, great in the kingdom of God, and full of joy as we humbly embrace each new experience.

By Sandy MacMillan, Take Heart Director

 

 

If Jesus Needed a Nap…

At last weekend’s Take Heart conference, God showed up in amazing ways. It was an incredible privilege to be a part of what God did. We shared a much-needed laugh with speaker Liz Curtis Higgs, and we shared our burdens through prayer. Then we received encouragement and practical tools for growth from a talented group of breakout speakers.

My favorite part was the ministries expo, where I learned, among other things, about local organizations that

• help women through grief,

• counsel women with eating disorders,

• connect women to resources for special needs children or aging loved ones,

and even

• rescue women from sex trafficking.

It was exciting to learn ways that the Body of Christ is shining Light in a dark world.

It was a wonderful weekend. But the next few days….I was tired. Utterly couldn’t-keep-my-eyes-open exhausted. Which made me crazy. There were things to do—like the laundry that piled up on the busy pre-conference days. Like getting groceries so I could remind my husband what a home cooked meal looks like.

I felt like I needed to keep going, but I just couldn’t move!

As I tried to marshal energy that just isn’t there, I remembered a familiar story from Luke 8 (and also Matthew 8 and Mark 4)—the account of Jesus calming the storm.

You may remember how Jesus spoke a few words and calmed a raging storm for his freaked-out disciples. But what spoke to my heart in my weariness were the words just before the storm-calming part:

As they sailed, [Jesus] fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

The disciples went and woke him… (Luke 8:23-24a)

In other words, Jesus was so tired that he fell asleep and slept right through a huge storm. Tossed and drenched, he stayed asleep until his disciples shook him firmly.

After faithfully serving His Father by teaching and healing, Jesus—the Son of God— couldn’t keep His eyes open.

Sounds a little bit like my post-conference exhaustion. Not that anything I do can be compared to Jesus’s earthly ministry. But it made me wonder.

If Jesus needed a nap, perhaps it’s ok for me—for us—to rest too.

Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” But perhaps, when we’re done working, we need to follow Jesus’ example and rest.

photo courtesy of graur codrin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

photo courtesy of graur codrin/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Perhaps we need to give ourselves into the care of our great Shepherd, the one David wrote about, saying “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3a)

So if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go take a nap!

Sandy MacMillan

Director, Take Heart

A Different Kind of Peace

by Karina Whisnant

ImageIt’s hard to walk into a store these days without seeing the peace sign emblazoned on something—cups, clothes, shoes, notebooks—you get the idea!  Peace is a word that is common place to our eyes and ears, but has lost any significant meaning.  We hope for a world that is not at war and experiences “peace.”  We strive to be “at peace” with those around us. We beg for “just a minute of peace” when the chaos of life surrounds us and we can’t breathe.  But, are we really experiencing peace in our daily lives? 

Webster defines peace as “freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.  That definition seems to indicate that peace is the absence of something, but is that the only way someone can experience peace? Do you see that definition of peace ever being attainable in your present season of life?  I know in my life as I strive to manage a family, a part-time job and a ministry, “freedom from disturbance” does not seem to be in my future.

Even as obsessed as the world seems to be in displaying symbols of peace, I believe there is hope for peace that the world doesn’t understand and can’t help me find. 

As I turn my attention to God’s Word to learn what He tells me about peace, I am hopeful for a deeper meaning.  Are you ready for a real answer?  Are you ready to experience quiet and tranquility that is not dependent on your circumstances?  True peace, as I believe the world seeks after, can truly only be found in a person.  Without knowing God as a personal Savior, true peace is not attainable. 

Let’s follow the trail God gives us in his Word when he talks about peace. 

We have to start first with the gift he extends to us in His Son, who bore our sins on the cross so that, as Romans 15:1 tells us, “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God.”   Accepting God’s gift to us gives us peace with Him.   He then gives us the Holy Spirit, who gives us the power through Him to experience peace. 

What great news for us to know that peace on this earth is not going to come through circumstances—having to wait for things to fall perfectly in line would seem hopeless!

As we abide in Christ, he gives us His peace that transcends a momentary quiet in our world.  God shares in Phil. 4:7 that His peace does not make sense in this world, And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your    

As we experience all that this world brings us, those things that thrill our hearts as well as those that bring sorrow, we have confidence in God’s final promise of life with Him. 

There is reason to rejoice when Jesus tells us in John 16:33, These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

ImageKarina Whisnant loves to “do life” alongside other women. She has been privileged to do that for many years as part of the women’s ministry at Fellowship Greenville. Karina is leading a breakout session entitled “Peace in the Chaos” at Take Heart 2014. In that session, she will encourage women to look at the “who” of the peace in their lives instead of the “what.”

For information about the Take Heart conference, or to register: www.TakeHeartTogether.com/conference.

 

Peace sign image courtesy of digitalart/freedigitalphotos.net

Perfection

by Sandy MacMillan

Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Hebrews 10:14

Perfection.

Isn’t that what we all want? Whether it’s perfect skin, a perfectly sized waistline, or a perfect family?

Yet my reality seems eons from this kind of perfect.

A friend and I recently shared the trials we had been experiencing: we talked about how hard it is to walk the Christian life and how battered and broken we often feel.

Not any closer to perfect than the last time we met.

At least in the world’s eyes.

When I left my friend, I thought of how godly she is, how brilliantly Christ’s love shines through her.  I always feel loved and encouraged by our times together, no matter how messy either of our lives are. I thought, “I’ll take that over the world’s idea of perfect.”

ImageAs I was thinking, an image came to mind of the crucified Christ. Bloodied, bruised, broken. Far from our usual image of perfect.

And I heard the Spirit of God whisper, “This is what perfect looks like to me.”

Perfect looks very different to God than it does to the world. And as today’s Scripture reminds us, our own perfection rests not in the things we do, but in what Christ’s perfect sacrifice did. His sacrifice made us perfect, and His Spirit continues to make us holy.

Our lives may be messy.  Sometimes folks may turn their backs on our brokenness; they may look askance at our bruises.

But what if God is using our trials, our bruises, and our brokenness to make us more like Christ, to make us holy?  What if our trials make us more compassionate, our bruises make us more wise, and our brokenness allows Christ’s light to shine through our cracks—like it does through my friend?

What if it’s through our messy lives, as we identify with Christ’s suffering, that God makes us perfect?

Sandy MacMillan is the director of Take Heart, a ministry that connects hurting women with sources of help and encouragement in Christ. For more information: www.TakeHeartTogether.com

The photo of Michelangelo’s Pieta is by Stanislav Traykov; it is a Wikipedia Commons photo. Permission was granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.