Saturday, January 30 Joshua 24: A man worth emulating.

Every time I read verse 15 I get chills. Joshua is a true leader and man of integrity. Not only does he call all Israel to follow the Lord; he pledges to do so himself… that’s integrity. He lived what he asked others to live. “… choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD" (15).

For 40+ years Joshua served as Moses’ aid and then after Moses’ death, Joshua assumes command and faithfully leads Israel into the Promised Land. Not one character flaw emerges. Certainly he wasn’t perfect, no one except Jesus ever was. When it came to the Gibeonites, Joshua forgot to listen to the Lord but beyond that there is not one recorded failure in Scripture. He was an incredibly faithful servant who lived faithfully to the end… 110-years old and still strong for the Lord! That’s a man worth emulating.

O, Lord, give me the strength and integrity of Joshua. Even in his OLD age he was ‘gung-ho’ for You, Lord. And he was not shy about stating it.

Lord Jesus, Almighty Father, Holy Spirit… I will serve you! Yes, I will serve you! Amen.


Friday, January 29 Joshua 23: Hold fast to the Lord.

Joshua has run his race, he has finished his course. Nearing his earthly end Joshua assembles Israel for a last word. Four keys ring from Joshua’s voice. First, the Lord has been faithful, everything He promised He did. Second, hold fast to the Lord. Three, temptations from the people still in the land will come, don’t succumb. And four, there is land still to be taken and work still to be done.

Even though these words are thousands of years old, they are just as true today for my life.

God is faithful. There has never been a promise from His word that has not proven true. As I wrote these last words I paused, a smile cracked my lips and my head gently bowed, the Lord is and always has been absolutely faithful…

I have to stick close to the Lord. When I drift I get into problems. When I stick close, when I hold fast, God is there. Now God being there and God being faithful can’t be confused with the fact that everything will go smoothly and wonderfully in life. I sit in a garage waiting for a vehicle to be repaired. A trip discombobulated by this hiccup.

I have to be diligent and careful. Temptations abound and there remains unredeemed parts of my life that have to be conquered in the power of the Lord, not in my own strength, that’s for sure.

As long as I live there will be work for the Lord to do, in my life and in my world.

Lord, hearing Joshua give a final charge to Israel, I pray that when life is drawing to a close I will have the life-legacy to give similar words to my family and those close to me. Lord, a final word like this cannot be given from someone who has lived a ‘double-life,’ it only have impact if it comes from a person of integrity. Jesus, give me Your strength and the Spirit to be a man of integrity all the days of my life… amen.


Thursday, January 28 Joshua 22: God's ways work.


This chapter sparked two thoughts. First, I noticed that Israel was concerned that sin by some tribes could mean trouble for all Israel. Check out verse 16-20. The leaders remember that the sin of a single family or a clan or a tribe affects everyone. Every sin impacts others. When God made a major statement to this effect with Achan, His teaching method worked and the people, or at least the leaders, remembered! God’s ways work.

Second, I watched as Joshua and the leaders handled the perceived problem. They prepared for a major problem but rather than escalate immediately, the sent a delegation to seek the truth and talk face-to-face. This reminded me of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 & 18 about going to the brother who has wronged you (or you have wronged), seeking to clear up the matter face-to-face, before you use any other means like court to settle things. In this case, God’s way worked.

I thought, God’s ways work… and that’s why I carve out time each day to be with God in His word. My hope and prayer is that by doing so, His word will infiltrate and change my life to reflect His ways…

O, God, thank Your for Your word and for meeting me in its’ pages every time I spend time there. Change me so that Your ways become my first thought and my first reaction when I encounter a hiccup in life due to my sin or others… Through You, Jesus, I pray… Amen.


Wednesday, January 27 Joshua 21: Who receives the credit?.

Wednesday, January 27 Joshua 21: Who receives the credit?…

With the allotting of the inheritance to Levi, God strikes the final note of His orchestration giving Israel the Promised Land. Each tribe has its’ inheritance, each tribe its’ home. The writer of this book concludes chapter 21 with final reflections: So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. (43-45)

Reading these sentences, I noticed the LORD’s prominence. The LORD is the subject of each sentence. The LORD gave land and rest. The LORD handed over enemies and made good on all His promises. Stepping back and chronicling the days of Joshua, the writer recognized God’s hand in everything… every victory, every success, every advance.

Even though the book bears Joshua’s name, the author made sure God received the credit and the glory. Joshua may have been the general in charge but God was the supreme commander and LORD. The victories and land were understood as gifts from God.

My thoughts slide to my life. When all is said and done, who will get the credit and the glory for any good that I accomplished? It seems Joshua made sure that God got the credit. Will I do the same? That question is where the Lord is pricking my heart today. Who receives the credit? Who receives the glory? Does my life sing of God or of me?

Lord, this thought is challenging but it is safest when I keep it theoretical. The more I think about it, the more I wonder how do I live it out practically. In other words, Jesus, Father, Spirit, how do I live so that You receive the credit and honor for the things You have graced me to do with my life? And Lord, how do I do this in a natural and real manner?

So, Lord I have two prayer needs. First please build into my life the honest desire to give You all the glory, to be a Joshua! Then Lord, give me strategies and mannerisms that humbly point people to You as my source, my strength, my center, my Lord & God. In Jesus name I pray… AMEN.


Tuesday, January 26 Joshua 20: A heart for justice.

Life in Joshua 20 time was so different than today that it is hard to relate. If you killed someone back then, the next of kin could (and should) avenge the dead relative’s life by taking yours; an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. Say an accident happens while chopping wood, or your ox-cart rolls over and kills your neighbor… was it an accident or a planned incident? To the avenger of your blood it didn’t really matter, he could kill you; eye or eye, tooth for tooth, life for life. Such was justice. 

To provide time to determine accident or incident, God established these cities of refuge to which the innocent could flee for safety to buy time for a hearing to prove his/her innocence. Cities of refuge were not a “free pass” for murder but a time out or a safety zone for truth to be determined so justice could prevail.

Cities of refuge would be most helpful for the average or little person. A wealthy person could probably protect themselves. However, the regular person living land-to-mouth was the person who needed the city of refuge. And God provided.

My mind slips back to 2 books I read late in’09, The Hole in Our Gospel (Rich Sterns) and Too Small to Ignore (Wess Stafford). In different ways these two books make the case from Scripture for caring for the least of these in our world, Matthew 25 kind of living and teaching. The cities of refuge in First Testament Israel presents a similar view of God’s heart. Protect the innocent, make a way for those who would normally be bypassed and forgotten to find justice, create an honorable and fair system that works, even for the overlooked.

Lord, so far my thoughts today seem to be more Bible study, facts and truths, what is it You want me to do with this ‘study?’ How would You have me apply it? Where should I go with these thoughts You are stirring within me? Speak Holy Spirit. Push me, if need be, to those uncomfortable places where faith results in action. In what ways, Lord, do I need to become a present day city of refuge? How is Your church to be a city of refuge?...

Jesus, today I have many questions, but few answers. Speak, direct, lead, show, reveal. I am listening and looking…


Monday, January 25 Joshua 19: No one is forgotten.

As I read through allotment after allotment and the list of clans and cities within each allotment, I kept thinking God forgets no one. Every tribe in God’s family, every clan in every tribe, everyone in every clan in every tribe, gets a portion from God. Everyone gets a portion, no one is forgotten.

It is true to this day. God knows the hairs on everyone’s head. God has an inheritance portion for every member of His family.

You and I may have no family or be the ‘forgotten’ person of our family but once we are born again into God’s family, we will never be forgotten. God our Father has an inheritance set aside for us, a magnificent, wonderful inheritance set aside for us. Paul reminds the Ephesians that God has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:4).

Take a few minutes, I know I will, and marvel at the blessings and inheritance that is ours because we are ‘in Christ.’

O, God, thank You for remembering me… Thank You for setting aside an inheritance for me… Thank You for all Your love and care. Praise be to Your name… Amen.




Saturday, January 23, Joshua 18

The reading of the ‘will’ (the inheritance of Israel) continues, much of which amounts to a geographical study of the Land being given to Israel. Not riveting reading but just as much the pure and wonderful word of God as Psalms, or the gospels, or name-your-favorite-book. As such, it deserves our attention… our prayer-full attention.

Today as I read, God began to spark thoughts for me, particularly with the first part of verse 7: The Levites, however, do not get a portion among you, because the priestly service of the LORD is their inheritance. … The Levites worked at the tabernacle. They cared for the poles and curtains and furniture of the tabernacle which was the seat of God among the people. The Levites assembled, de-assembled and carried the tabernacle every time God had them move during their 40-year wilderness wanderings. Then they ministered, before the Lord, as part of their Temple work, assisting the priests. But it was not priests who offered the ritual sacrifices and stood between the people and God. They were the caddie to the golfer, or the secretary for the boss or the porter of the hotel, the kitchen assistant to the chef (not even the sous chef).

The Levites were given 48 cities but no land they lived off the generosity of Israel through the tithes given at the temple.

All of this, plus the information below, swirled in my thoughts as I contemplated verse 7, the priestly service of the LORD is their inheritance. Everyone else in Israel received land as an inheritance. The Levites received service. Hmmm…

To be in God’s presence, dealing with the things of God, even if it was grunt work, was their supreme inheritance. This rattles my mind and challenges deeply. So much of my life (life as we know it in 21st century America) is about things, possessions, land, houses, electronics, trips, toys, … stuff… material stuff. So much of American Christianity measures ‘faithfulness’ in terms of the stuff God (is it God???) gives us. And yet here, buried in chapter 18 of Joshua, in a lone verse among hundreds outlining the inheritance for each tribe, is a kernel of truth that upsets my apple cart.

The Levites inheritance wasn’t stuff; it was service in God’s presence…

Frankly, I need to steep in this truth today. I have no simple response, no easy prayer. This word needs to linger, to steep, to marinade, to saturate my thoughts and life.

Lord, I have only one prayer thought right now, don’t, PLEASE DON’T, allow me to get busy in the hustle and bustle of today’s ‘to-do’s’ and let this thought go. Keep it marinating in my life. Lord, I have done some bent-wood woodworking. First I had to soak the wood until all the fibers were moist and pliable, then I had to put the wood in a strong press/form with many clamps to hold it in place. Then after time, when it was fully dry, I could relieve the clamping pressure and the wood conformed to the form I placed it in. I ask you to do this with me as I think about today’s word from You. Amen.

Lord, as I place the final period, there is within me some fear. This is a radical thought and I don’t want to pretend otherwise…


Additional Background Information:

The Levites

The Levites were consecrated to God and given by God as a gift to Israel in order that they might perform the duties at the tabernacle (Ex. 29; Lev. 8). Their work made it possible for the people to come to the tabernacle and offer sacrifices for the atonement of sins. The Levites assisted the priests in their responsibilities (Num. 3:5-9; 16:9) by preparing grain offerings and the show bread, by purifying all the holy instruments used in the Temple, by singing praises to the Lord at the time of the morning and evening offerings, by assisting the priests with burnt offerings on sabbaths and feast days, and by being in charge of the Temple precinct and the chambers of the priests (1 Chron. 6:31-48; 23:1-13,24-32; 25:1-6; 2 Chron. 29:12-19). Because of their work, the holiness of the Temple was maintained and the glory of the Lord dwelt among Israel. During David’s reign, the Levites were integrated into the administration of the government including the keeping of the gates, judges, craftsmen, musicians, and overseers of the royal treasury (1 Chron. 9:22-28; 23-26) In Jehoshaphat’s time, the Levites were involved with teaching the people the word of God (2 Chron. 17:7-9). This responsibility probably continued into the postexilic period of Ezra (Neh. 8:9-12).

(Gary V. Smith, Holman Bible Dictionary)


Friday, January 22, Joshua 17 Excuses, it is easy to look for and find excuses.

This chapter continues explaining the inheritance allotment for Manasseh and Ephraim. My, how far the children have fallen from the tree. Joseph was a man who owned his difficulties and problems. Yes, he was brash when he was a youngster; no one is perfect, scripture is clear about that. Sold into slavery, Joseph didn’t pine and mope, he rose to second in charge of Potifer’s house. Falsely accused and send to prison, he made the most of his situation again, becoming respected among the prisoners.

In this chapter his prodigy whine and moan. “We don’t have enough land, “we are so numerous, we don’t have enough land. How come we have to deal with the Canaanites? They are too strong, we can’t drive them out… whine, whine, whine.” And when Joshua explains that they can extend into the forest, more pining and moaning, “We don’t have good enough land. Why do we have to clear the forest? It is so hard!”

Some how I don’t think Caleb would have whined, he would have organized and gotten after the task.

Every life and every person has issues, concerns and problems with which to deal. It could be scars from not great or down right poor parenting/upbringing. It could be medical or emotional issues. It could be learning disabilities. It could be poverty. It could be … (you continue the list). What God reminded me is that every one of us has a life-allotment, with opportunities and challenges. Our life-allotment will not be the same as the person next to us. It is very easy to look at our neighbor and whine that they have things we don’t rather than work at clearing and using what we were given. Manasseh had the numbers to drive out the Canaanites, they just didn’t! Manasseh had the numbers to clear the forest, something his brothers, given the plains, didn’t have to do. Big deal! He whined instead of realizing the wealth he was given in lumber.

God continued, now turning His gaze into my life, “Bill, you have been given xyz (fill in your name and allotment). What are you doing with them? It is easy to list what you don’t have. My word to you this morning is to list what you do have and use them. I gave them to you. I have work for you to do for My kingdom. I need you strong and I need you to be ready. I have given you much. Prepare what I have given you. There will come a day when I will call on you to offer various parts of your allotment for kingdom work.  Be ready!”

O, Lord, You are good. You have been good to me. Give me space today to recognize a few of Your gifts that have been largely unrecognized by me so far in my life and then Lord, help me to prepare them for Your service. In Jesus’ name. Amen.



Thursday, January 21, Joshua 16 Unfinished jobs.

I find it interesting that in this brief description of the Ephraimites, it notes the job they didn’t do. Verse 10, They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; … It seems harmless, especially when the text continues that the Canaanites are required to do forced labor. But allowing the Canaanites to remain will be anything but harmless as time goes on. The Canaanites will be the source of countless problems and disobediences in the years to come.

I began thinking that there are areas/attributes/behaviors in my life that I know God would have me clean up and yet I let them hang around. I sometimes think I can harness them for some positive outcome. Yet over and over again, I learn, down the road apiece, that God was right and those behaviors I choose not to deal with, that God alerted me to, come back to hurt me. Like the Ephraimites, I am spiritually lazy and I leave the job unfinished, to my spiritual peril, I might add.

Lord, You are showing me an insight that is not particularly comfortable. Sometimes I take the easy road (or the lazy one) and leave tasks You have for me to do unfinished or partially finished. I am sorry, Lord. Help me to be a finisher… I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Wednesday, January 20, Joshua 15

Background Tidbit

Israel has been at war for 5 years…

Verses 14:7-10 gives some chronology. Caleb was 40 when he was sent in to spy. Israel’s sin resulted in 40 years of desert wandering and Caleb is not 85. Add it up and Israel crossed into the Promised Land about 5 years earlier and had been waging war and inheriting their land from God ever since. Another way to look at it is the accounts of chapters 1-14 take 5 years.


Keep at it…

Lord, as I enter Your word today, breath life into my soul through it. Give me food for my soul for today. Please, I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

I really like the story of Caleb. He and Joshua were the two faithful spies who said, “The land is good, let’s take it.” What attracts me to Caleb is that he did not gain a place of prominence. He was not accorded special treatment for being faithful. After he gave his report, he settled back into being a regular person in the Israelite community as he had been before. Yes, he apparently continued his role as clan leader but that was a distinction he had earned before and why he was chosen to be one of the 12 spies.

For the 45 years since Israel’s rebellion, Caleb did his job, kept his assignments and played his role. No hoopla, no perks, no special treatment… Caleb is, for me, a man who kept at it. Something inside of him kept him going. Integrity, fortitude, love for God, we don’t know what precisely motivated him. And it seems that he kept at it without a hint of bitterness toward the cowards who earned Israel their 40-year desert tour!

Now as the inheritance is being given our Caleb gets his reward. At 85 he is given some of the most rugged and prized territory. How much of this territory he actual was able to enjoy we aren’t quite sure. His family certainly gained the blessing of Caleb’s faithfulness but what he enjoyed seems somewhat minimal.

Faithfulness does not necessarily equate to material/financial/personal recognition or blessing this side of eternity. Caleb kept on being faithful, because it was the right and godly thing to do. That’s what I see in the OT hero of mine.

I also notice that Caleb at 85 was up for a new challenge. He lived valiantly as long as he could. No ‘retirement’ from God’s mission for this man! I resonate with that as well…

Lord, give me a Caleb spirit… the willingness to do what is right in Your eyes, not for a reward but because it honors You. And Lord, give to me Caleb’s spirit of ‘keeping on’ as long as there is strength in my muscles and wisdom in my mind… Amen.




Tuesday, January 19, Joshua 14

Reading chapter 14 (and the next chapters because I glanced ahead) for me was like reading a will, not particularly riveting, but important. Mentally, I began to make some connections with a will.


  • A will describes your inheritance, which suggests that you part of the ‘family,’ if not by blood, certainly by love.
  • A will communicates the intentions of the will-writer. How much he/she cared is communicated in the will.
  • A will suggests forethought, a plan.
  • A will in many cases is the final word. Hopefully, it communicates love, acceptance and possibly even a final blessing.

Even if every family will does not include all these things, God’s will did and does. As I read the allotments, the inheritances, I hear Father God shouting to Israel, “You are MY family. I care for you, I love you, and I will never let you down!” As I read this ‘will’ this morning I watched as God confirmed that He did, in fact, have a plan and they were living in it right now. Nothing that happened to them was mere happenstance, a quirk of fate, but it was God’s plan and design. He planned way back with Abraham that this land would be their land. And now what He planned He was bringing to pass. I heard in the reading of this ‘will’, God saying, “Nothing you have done wrong, no failures of the past, has caused Me to stop loving you. This good land is my final blessing to you.”

Next the Lord reminded me that all of this is mine, because as a follower of Jesus, His Son, I was engrafted into Israel. As a disciple of Christ I am part of true Israel. And this is in turn for EVERYONE who believes in and follows Jesus. We are loved, accepted, cared for as family… and so much more.

This is where God took me today

[God also suggested that I put a love letter to each family member in my will… my last word of love, care, acceptance and blessing to each of my family… hmmm, a pretty good idea!]

Lord, funny I didn’t expect this kind of a feeling from reading this chapter. It was kind of dry for me but I leave the Word this morning with an overwhelming feeling and impression of being loved by You. Thank you for this touch of grace. Thank You…

I love you Father, Son, Spirit…


Monday, January 18, Joshua 13 Living young.

   The first verse of this chapter seemed to be highlighted when I began reading. It stuck in my thoughts like a splinter calling for attention. When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him, "You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over. A couple ideas circulated calling for my attention

When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him… Here is Joshua, an old man, by most reckoning he is about 100 years old, and this is the part that snagged me, God was still speaking to him! Joshua had cultivated a relationship with God that lasted throughout all his days. Even in our time we don’t hear of many 100-year old people. I’m sure the same was true back in Josh’s day. God graced him with loooong life. Josh didn’t frittered it away, he followed, he listened, he obeyed, he maintained and cultivated his relationship with the Lord. And now at 100, God was still speaking with him and using him.

“Keep at it,” the Spirit whispers into my spirit. “Bill, you have many years to go, stay close to Me, keep in touch with Me. We have many adventures ahead. I have things for you to do all the days of your life…” Thank You, Lord!

Then I listened to the last part of that verse, You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over. God doesn’t care about our age. He is interested in our heart. When most people are choosing to slow down and pass the torch to the next generation, God says to Josh, “Hey, I know you are old but there is work to do.”

As a pastor I have heard this phrase or ones like it more times than I can count, “I have served my time, let someone else do it (‘it’ being teaching Sunday School, serve as an officer, be on a team…).” It makes me cringe.

As I continue my meditations, God reminds me that my time with Him is not about “others”, it is about Him and me. “Will you, Bill, live differently? Will you, Bill, be a Joshua? Will you serve me to the end, rather than kick it into neutral and become a kingdom lump your last decades?”

Ouch… God has a way of turning the tables on me. He certainly did this morning… and now I must run to prayer…

Lord Jesus, Almighty Father, Holy Spirit… I pledge my life, my whole life to You, as long as I have breath and strength. I long to be a tool in Your hand all my days, to be a well worn and well used tool in Your hand. Lord, don’t put me in a draw or set me aside in favor of a newer model. Use me until I am used up and then take me home to be with You where my life and voice will join the throngs before Your throne praising You all the days of eternity. Lord, strengthen me to be a Joshua! Amen.


Saturday, January 16: Joshua 12: God's word is alive.

Well, I will be honest, this was not the most stimulating chapter I have ever read devotionally. Reading a list of defeated kings took awhile to find a place in my heart. It was more a list of words than thoughts or inspiration from the Lord. So I sat and thought and pondered, “Lord, what morsel from Your Word can I live on today?” Like popcorn popping, different thoughts burst alive in my thoughts:

·       Our God is a God of details.

·       It is helpful to record God’s victories in my life.

·       Each name represents a different area of and strategy for victory.

·       God is able to lead us through any challenge that comes our way.

·       Just because the task seems insurmountable at the start following God will bring small victories along the way until the task is completed.

·       No one is anonymous before God. He knows the name of everyone, those in His family and those not.

And so it went, God showing me a lesson here and a lesson there from this list of defeated kings.

It is so amazing to me how God brings His word alive, whenever I will simply sit with it and soak in it. Those last words took me back to our Rice and Beans week last November. The beans were “inedible little rocks” when I opened the bag but after the soaking/cooking process they provided much needed nourishment for the day. God’s word is best when I let it soak in my soul. When I let His precious words simmer in my life, the full richness and nourishment of the word comes out. Some chapters, like today, start out seemingly useless but as the Holy Spirit marinates it into my soul, God speaks.

Each of the bullet points I jotted down above were followed with more detail and application. I didn’t scribe all those thoughts for you. God may give you different bullets. Sit, ask God to speak, let it simmer…

God also gave me a gentle warning. I have to be careful that my morning devotions don’t become hurried and mechanical, ‘a checking off an item’ from my days’ to-do list rather than a cup of tea shared with my best friend and Lord and Savior…

How God applies His word to your life or where God takes you as you read over my shoulder and contemplate my bullet points (or your own if God raised other possibilities for you) is between God and you. May you have a wonderful ‘simmer in the kitchen’ of God’s word today.

Lord, I admit when I first glanced at Your word for today, I thought, “ugh, boring” I am thankful that You prompted me to linger and simmer. Oh, the flavors and textures of Your word and Your connection to my life. Wonderful!

Lord, Your word is alive. I re-learned that lesson for the ‘umpteenth’ time today. It is alive and active, sharper than a two-edged sword, able to separate bone and marrow, able to give apt instruction every time I sit with You and Your word. EVERY TIME.

O, Holy Spirit, thank You for Your scalpel-like precision; Your ability to take the word of the day and make it applicable to my life for the day. I bless and praise Your name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit this morning and with my life lived for You. Amen.


Friday, January 15: Joshua 11: Diligence is required.

When history is condensed, it is easy for the reader to miss the toil and sacrifice necessary to accomplish some great feat. I have heard people say that once the Allies took the beach at Normandy, World War II was ostensibly over. The march to Germany was in sight and Germany never recovered from that loss. All that was left was to liberate Europe in route to Berlin. Historically that maybe true but condensing the European theater of World War II does not do justice to the time and sacrifice of hundreds of thousands soldiers who gave their lives to secure the ultimate victory for the Allies.

This chapter is a bit like my overly brief condensation of World War II. It details the outcome but not the sacrifice and strife to win it. Verse 18 provides one glimmer of the magnitude of what was described in this chapter, Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time. Those final 4 words say much.

There are few time markers in this portion of Joshua but don’t be fooled. Years passed. Remember the eastern Jordan (sometimes called the Transjordanian) Tribes? They left families and livestock unprotected until they returned. That’s sacrifice. And even the tribes that crossed the Jordan, where have all the families been living? Who has been tending the flocks while the men are away on this lengthy war campaign?

It is easy when reading highlights of God’s amazing faithfulness to get the wrong picture… that is was easy for Israel to follow the Lord. Rarely, if ever, so.

Following God faithfully takes sacrifice, diligence, determination, fortitude, stick-to-it-ness, vigilance, and constant obedience. Ask yourself how many times the Israeli soldiers needed to burn and destroy some piece of booty that would have looked great in their tent, yet God said totally destroy everything?

Living day to day with Jesus takes this same kind of determination and effort. Every day the Lord has things for me (you) to do. The job never seems to end. Obedience and diligence is constantly required, that is what the Lord spoke to my heart today as I spent time in His word. I have to be prepared to follow faithfully for a long time!

Jesus, give me strength to stay the course so that I arrive at Your final destination for me. Jesus, I am Yours. I swore allegiance to You decades ago and hopefully we have decades to go. Give me strength to follow You diligently. Amen.


Thursday, January 14: Joshua 10: God wins.


This breathtaking chapter condenses time and many battles into a brief narrative, showing that God is in control. In the center of the chapter is the amazing account where God alters the routine of evening and morning by allowing the sun to remain in the sky throughout a full day evening and day again. God does this so that His army can totally destroy an attacking pact of nations.

From the human vantage point, creating an alliance to increase forces in order to defeat invading Israel was a stroke of genius. Unfortunately, the wisdom of man is no match for the wisdom and might of Almighty God. For the Lord this alliance simply enabled Israel to defeat 5 kingdom cities in one battle, multiplying Israel’s (i.e. God’s) military effectiveness. In order to get the job done, God slides His hand into the universe, holding the sun in place when it should have set.

We serve a mighty God! Even the laws of the universe obey Him! What an encouragement that must have been for the army of Israel. I cannot even imagine what that would do for the moral of those opposing Israel. It could even be said that that miraculous and decisive defeat created a plague of despair that allowed Israel to slice through the southern kings with ease.

Thoughts spring around my mind. First what the enemy meant for harm, God changed to produce good. The enemy thought multiplying numbers would defeat Israel but God used it to establish His name and provide a decisive victory! God affects outcomes. Learn that lesson well.

Secondly, God works all things for the good for those who follow Him. Paul says it masterfully in Romans 8:28, We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. This chapter is an amazing illustration of that truth.

Lastly, I am reminded that God wins. No matter the seeming odds against God and His people, God wins. It is true in this reading and it will be true when Jesus returns to restore all things, to defeat the enemy for all time, and to establish His kingdom for eternity. God wins! May that give faith and courage to you and me as we live this day for Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords…

O, God, today or tomorrow I will face a situation that looks impossible. It may be an internal issue of sin that I deal with or it may be a spiritual issue in my workplace. Whatever it may be, I can grow disheartened. I can become faint and prone to give up, to not pursue You or Your will in the situation. Remind me what Joshua faced.  Remind me that when I am doing Your bidding, no enemy is too big, no time to short and no odds against are to high to thwart Your will from being done. Yes, You win! Alleluia, Amen!



Wednesday, January 13: Joshua 9: Running through stop signs.


Driving metaphors abound as I read this chapter. Another one that came to mind was “failing to yield.” Joshua, in particular, is the culprit in missing the Lord’s will on this one.

The Gibeonites, fearing for their lives, create an elaborate and effective rouse. They were shrewd. Joshua was not discerning. He didn’t perform his ‘due diligence.’ He didn’t listen to the counsel of others…

Verse 7 caught my attention. For all the times I have read this chapter, this is the first time I recall this slice of the story. The men of Israel said to the Hivites, "But perhaps you live near us. How then can we make a treaty with you?" The men of Israel smelled something fishy and they voiced their intuition but Joshua paid no attention. God alerted Israel to the Gibeonites’ (or Hivites’) deceptive plan but they paid no never-mind. They, particularly Joshua, failed to yield and ran the stop sign and they paid for it.

Last Saturday, I wrote about listening and following (I am still receiving my emails daily reminding me about that devotion). Well listening is precisely what Joshua and the Israelites neglected to do in this chapter. God was speaking but they weren’t listening.

Well, Lord, I guess You have a lesson that I need to learn that I am not learning very quickly. LISTEN and then follow. It starts with LISTENING. That is what Joshua didn’t do. He was impulsive and maybe too trusting. You offered a caution but he didn’t take it. O, Jesus, do I do the same…??? Do I run through Your promptings and miss Your way. Help me, Jesus, to pay more attention to the Holy Spirit’s voice within. Show me those areas and times when I am most vulnerable to miss Your voice. Teach me, Lord. Teach me that I might be a well trained soldier in Your army, ready to do Your bidding at a moments notice. Amen.


Tuesday, January 12: Joshua 8 The irony of obedience.


Yesterday’s reading was a disaster caused by disobedience. One soldier saw something he ‘had to have’ and against orders stole it. In this morning’s reading I observed irony. If Achan had waited one more battle, only a few days, he would have had what he coveted without penalty. In fact, it would have come as a gift from God’s hand. Verse 27, But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the LORD had instructed Joshua.

After delivering Achan’s just punishment and cleansing Israel of the stain of sin, Joshua takes the army to defeat and capture Ai. After that victory the soldiers were given the spoils of war, anything of value in the city was theirs for the carrying. Had Achan controlled his covetousness for one more battle…

Such is the irony of obedience. If we will obey and wait, God will provide that which we need. Sometimes what we need and what we want differ, don’t confuse the two.

Lord, the lesson of obedience can be difficult to learn. In my world of instant gratification, I am trained to want things now. Waiting can be difficult and often waiting is one aspect of obedience. Help me learn to wait so that I may be more obedient to You and Your voice in the future than I am today. Serving and loving Jesus, I am Your child and I pray in Jesus’ name…



SIDE BAR: An extra thought from 8:30-35…

I was amazed by the ending of chapter 8. After their second victory, just when Israel is getting on a military roll… Joshua orders a pause. They assemble on Mt Ebul,  build an altar according the instructions given by Moses, offer sacrifices in the presence of the Ark (God’s fingerprint, if you will, among His people), Joshua copies the law in front of all the people, and then finally he reads the Law to all present.

This is an amazing pause of remembrance, and recognition that it was the Lord leading them NOT the strength of their army or the skill of their fighting.

We would all be wiser if we paused occasionally, particularly after a good deal is struck or something we are working on goes according to plan, to remember that God was there behind and before us causing these good things to happen…


Monday, January 11: Joshua 7: It didn't take long.


It didn’t take long for the selfishness and sinfulness of humankind to raise its ugly head. Three million or so people, hundred’s of thousands of fighting men, one man secretly sins during the first battle and the entire army and nation pays. Ouch.

What lessons am I hearing in my soul?

First, sin is pervasive. Be on the alert! It is easy to let my guard down and as soon as I do, sin creeps in. It was Achan in this story. It could have been Joan in another story or Bill in the next battle. I have to watch my life, even when God is providing victory and success. I imagine that Achan returned to his tent with those stolen items after a GREAT victory and said two things, “We won, it was amazing.” And “I brought these home, slipped them away and no one noticed.” I wonder what Achan might, and other guys who might have seen him have done during the next battle?

Two, maybe no one else knew what Achan did, but GOD knew. We think what we do is a secret but God knows. Whether it ever comes out into the light and is exposed or not, God knows. (And very often it does come out into the light… Bernie Madof, Tiger Woods…) God telegraphs me the message, “I know, I have seen, I will judge.”

Three, sin has communal effects, it is not solely personal. As I consider this story I am realizing that sin has a communal affect. I haven’t considered every sin but since lives touch lives, which touch more lives, the ripples of sin spread beyond ourselves and affect others. The more I think about it, the more I come to the belief that sin’s effect is never solely individual. The thief takes something from someone else. The liar’s words damage someone else. The adulterer crushes trust in a marriage. And so the ripples go. Achan’s sin resulted in 36 deaths.

Four, when we believe we are doing God’s will and things go terribly wrong, stop and ask… 1) “Lord, did I hear you correctly?” Maybe it wasn’t God’s will in the first place but our overactive imagination. 2) “Lord, have I sinned (or someone on the team sinned)?”

Holy Spirit, Jesus, Holy Father, there seems to be so much I can learn from this failure at Ai, things I can learn about myself and about life. Continue to teach me. To show me Your ways. Hold up Your mirror that I might see within my soul. Lord, the clearer I see my true self, the more I realize how much I need You. Jesus, thank You for atoning for my sins. Holy Spirit, thank You for applying the blood of Jesus to my sins. Holy Father, thank You for loving me so much You sent Jesus in the first place… Amen.



Saturday, January 9: Joshua 6 Word keeping.

The miraculous nature of the defeat of Jericho is a prominent feature of the account. In verse 2, God says, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” And God is true to His word. There is no way to spin the taking of Jericho to be a feat of human achievement. It is a ‘God-thing’ from beginning to end. We serve a mighty God who deserves honor and praise.

‘Serve’ is an important word in the sentence above. The taking of Jericho is a ‘God-thing’ and yet, at the same time, the Lord chose to partner with the army of Israel to win the battle and defeat Jericho. Often that is how God works in life. He partners with us to work His will. I would go so far as to say, most often God chooses to work through His people to bring about His will. Two thoughts spin from these threads.

First, we need to be listening to and following the Lord. On this day, the Lord’s plan was humanly reckless and crazy because exposing one’s forces for 6 days could be a disaster. But not so when that is what God directs. There will be other battles where God sends out His army in more conventional battle arrays, even employing deception and ambush. But that was not for today. God was doing much more that defeating one kingdom-city. God was terrorizing an entire land, so He chose an outlandish battle plan. Joshua needed to listen and follow.

Lord, as I go through today and this week, help me to listen and follow Your lead, whatever that might be…

Secondly, I noticed that Joshua was a man of his word. The spies cut a deal with Rahab to save their lives and Joshua was determined to fulfill Israel’s end of the deal. So he assigns the two spies to go into the rubble of a city and rescue Rahab and family. That may not be as easy as it sounds, depending upon where the spies were when the wall fell. Be that as it may, Joshua was determined to be a man of his word and he put a workable plan in place to fulfill his word. Joshua didn’t leave the fulfilling of his word to happenstance; he created a plan to fulfill it.

Here is where God turned the light on for me. I cannot, nor should not, treat my word frivolously. Being a man of my word takes planning, effort and often forethought. If I say I will be at a meeting, I better get it in my PDA. If I owe someone money, I need to write the check in a timely fashion. If I pledge to listen to and follow God “today and this week” as I did above, then I need to create some kind of reminder to ramp up my intentionality in doing so. (Writing these thoughts I never expected that God would use that brief prayer above as such an ‘in my face’ teaching moment, but alas He has. That is one of the things I appreciate about the Lord, He will hold me accountable. And yet He does so with tremendous love).

So Lord, I blustered earnestly but without much forethought that I would go through today and this week paying particular attention to Your voice and following Your lead. Now I hear You saying, “Okay, Bill, what’s your plan to ramp up your intentionality to do this” I am feeling convicted right now, Lord, so here is my plan. It is not fancy. It is a sticky note on my computer reading “Listen and Follow” and a series of emails set to automatically arrive daily to my inbox with the same words.

Lord, thank You for teaching me this lesson. Words are important! Continue teaching me that my word needs to be my bond… in BIG and small ways that my word needs to be my bond. I can only live this way with Your help, Lord, and intentionality on my part. Thanks for teaching me this lesson again this morning… AMEN.



Friday, January 8: Joshua 5 The Passover.

Having crossed the Jordan in dramatic fashion, the Israelites circumcised all who were not yet circumcised (ouch). Then the Passover was celebrated for the first time in the Promised Land. The next day the manna stopped as Israel dined on the produce of the Land for the first time. All of this was a powerful prelude to the taking of the Land and the receiving of their inheritance from the Lord.

Yesterday, I commented about remembering and retelling, finding ways to retell, remember and relive what God has done in the past. Today, I found myself thinking about the Passover, which was Israel’s most powerful celebration of remembering, reliving, and retelling the wonders of God. I found myself musing over the different ‘flavors’ of three notable Passover celebrations.

Flavor one is the initial Passover. Curiosity and wonder must have certainly swirled that night. Nine plagues had struck Egypt; the last few plagues struck only the Egyptians not the Israelites. And then Moses orders the sacrificing of a lamb as families gathered, ready to leave at a moments notice. They ate unleaven bread and Passover Lamb. I tried to imagine what it would have been like in a typical family. No expectation, per se, since there was no history for this celebration. The first Passover was a blank slate but clearly God was on the move. Add expectation and excitement to the list of emotions.

Now poised during their first nights in the land, the Israelites remember that night 40 years ago when the journey to freedom began. Again they know God is on the move. God had just replicated the crossing of the Red Sea as He parted the Jordan and allowed this new generation to see His hand moving for themselves. Jericho is on the horizon, food abounds all around them. The promises of God are coming true! I imagine more wonder and excitement mixed with the thrill of witnessing a major miracle. The sweet taste of a promise, about to be realized, is flavor number 2.

My mind flashed to Jesus in an upper room with his disciples. The atmosphere charged with anticipation. For weeks Jesus has been a man on a mission, his face like flint bent on Jerusalem. Opposition is increasing as well. The signs of a coming storm abound. God is on the move. Then in a stunning change to thousands of years of ritual and tradition, Jesus spoke words that echo in the church to this day, “This is my body, This is my blood.” He was becoming the Passover Lamb. More excitement, move wonder, more curiosity. Yes, God was on the move.

The Passover morphs into the Lord’s Table.  It is a time for retelling, reliving and remembering the many ways the Lord God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has acted, is acting, and will act to preserve and prepare His people.

O, God, I revel in the wonders of Your actions this morning. You are the God who acts, the God who saves, who cares, who loves, who redeems. I bless and thank You for being You and for placing in my life these tangible ways to remember all You have done… I am blessed to be your child…

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty the King of creation…



Joshua 4 Remembering.


Bracketing the account of crossing the Jordan River is a story that recounts the taking of 12 stones from the dry riverbed and building an altar with them in Gilgal, where Israel camped after crossing the Jordan. There is subtle symbolism in the story; 12 stones, chosen and carried by a leader from each of the 12 tribes. From the outset, this altar was designed to spark the corporate memory of the entire nations. Joshua even provides a bit of a script, verse 21: Joshua said to the Israelites, "In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, 'What do these stones mean?' Tell them about this miracle, continues Joshua.

Remembering and passing along the wonderful things God has done is a key component in building a strong faith-life. We humans often have short memories, especially when it comes to the blessings of God. Joshua models remembering for us. He creates something tangible that will raise questions, which opens the door to retelling and retelling the story of God’s wonder and awe.

·       Some people give Bibles, inscribed with a person’s new birth date on the title page… a physical remembering.

·       Our church has a book in which people can write the story of God’s intervention in their lives. Not long ago Susan and I put in the story of our son’s healing from a tragic fall last summer… another tangible remembering.

Like the Passover celebration, which is designed to peak the curiosity of youngsters, and give adults the perfect opportunity to tell the story of God’s goodness and salvation, the altar raises questions which invites older generations to tell younger ones what God has done… remembering, passing along the stories of God’s touch in our lives.

Lord, help me to be better at remembering and retelling the wonders of Your works in my life. Lord, it is good for my soul and it is a natural way I can tell and retell Your stories and the things You have done to those who come after me…

Jesus, Your story never grows old, it is never ‘out of date’ or old fashioned. Help me to tell and relive the ways You have touched my life for as long as I live… amen.


Joshua 3 What a day!


As I read, I tried to imagine what it would have been like to be there to watch the water stop flowing. Honestly, it is beyond my abilities. I have never seen a miracle that compares with this one.

One feature of the story that is powerful for me is that Joshua told the people it would happen before it happened. Now that is a sure sign that God is at work.

This story and others like it are so good for my faith. They remind me that the God I follow and serve is not divorced from this world. It reminds me that He can and does enter this world. He even suspends physical laws, sometimes, for the sake of His people when He deems it important, necessary, or wants an occasion to display His grace and mercy. And even though I haven’t seen miracles like this, friends from around the world have. The Lord God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is an awesome God to follow and serve.

God, thank You for willingly entering into the world, our world, my world, with Your grace, mercy, power and miracles. Who else is like You? To whom else could I turn? Thank You for this demonstration of Your power. I submit and surrender to You. Lead me, Jesus, as You led Joshua and Your Old Testament people… Amen.


Joshua 2 Learn from past mistakes and trust God to bring about what He has promised.


Learn from past mistakes and trust God to bring about what He has promised…

Reading this chapter sparked two thoughts, the first is very practical, learn from past mistakes. I noticed an intriguing word in verse 1. Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. "Go, look over the land," he said, "especially Jericho." … I remembered that Moses sent spies, into the land too but he did so with pomp and circumstance, choosing a leader/representative from each tribe. The result was, that upon their return they gave a report to everyone and since it was a fear-filled report the people’s heart melted. The damage was done… 40 years of wandering resulted. Joshua learned from Moses’ mistake and sent the spies secretly. NO matter what their report, only he would know. Then as leader, he would make the resulting decision… a different tactic. It seems Joshua, knowing the people, chose a different approach as he set himself to accomplish God’s command. Learning from past failures is key to growing in Christ and living effectively. 40 years Joshua watched and learned from Moses. Who is mentoring you…???

The second thought grew from verses 11-12. When God issues a call or has something for us to do, God is already at work in ways we may not be able to see. God is already at work preparing for His task to be accomplish. Talking with Rahab, the spies learn that the people of Jericho live in fear of attack… We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 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. Think about it, these people are repeating the story of the parting of the Red Sea which happened 40 years ago. The great things the Lord had done for His people are being told and retold by the people of the land who wait anxiously for Israel to attack. God had been at work all those 40 years. Sadly 40 years earlier the Israelites, who could not see the work God was doing, chose not to act faithfully, instead they acted fearfully and wandered the desert for 40 years as a result.

When God puts some action in our lives, we have to step out in faith. It is only as/when we step out that we learn if it is of God or not. Our risk is, “Have I heard God correctly?” There will always be this risk because that is what faith is about. Last November I took a risk to rally our church to eat a subsistence diet of rice and beans for a week and to donate their normal food spending to build a greenhouse in Africa. Was it merely a crazy plan I dreamt up in my head or was it a leading from God? I sought some counsel but ultimately only by stepping out would I know. It was from God because the fruit proved that and over $12,000 was given to provide sustainable food source to missionary friends in Africa. God had been at work and God produced the fruit.

O Lord, help me to trust You when I believe that You are leading, to step out in faith even when it feels a bit crazy or foolish. And help me, Jesus, to take kingdom risks, to learn and grow and become more effective. But Jesus, it is never about how good or how much I have learned. It is always about how closely I follow You, who is always right and always comes through, accomplishing what You want to accomplish. Lead on Jesus, lead on… and I will follow…



Joshua 1 The Lord is with us.

Every year seems to bring with it surprises, ups and downs, twists and turns. I have no idea what 2010 bring, but this I know: the Lord God is with me (us).

Reading this chapter, I was attracted to verse 5b: As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. God’s promise to Joshua, in particular, caught my attention. God promises to be with him, to never leave nor forsake him. This is the third time God makes that promise to Joshua (see Deuteronomy 31:6 & 8).

Hebrews 13:5 applies God’s promise to Joshua to us. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Just as Moses trusted God to be with him and guide him (even after he sinned, by the way), just as Joshua trusted God to be victorious as they moved into and conquered the Promised Land, so we can trust God and to be content with whatever comes our way. That’s what God is reminding me today as I sit with Him.

I don’t know what 2010 will bring, but I do know that the Lord God will not leave nor forsake me. I know that Jesus will be with me, even to the very end of the age (Mt 28:20). And because Jesus is with me I need not fear. Whatever 2010 brings, God will be with me!

Father, Holy Spirit, Jesus, it is incredibly comforting to know and to be reminded that You will never leave nor forsake me. Lord, help me to remember this especially if 2010 brings some hard times and tough experiences.

Lord, remind me of this prayer and Your presence during the good times ahead, as well, because in good times I am often very quick to think it is a result of my goodness rather than Your presence, grace and mercy.

Lord, I move into this year delighting that You are with me because You are the difference maker in my life. I love You, Lord, and pledge to walk with You, honoring You as Lord and Savior of my life. Amen.