Life Verses – Fear Not

 

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Fear. Perhaps that is one of the strongest emotions we experience. We might be fearful for our very lives. We could be fearful of a disease or the fear of failing. We might fear non-acceptance. Anything out of our control can bring us fear.

My family moved about every two years when I was growing up. My dad’s work moved us to different cities and states. I eventually realized that I had to dig in and make new friends each time. In one of our houses, I had an upstairs bedroom. As an only child, I was afraid to go up the dark stairs to turn on the lights at night. My dad would say “I’ll hold out my hand.” Amazingly, I found strength in him simply holding out his hand. I would look down from the upper steps and see that he still had his hand out.

Years later, when I prepared to go off to Georgetown College, I felt excited, but felt a bit fearful of the unknown. My dad’s hand would no longer be visible. 

My youth director at church gave me a verse to take along.

For I the Lord Thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, “Fear not; I will help thee.” Isaiah 41:13 KJV

That’s a nice little verse, I thought. I decided to make a small colorful poster out of it to hang in my dorm room.

It wasn’t long until I began making use of that verse. I was terribly naive. In some relations where I thought I was helping to pull someone up, I began to realize they were pulling me down. “Fear not,  I will help you,” the Lord said.  

The school work load, social activities, and  rehearsals overwhelmed me. Then, as I was preparing to lead the dorm devotion, the words came again—The Lord says, “Fear not, I will help you.”

In my junior year, a frightening experienced happened. I thought of my verse once again. I will hold (KJV) your right hand. The word “hold” caught my attention. Not grab, but hold. I reasoned that I must place my hand in his open, willing hand.  

Earlier in that chapter and in many other verses, we hear of God’s righteous right hand. No offence to you lefties, but we see many attributes to the right hand, the strongest hand (at least for right-handed people.) We eat with that hand, write, point, shake hands, open a bottle, wave, turn pages, and on it goes. It is the stronger hand that he offers us in times of fear.

On through my life, I have often returned to that verse. Thus I claim it as one of my life verses and have passed it on to my college grandkids.

May you find it helpful on your life journey.

~ Joyce ~

Life Verses – John 3:16

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We’re moving from Joshua to new territory. In the next few blogs, I plan to share what I call “life verses.” That is, verses that have played a  particular role in my life experiences.

I begin with John 3:16. Probably no other verse is more widely known than this one. We don’t even have to mention the first few words to recognize the verse. If you’ve been in church for any length of time, you likely know the verse strictly by its reference—John 3:16.

We’ve seen it on billboards, even across Tim Teebow’s forehead. It’s the gospel message all in one verse. It tells what God has done for us and what he expects of us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 KJV

At least, that’s how many of us learned it many years ago.

Do you know the circumstances of the context of this verse? Do you know that these are Jesus’ words? Do you know to whom he was talking when he said this? Do you know what the “for” is for at the beginning of the verse? Well, let’s break it down.

The setting is a nighttime discussion with the Pharisee, Nicodemus. (Warning! Sales pitch coming!) For more information on Nicodemus, order A Heart for Truth by Joyce Cordell. (smiley face)

                 

At this point, Nicodemus is not a believer, but a seeker. Jesus teaches him about being born again, not physically, but spiritually, in the inner man.

Jesus mentions an Old Testament incident to Nicodemus where Moses had lifted up a rod with a snake carved on the end. The people were being bitten by snakes, but if they looked up at the rod they would be healed. Jesus went on to say,

 

“…so the Son of Man must be lifted up, [on the cross] that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. [ThusFor God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:14-16 NIV

One of my pastors gave a meaningful, easy-to-remember  description of this verse. First, we see two things about God. God loved us, his creation, and God gave us his Son. Then, two things about ourselves. If we believe in that Son, we will have eternal life.

To put it simply—God loved, God gave. If we believe, we receive.

For my life application: I was eight years old when I believed  that Jesus died for me. It was an innocent, childlike faith, but sincere. I was not a bold-faced, long-time sinner, but I knew that I wanted to be guided by God. It was a beginning. As I have aged and experienced earthly life with him, it makes me look forward to forever life with him.

Do you have a story to go with John 3:16? 

~ Joyce ~

Joshua – Final Reflections

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Well, faithful readers, I realized that we started this venture into the book of Joshua back in June. If you’ve hung in with me that long, thank you. 

We come now to a very difficult aspect of God’s plan to understand. That little piece of land that we now call Israel, has long been the land God told Abraham he would inherit. The land was promised, thus the Promised Land. 

 

Early on, when Joseph brought the family to Egypt to survive the famine, they stayed over 400 years. God provided the way for them to return. However, in that time, other people groups had come in and inhabited the land, Canaanites, Amorites, and all the other “ites.” These were idol worshipers, not God-fearing people, not one-God believers.

God determined that Joshua be the commander to conquer the land and God would be with them. That sounds noble. Sure enough, God gave the instructions to march around Jericho and with a shout,

… the walls collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and took the city. Joshua 6:20b

And somehow that sounds  noble, until we consider what happened.

They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys. Joshua 6:21

I picture women running and screaming, children crying, men grabbing their swords, and animals making frantic bleating and roaring sounds, not to mention blood everywhere. It makes “taking the city” not seem quite so noble.

In our post-Jesus world, we find it difficult to understand this kind of a command. No wonder that God urged Joshua to “be strong and courageous.”

There would come a time, centuries later, when they stayed in a disobedient attitude for too long and were exiled from their precious land into Babylonia.

Still, God chose these people, fickle though they were at times, to be the ones to carry His laws and His love to all the world. They must understand God’s power, His omnipotence, His demand to worship no other gods, even as they rested in His provisions for them.

We would do well to grasp more of His Sovereignty ourselves. (Notice the word reign in that word.) Unless we behold and obey Him, we too could fall into self-centered life-styles, shifting attitudes of disobedience, failing to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and failing to love our neighbors as ourselves—the essence of God’s Ten Commandments, which Jesus repeated.

Joshua would end up following God’s command and continued taking over other towns and cities with God’s help until they were finally able to establish twelve areas for the twelve tribes. You will find all of that in the latter chapters of Joshua.

Joshua died at age 110. 

Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel. Joshua 24:31

Well done, good and faithful servant.

~ Joyce ~

 

Joshua – Day Seven

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At last—day seven! The armed men and priests have walked around Jericho for six days. (See “Joshua – Keep Walking“) Now, the day they have been waiting for arrives.

They get up at daybreak to be ready for their longer day, the day of triumph.

Last week, we tried to imagine what might be their thoughts as they marched from day one to day six. This week, let’s ponder what the people of Jericho might have been thinking. 

“What are those people doing, marching around our city? Man the walls. Weapons ready. Protect the city!”

“Is that it? Are they just going to walk and leave?” “Here they come again.” “All they know how to do is walk and blow those noisy horns.”

By day seven, “It’s them again. They’ll just march around and be gone. Go on with your work.”

However, on day seven, they march a second time and a third time. The people of Jericho begin to realize that this is not just “once around and be gone.” They likely are getting more worried with every trip around. “What are they up to?”

             

The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! Only Rahab and all in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. Joshua 6:16-17

I’ve wondered before whether all the marching of so many feet for hours each day, and the seven-time trip on day seven, would surely shake up the earth around the walls, a unique physical thing the Lord used. No matter how the Lord did it, the people were faithful and gave that final SHOUT!

… the wall collapsed. So every man charged straight in and took the city. Joshua 6:20b

The people had been faithful to follow God’s directions even if it seemed strange and lengthy. Then, on cue, just as he said, they had victory with a SHOUT!

In our day, I think of the office worker who has faithfully behaved in such a way that his fellow worker knows he is a believer. He even mentions a verse now and then that helps his friend along the way or tells of an experience when he felt God’s direction. Then one day (shout), the friend asks a faith question that opens the way for a full witness!

Or here’s the parents who have agonized over the behavior of their teenager. A counselor gives them advice that seems useless, but they try, praying as they go. They don’t see immediate results. It’s like they are walking in the same circles getting nowhere, but they stay the course faithfully, then (shout), the Lord opens a door of great improvement!

Perhaps your challenge is with yourself. Do that thing which he has laid on your heart. As we said last week, keep walking, stay faithful. Your day to shout victory will come!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Joshua – Keep Walking

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Joshua has explained at least day one to the people. (See “Joshua – The Plan“) So they are ready to walk all the way around the walled city of Jericho.

Over the centuries, more then one city was built and rebuilt in that area. The tell or hill that is there now is about 400 yards by 200 yards. That could make their walk somewhere around twelve football fields.

Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark, while the trumpets kept sounding. Joshua 6:12-13

 Perhaps this visual will help.

ARMED GUARD

REAR GUARD

Quite a processional. When they left Egypt years ago, they had 600,000 men. Of course most died in the desert, but over 40 years many were born and many boys grew up. We are likely talking about several hundreds of thousands of men. By the time the last few made it around, it may have taken a good chunk of that first day. 

Joshua had commanded the people,

“Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout.” Joshua 6:10

With that huge crowd, no doubt there were a few whispers. Wouldn’t you love to hear the comments as the women and children sat nearby watching? 

“Mama, what if they throw rocks at our men over that big wall?” “Don’t worry, sweetheart, God will protect them.”

Or what might the soldiers be saying?

“What kind of battle plan is this anyway?” “We must trust Joshua. God speaks to him just as he did to Moses.”

“I wish we were farther back in line. The constant sound of those ram’s horns are driving me crazy.” “I think it’s to intimidate the people of Jericho.”

For most, though, it was likely an exciting adventure, new and fresh. On the second day, they knew what to expect and perhaps felt more comfortable with the procedure. The third day they had it down pat. The fourth day—”We’re doing this again?”

The fifth day—”How many days are we doing this?” “Once around the city for six days.”

The sixth day—”Finally. Let’s be done with it.”

Have you ever felt like that? You work at a task faithfully, get into the grove of it, perfect it, and then begin to tire of it. What if it’s something God has led you to do? Can you keep the momentum going? Are you fighting what has now become a battle of fatigue?

ARE YOU SO BUSY THAT YOU ONLY GET A GLIMPSE OF GOD INSTEAD OF GAZING AT GOD?

It may be that you need some deep prayer time, purposeful quiet time, renewal time with God. His power is close at hand, ready for you so you can keep walking.

~ Joyce ~

Joshua – The Plan

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Now we begin probably your favorite part of Joshua’s calling—conquering the walls of Jericho.

Joshua had begun to scout out the nearest Canaanite stronghold—Jericho. As he goes, he is confronted by a man with a drawn sword. He realizes this is a messenger from God.

Joshua fell down and asked,

“What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army said, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” Joshua 5:14b-15

          

Where have we heard that before? As close as Joshua was to Moses, I think we can imagine Moses telling  his story to Joshua of the time when the Lord spoke through the burning bush. Moses had the Pharaoh to deal with, Joshua has a city!

He has already surveyed this tightly walled city—thick walls that is. The Israelites have no heavy equipment to forge their way in. So here’s the plan:

The Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” Joshua 6:2

Great!

“March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of ram’s horns in front of the ark. Joshua 6:3-4a

Say what?

“On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.” Joshua 6:4b-5

 You’ve got to be kidding!

Well, this may not be what Joshua said or even thought about these instructions, but in later verses, he seems to give instructions only one day at a time. I suppose Joshua thinks that’s all they can manage.

Sometimes the Lord gives us instructions that are challenging. I have fretted over the editing of my manuscript. Do I have it professionally edited?. What about publishing? And then there’s the marketing. God said, “Trust me. Think, ‘What is the next thing that needs to be done?’ Take that one step as I lead you.” Two weeks later, I received a free four-session video set called “Getting Unstuck!” from a publisher. 

A friend has cancer. She went through treatments before and did well, but his time she has opted not to have treatments. She’s making her funeral arrangements. “This feels weird,” she says, but she’s found some surprising joys and peace in this process.

My daughter woke up in the middle of the night thinking of a friend from childhood who is a missionary in Turkey. The Holy Spirit gave her a strong conviction that she should send an email of encouragement. Though not knowing anything specific, she obediently obeyed. The friend sobbed saying it was very timely.

Sometimes God gives us unusual commands. His plans are always best, even if they sometimes feel weird. Are you listening? Are you seeking?

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

Joshua – New ways

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The children of Israel have built their stone memorial to remember the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River. They have settled in Gilgal, which interestingly enough means “circle of stones.”  (See “Joshua – Remembering“)

In addition to encouraging the Israelites, God had in mind to impact the people of this new land.

He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might fear the Lord your God. Joshua 4:24

Do you remember how the news of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea had had a powerful effect on Rahab who helped Joshua’s spies? Now to hear this news so close to home would really have the people of Jericho nervous. Not only them—

Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites. Joshua 5:1

The young men in the Hebrew camp needed to understand their heritage and be dedicated to bravely defend their sacred duty as God’s chosen people. Those who had been born in the desert had not been circumcised, the mark of every male who was a son of Abraham. This procedure held them down a few days while they healed. New ways.

The people had not celebrated Passover since they were in the desert, another new thing for the younger ones.

Remember that all through the desert, God had provided manna for them, their only food. 

The day after the Passover, they ate some of the produce of the land; unleavened bread and roasted grain. Joshua 5:11

          

Wouldn’t you love to see they’re faces with the first taste? Wouldn’t you like to hear their comments? Did they love it? How did they feel when they realized that their food would no longer fall from heaven? They would have to seek it out, grow it, and harvest it. More new ways.

We’re facing new ways, aren’t we? We’re learning to take our masks every time we go out. We’re conscious of staying six feet apart, sanitizing, and seeing empty waiting rooms at the doctor’s office. New ways often tax us because we like the familiar. 

Let’s admit it, even before the pandemic, we liked our routines and had a struggle at times adjusting to new patterns or life changes. We might move to a new city or struggle with a teenager. Perhaps we find ourselves in the hospital or lose a spouse. We may not like changes at church or feel frustrated with a job.

New ways require patience and perseverance. Hm, sounds like something from Romans.

…we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 6:3-5 

~ Joyce ~

  

Joshua – Remembering

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The tribes of Israel saw the power of God when the Red Sea parted. Now their descendants have seen the parting of the Jordan River at flood stage. (See “Joshua – Crossing the River“)

When monumental things happen in our lives, we want to do something to remember. We may take pictures or videos, give special gifts, write a letter, record it in our journal, or even make a statue of historical happenings—anything to remember this special event.

That’s exactly what God wanted Joshua to do after the children of Israel walked on dry land through the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Each tribe sent a representative to Joshua and he gave them these twelve men instructions from the Lord,

“Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder to serve as a sign among you.” Joshua 4:5-6a

          

These aren’t little rocks to hold in one hand. I imagine we’re talking about stones that are much larger than a basketball! They were to bring the stones to Gilgal, their first settlement when they crossed over the river. 

The four priests remained in the middle of the Jordan until the twelve representatives retrieved their stones and left.

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Command the priests carrying the ark of the Testimony to come up out of the Jordan.” No sooner had they set their feet on dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before. Joshua 4:15, 18b

So what’s with the stones? Just as we make our videos, or statues are erected, or gravestones are put in place, we do these things to remember the person or the event or the historical significance. 

Joshua set up the twelve stones and said,

“These will serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” Joshua 4:6-7

The Covid-19 virus has certainly been an historic event in our time, affecting our whole country and the whole world for that matter. What will we designate as a remembrance? Pictures of having to look through a glass at our new grandbabies or older loved ones in assisted living facilities? Friendships deepened with those we have helped with grocery shopping, phone calls, or zoom Sunday School lessons?

Have some learned to home school their children? Or have greater appreciation of teachers? Have things around the house benefited from over-due projects?

If I get my book published by the end of the year, that will be my memorial of extra hours available during this time!

If someone asks you about your rock memorial, what do you want them to remember?

~ Joyce ~

 

Joshua – Crossing the River

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The time has come. The people watch in reverence and silence as the priests step in unison carrying the ark of the covenant. It is the sign! They wait patiently as it passes through the camp. They know when it reaches the front, they will wait until the ark is a certain distance beyond them, and then the movement will begin, tribe by tribe.

Usually, the Jordan River is not particularly deep, but the spring rains and the melting snow from Mount Hermon have caused the river to be at flood stage. As they walk closer to the river, those toward the front begin to see the rushing water. The younger ones have never seen this much water. Imagine the fear in their hearts.

        

Think about the priests. They guardedly carry the ark, being careful not to stumble. A pole runs through two rings on each side of the ark. The four men each grasp the poles at the ends. The ark itself is not to be touched. If the ark falls toward one man, touching him, the man will die.

Imagine their fear as they approach the surging river. They have been instructed that,

… as soon as the priests set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap. Joshua 3:13

Wow, sounds like the Red Sea miracle. Evidently God decided the younger ones needed the same assurance of His presence and power.

But just think about these priests. The miracle doesn’t happen until the first two put their feet in the water, all the while balancing the ark! We are talking about faith and steadiness of hand, not to mention trusting the Lord to support and guide. Makes my hands sweat just thinking about it.

Sometimes in life we find ourselves carrying a load, trying to balance it with other things going on. At times we have to manage the load with other people. It calls for steadfast faith. It may even call for trust beyond our knowing. Can you trust God with it?

The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. Joshua 3:17

The priests made it! Let’s watch the people as they pass through. There is the grandfather who, just last night, taught his family about the time when he walked through the Red Sea. With tears of joy, he touches his heart with one hand and raises the other in praise to God.

       

Over there is the father who is suddenly a child again gawking at the wall of water—just like he remembered it so long ago.

And here is the child, his face filled with wonder as he realizes those stories he heard over and over were really true. His eyes dart from water to dry land to the ark that represents the God of miracles!

~ Joyce ~

 

Joshua – Pause and Reflect

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As we pause with the children of Israel who have now made it to the Jordan River, (See Joshua – Get Ready! Click on BLOG), let us reflect on the journey that these people have traveled for forty long years.

Can you imagine the excitement they must feel as they consecrate themselves for this momentous occasion?  Remember that after Joshua and the spies of his day returned from their journey, the people were frightened and unwilling to go farther into the Promised Land. God told them

“In this desert your bodies will fall, every one of you twenty years old or more … except for Caleb and Joshua. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness.” Numbers 14:29-30, 33

I’m thinking only the ones who had been 5 to 20 years-old would even remember leaving Egypt or the crossing of the Red Sea. These young ones would now have reached the age of 45 to 60. That means those who were now under 45 would have only known the desert.

I imagine that on this night, the grandpas and the fathers would have sat the younger ones down at dinner time to recall the past. I envision them talking about the hard life in Egypt as slaves, the plagues, and Moses’ leadership to bring them out of their bondage.

Then with excitement, they might retell the glory of God’s protection with the pillar of fire by night and the and the pillar of cloud by day. Excitement would build as the story-telling grandfather would speak of Pharaoh’s army storming across the desert behind them and the panic the people felt with a rushing sea in front of them–nowhere to go!

The children might be waiting for the climatic part of the story they had heard so many times, how Moses raised the staff and God parted the waters before them. The father might be nodding his head and getting caught up in the old story as well. He might recall, “And we walked across on dry ground while the waters were held back beside us!”

The patriarch of the family might remind the younger ones, “And now, the land just across this river before us is the very land that God promised us years ago, all the way back to our father Abraham.”

I imagine the fathers would have tears in their eyes as they realized that the promise is finally about to be fulfilled right before their eyes. Perhaps, even the children sense the awesome days that are before them.

We wait with them, reflecting on the wondrous way their lives will soon change. What will it be like? Will they have stone houses to live in? Do the younger ones even know about stone houses? What kind of food will they eat? All they have ever known is manna. This area is already so different from the hot desert. They see green palm trees, grass and a river. They feel cooler temperatures.

What more is in store?

~ Joyce ~