Bible Stories

A Pitcher, a Torch, and the Sword of the Lord

Dramatized (Judges 68)

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It was a sad time for Israel. They were already living in the Promised Land, but the situation had become almost unbearable as they struggled to survive under the constant onslaughts of their enemies.

Because of the sins of the Israelites who worshipped other gods and idols and did not drive out the perverse and evil heathen from the land, God Himself sent the cruel Midianites and Amalekites against them as a scourge and a punishment for their sins. (Psalm 78:62; Joshua 23:13)

At that time the Midianites swept through the land ruining the crops, “Sparing not a living thing for Israel, neither sheep, nor cattle, nor donkeys.” But finally when Israel cried out to the Lord, God sent them a Prophet who told them the reason for their trouble: “Because you have not obeyed My Voice.” (Joshua 6:10)

The Israelites got desperate and cried out to the Lord for help, God in His everlasting love and mercy sent a helper.—And guess who he was? He was the simple son of a farmer, not some influential, highly educated, esteemed man of renown.

The Angel of the Lord appeared unto Gideon while he threshed wheat, saying, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour!” And Gideon answered, “Oh my Lord, if Thou art with us, why then has all this trouble come upon us? And where are all the miracles our fathers told us of?”

Doesn’t this sound like most of us when we’re having problems? “How come, Lord? How come You’re not taking better care of us? Why are You letting these horrible things happen to us?”—when usually it has happened as a result of our own stubbornness and wilfulness and disobedience. Yet we try to blame God instead of ourselves.

But God mercifully tells Gideon, “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the Midianites.”

“But Lord,” Gideon answered, still doubting that God could use him, “how can I save Israel? My family is the poorest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and worse yet, I am the least of all my family.”

But the Lord encouraged him, saying, “Surely I will be with thee and thou shalt smite the Midianites as quickly as one man.”

God wanted Gideon to know, He wanted all Israel to know that He would be with him and He would be their strength. Gideon didn’t have to worry; of course his strength was small, of course he was weak, but God would do it all! And finally Gideon consented to simply obey and do as the Lord asked.

And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet and sent out messengers to rally the men of Israel to do battle against their evil enemies. From all quarters men began to join the ranks until he had a sizeable army of 32,000. The next morning they set out toward the North where the Midianites were camped down in a valley beside the hill of Moreh.

This is when the biggest test of faith began for Gideon. He had raised a strong army and was headed for the enemy camp, but suddenly the Lord spoke to him, “The people with thee are too many for Me to let win this battle, otherwise Israel will boast, saying, ‘Mine own arm hath saved me’.” Gideon must have thought, “What do you mean? It just isn’t logical to cut our forces in the face of such powerful enemies.”

“Announce to the people,” the Lord told Gideon, “anyone who is fearful and afraid, let him return home.” And after Gideon delivered his surprising message, 22,000 men left, over two-thirds of his forces!

But that was only the first test! Next, the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the waters’ edge and I will try them there.” The Lord had another test to further purge the ranks which only He and Gideon knew about.

When the men went to drink beside the water, the Lord told Gideon that every man who knelt down and drank with his mouth in the water should be sent home. But those vigilant soldiers who lifted the water in one hand to drink would be chosen for battle. The men who faithfully kept their eyes open, watching for the enemy at all times, leaving the other hand free to use their weapon, only those were worthy to go with Gideon.

Out of the 10,000 who passed the first test, only 300 men passed the second! That’s right, 31,700 of them never made the grade. Young Gideon’s faith got tested to the maximum. Not only had he lost 99 percent of all the troops he’d gathered, but the armies of the Midianites were thousands and thousands. In fact, “They lay along the valley like grasshoppers for multitude.”

But oddly enough, it seemed that every time Gideon just simply obeyed the Lord, crazy as it appeared, his faith increased and became stronger and stronger! But just to keep him encouraged the Lord had another trick up His sleeve.

By now Gideon had ordered all the 300 men to gather the extra provisions and waterpots and all the trumpets from those men who were sent home, and then they moved to the highlands near the camp of the Midianites who lay sleeping in the valley below. And the Lord said unto Gideon, “If thou art still afraid to attack, go with thy servant Purah down to the enemy camp, and listen to what they say. Afterwards thou shalt be strengthened.”

So when Gideon had come near the camp, he overheard one man who had wakened from a nightmare tell another, “I had this strange dream, and in it a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into our camp hitting our tent. And it knocked it flat!”

Hearing it, the other soldier replied, “This could be nothing else but the sword of Gideon, the Israelite, for into his hand God has delivered the allied forces of Midian!”

Upon hearing this, Gideon worshipped the Lord and was filled with courage! He returned to his men and said, “Arise, for the Lord hath delivered into your hands the armies of Midian.”

And so the Lord told Gideon to give each man a trumpet, a torch, and an empty pitcher. At the right moment the torch was to be lighted and hidden inside the pitcher. Under cover of darkness Gideon placed his men in three companies surrounding the camp of the Midianites. Then in the middle of the night, at a signal from him, each man broke his pitcher, revealing the flaming torch. And every man blew his trumpet, and they shouted at the top of their voices, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!”

And did it work? Well, they made an incredible racket with all those trumpets blowing and all the pitchers breaking, and when those sleeping Midianites awoke and suddenly saw all those lights flashing, they thought the whole World had attacked!

They became so excited in the dark that they began smiting one another and they fled frantically, deserting the camp.

Imagine, only 300 men with nothing but trumpets, pitchers and torches scared the living daylights out of 135,000 men, and it says that after the battle was over 120,000 had been slaughtered! A great victory was won, as great as any in Israel’s history.

When Gideon finally reached the point where he just meekly believed God’s Word and quietly went about his business of obeying Him, then God honoured his puny little band of 300, and the Lord blessed their humble little efforts with a mighty walloping victory over a tremendous enemy in about the most ridiculous battle ever heard of in the annals of history!

Gideon dared to be different, a different approach, a new method, something crazy that God put in his heart!—A new tactic that he’d never tried before, but he believed it would work, and because God was in it, it did!

Gideon went where God wanted him to go–and God went there too! And so did his little band of 300, and they did it because God did it through them.

All through the Bible the Lord miraculously empowered and protected His children who were just weak humans like we are.—And the same miracles of power, protection and judgement that occurred back in Bible times can happen now!

It’s God that wins the battle! It’s obedience that wins the battle. It’s humble faith that wins the battle—regardless of how few you have and how weak you seem to be and how little you’ve got!

 
Food For Thought

(1) When God’s people become rebellious and disobedient, He often uses the natural means of wars with their enemies, famines and other calamities as a punishment for their sins. (Psalm 106:34-44)

(2) As with Gideon, the son of a humble farmer, God frequently uses weak, seemingly unqualified, uneducated people, who are usually not so proud and are therefore more obedient to Him. (1Corinthians 1:26-31)

(3) Sometimes we are tempted to blame God for our own troubles, when all along it was our own fault that they happened! (Psalm 107:11-20,43)

(4) Whenever you make up your mind to obey, then the Lord supplies you with supernatural power for the job He has given you to do. The moment you, because of faith, obey God, then He gives you the blessing and the spiritual strength to carry on! (Exodus 23:22; James 1:22-25)

(5) Large numbers don’t mean anything to God; in fact, He likes to work with the weak and the few in number so that it will show His strength and not our own. (1Samuel 14:6; 2Corinthians 4:7)

(6) God only chose men who were not fearful or fainthearted, but who had faith for the battle. Otherwise, that contagious spirit of fear could have spread throughout the ranks! (Deuteronomy 20:8)

(7) As this story brings out, oftentimes the Lord tests us when we don’t even know that we’re being tested. (Jeremiah 17:10)

(8) In the end, the only soldiers chosen by God were the ones who never let their guard down, not even for a moment! They were sober and vigilant, always alert for a sudden enemy attack. (1Peter 5:8)

(9) Obedience comes first, then comes the blessing of the Lord. When you by faith do all you can do, then the Lord honours your faith by doing the part that you can’t do. God blesses obedience. (Isaiah 1:19)

(10) After you have begun to obey, even if you sometimes become discouraged, the Lord will do miracles to encourage your faith! (2Timothy 2:13)

(11) God often does things contrary to our natural reasoning. Who ever heard of fighting a war with trumpets, pitchers and torches! But God’s idea of weapons may be a little different from man’s ideas!

 
 

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Bible Stories

The Day the Sun Stood Still

Dramatized (Joshua 10)

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Getting misled by the Gibeonites with their moldy bread and their masquerade (Joshua 9) was not only a mistake, but it led Israel into serious trouble! First, they were hoodwinked into making a treaty of peace with the Gibeonites, but that was not all.

When Adoni-Zedek, one of the kings of the Amorites who lived in Canaan, heard that Joshua had conquered and destroyed Jericho and Ai, and that a peace treaty had been made between Israel and the Gibeonites, he became very alarmed.

His people also were afraid because Gibeon was an important city—as great as the royal cities of the Amorites. Gibeon’s men were renowned fighters, and now that they’d become allies with Israel, King Adoni-Zedek rushed urgent messages to the other kings of the Amorites explaining the disastrous turn of events.

“Come up and help me attack Gibeon,” read his message, “because they have made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.” So the five Amorite kings joined forces to make a concerted attack on Gibeon.

Then Joshua received a message from the Gibeonites telling of the attack, saying, “Please do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly, and save us!”

It seemed quite ironic that Joshua would go to the help of a people who had deceived him, but he knew that Israel could not afford to lose any ground to the wicked kings of Canaan, whom he was commissioned by God to drive out of the land.

However, before putting his plans into action, Joshua sought for that most important word of confirmation from the Lord. He had learned a valuable lesson with the Gibeonites and was determined to hear from God.

The Lord answered him, saying, “Fear them not, for I have given them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee.” Praise God! The answer had come, and the Lord was with them. That was all Joshua needed for his encouragement.

Once he had the go-ahead from God, Joshua showed himself to be a man of action. Immediately he summoned all his best fighting men, who, along with his regular troops, embarked on an all-night march which put them in Gibeon by dawn, completely surprising the enemy.

Of the battle that followed, it says: “The Lord threw them into confusion before Israel. And it came to pass that as they fled from before Israel, the Lord hurled large hailstones down upon them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.”

When Joshua and his men had done what they could, then the Lord intervened by supernatural means to help them. Yet still the five kings with some of their men were able to flee from the battle. Joshua remembered, however, that God had spoken to him in Gilgal promising him a total victory—that not one man would withstand them.

Also, Joshua realised that this was a decisive battle which would break the power of the wicked Canaanites and open up an all important roadway to the sea. The enemy had to be stopped—and completely! But there was one problem which became evident: The day was passing, the shadows were lengthening. Soon the sun would disappear behind the mountains, giving the enemies the cover needed to escape and perhaps regroup, or even gain reinforcements.

All at once Joshua lifted his voice in the sight of his troops and cried out in a powerful explosion of faith: “O sun, stand thou still over Gibeon; O moon, over the valley of Ajalon!” And lo and behold, as Joshua and his men fought on in their hot pursuit of their enemies, all that great while the sun held its position firmly in the heavens over the battlefield! It remained stable, it says, “until Israel had avenged itself on its enemies.”

Miracle of miracles! The sun had stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down “about a whole day.” The Bible continues, “There was never a day like that one, before or since; for the Lord fought for Israel.” The Lord Himself had intervened to provide in the most marvelous way the time needed for the armies of Israel to completely subdue their enemies.

After that great victory Joshua continued defeating their enemies. It says, “All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.” (Joshua 10:42)

This same God is our God today. In times of dire need or desperation He will fight for His children by any means necessary. “All things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). The whole structure of any building, or any army, or any movement rests on these two key pillars: The will of God and the will of Man. As long as they are coordinated and in line with each other, it will stand firm. Prayer is powerful!

 
Science Baffled by Missing Day

Did you know that the space program has been proving that what had been called myth in the Bible is true? Harold Hill, president of the Curtis Engine Company in Baltimore, and a consultant in the Space program related the following:

“One of the most amazing things happened recently to our astronauts and space scientists at Greenbelt, Maryland. They were checking the position of the sun, moon and planets out in space where they would be 100 or 1000 years from now. We have to know this so we don’t send a satellite up and have it bump into something later on in its orbits. We have to lay out the orbit in terms of the life of the satellite. They ran the computer measurements back and forth over the centuries and it came to a halt. The computer stopped and flashed a red signal meaning that there was something wrong with either the information it had been fed, or the results as compared to a given standard. The service department ran a check and found nothing was wrong with either, but the computer showed that there was one day missing in elapsed time in space. They could find no answer for it.

“One religious fellow on the team recalled that the Bible mentioned a time in the Old Testament in which the sun stood still for nearly a day. They got a Bible and found in Joshua a ridiculous statement for anybody who had common sense, to believe! However, there it was in Joshua 10:13. The computers hummed as they retraced their steps to the time of Joshua, and added the time the Scriptures said the sun stood still. It was close, but not close enough. The elapsed time that was missing back in Joshua’s day was 23 hours and 20 minutes … not a whole day. (The Bible had said, ‘About [approximately] a whole day.’)

“These little words in the Bible are important. They were still in trouble. If you cannot account for 40 minutes, you will be in trouble 1000 years from now. The time had to be found because it can be multiplied many times over in orbits of the planets. The fellow who had started the Scripture hunt remembered that the Bible also spoke about a time when the sun went backward. The space men told him he must be out of his mind, but they got the book and read 2 Kings 20. There Isaiah, as proof of a prophecy made to Hezekiah, asked the Lord to turn back the sun ten degrees. Ten degrees is exactly 40 minutes. Therefore, 23 hours and 20 minutes in Joshua plus 40 minutes in 2 Kings make up the 24 missing hours that the space travellers would have to log in the log-books as being the missing day in the universe.” Once again God is proving His divine truth as revealed in the Bible, God’s Word.”

—Reprint from Lakeview Messenger.

 
“He that putteth his faith in the Lord shall never be put to shame” (Psalm 31:1).

 
 

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God’s “Perfecting” Gifts

By Philip Martin

free-bible-studies-online-anchorToday I had an interesting thought. As I was having my devotions, I read a portion of Streams in the Desert by an old saint of God, Maltbie Davenport Babcock, about this verse in James 1: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17 KJV) What I read triggered something inside me telling me to look deeper.

The first thing that caught my attention as something worth deeper examination was when Babcock shared the idea that “every good gift of God is a ‘perfecting’ gift.” That word “perfecting” was intriguing. I read on, “…as well as a gift without defect, a gift which is complete in all respects, a gift which is sound and one which is flawless.”

“Every good gift and every perfecting gift is from above.” In the past when reading this verse I tended to think that every good gift and every perfect gift were the same, or through simple deduction that good equals perfect. Therefore I was inclined to think when things went “good” that it was from God and when things went “bad,” those things must not have been from God. I was failing to see these perfect gifts as perfecting gifts.

However, now I started to look at God’s perfecting gifts through the microscopic lenses of Romans 8:28: “All things work together for good.” And John 15:2: “Every branch that bears fruit, he purges.” And Hebrews 12:6: “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” The light came on, and to paraphrase Paul, “Before, my natural man could not receive the things of the Spirit of God, because they seemed foolishness to me; nor could I understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) I felt I was starting to get “the mind of Christ” on the matter and see it as He does.

So what are these perfecting gifts from God supposed to do for us or to us? Paul said, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) What is this eternal weight of glory He wants in us?

Babcock explains:

Character is worth all it costs, and since God is ceaselessly, changelessly bent upon building character, the denial or trial that helps to bring it to pass is as much a tool of His invariable purpose as the gift that makes you laugh with joy.

“Circumstances do not make character. The noblest character can emerge from the worst surroundings, and moral failures come out of the best. Just where you are, take the things of life as tools, and use them for God’s glory so you will help the kingdom come, and the Master will use the things of life in cutting and polishing you so that there shall someday be seen in you a soul conformed to His likeness.”

Through these “perfecting gifts” God is changing us, changing our character to be “conformed to the image of His Son,” and as Paul also said in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” God wants our characters to be reflections of His Son’s character. All the chiseling, sanding, rubbing, polishing, purifying, molding, breaking, making, and remaking is for one purpose and one purpose alone. It is so that when people look at us they will see in us a reflective image of His Son.

J. R. Miller put it this way:

“The word ‘character’ in its origin is suggestive. It is from a root which signifies to scratch, to engrave, to cut into furrows. Then it comes to mean that which is engraved or cut on anything. In life, therefore, it is that which experiences cut or furrow in the soul. … Its life is like a piece of white paper, with nothing yet written upon it; or it is like a smooth marble tablet, on which, as yet, the sculptor has cut nothing; or the canvas, waiting for the painter’s colors. Character is formed as the years go on. It is the writing, the song, the story, put upon the paper. It is the engraving, the sculpturing, which the marble receives under the chisel. It is the picture which the artist paints on the canvas. Final character is what a man is when he has lived through all his earthly years. In the Christian it is the lines of the likeness of Christ limned, (1. To describe or depict by painting or drawing. 2. To suffuse or highlight with light or color; illuminate.) sometimes furrowed and scarred, upon his soul by the divine Spirit through the means of grace and the experiences of his own life.”

Now on to the second part of James 1:17: “… and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Babcock wrote:

“The word ‘variableness’ is parallax, and that means a difference due to a change in the point of view. ‘But that is what I mean,’ you exclaim. ‘God has changed toward me. See how He treated me once; see my happy young days, my glorious buds and blossoms, and now see my luxuriance cut away, my exuberance gone; my branches bleeding from His knife.’ But God has never changed His view of us nor what He thinks of us. It’s still the same as when He spoke them over 2500 years ago through Jeremiah, ‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV)

Then, as if to put a rope around this thought of God’s perfecting gifts working together for our good, Babcock goes on to say:

“Dear heart, every gift of God is a perfecting gift. The plow and the harrow and the pruning-knife are as much His gifts as the sun and the rain. Grapes are better than mere luxuriant leaves and a tangle of twines. For that is all they would be without the pruning step.

“The heart may cry out in the darkness, ‘God’s gifts have been anything but good and perfect to me! He has instead robbed me of health and hopes and loved ones. Faith is a mockery, and providence a fool’s dream.’ Dear sufferer, look again at the text. ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.’ Are these not wonderful words!

“The shadow on your life came not from His turning, but from yours. God has never changed His mind of love toward you, and never a shadow falls because He turned His face away. Every good gift and every perfecting gift is from above. Someday the gold will be thankful for the crucible, the steel for the furnace of pain, the purple clusters for the knife that cuts.” (From Maltbie Davenport Babcock’s “Thoughts for Every Day Living” in Streams in the Desert)

In closing I’ll end with a passage from David in the Psalms which means a lot more to me today than it ever did before:

The Lord will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.
—Psalm 138:8 (NKJV)

 
 

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Bible Stories

A Most Unconventional War

Dramatized (Joshua 6)

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Inside Jericho the atmosphere was feverish with activity. From atop the walls of the city the movements of the Israelites had been clearly observed ever since they miraculously crossed the River Jordan. The king of Jericho had heard of the valiant exploits of Joshua and the children of Israel while they were yet in the wilderness, how the Lord had parted the Red Sea when they came out of Egypt, and how they had overcome the two kings of the Amorites East of Jordan.

Therefore the king, expecting an attack at any moment, ordered his men to shut and lock the huge city gates. No one was allowed to go in or out. All the watchmen on the walls were instructed to report any movement around Israel’s camp, and every able-bodied man was armed and ready for battle.

Finally the inevitable happened. It was early in the morning when word was rushed to the king that the Israelites were being mobilised. Soon the alarm was given in all quarters, and all of Jericho’s men of war took up their positions along her walls.

Back at the camp, Joshua passed on to the priests the instructions given by the Lord. “Take up the Ark of the covenant of the Lord and seven of the priests shall carry trumpets in front of it.” Next he commanded the people, saying, “Advance! March forward around the city. Let those that carry arms pass on before the Ark, and a rearguard after it.”

By this time the walls of Jericho were full of people looking at the most unusual procession they’d ever seen. This was not at all what they had expected. They weren’t being attacked at all. The Israelites were merely walking silently around the city with their priests continually blowing on their trumpets. (For Joshua had given a commandment saying, “Ye shall not shout nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then ye shall shout!”)

The people of Jericho had mixed emotions about this strange spectacle which occurred not only that first day, but once each day for six days straight. Staring down from the walls, some laughed mockingly at the crazy antics of the so-called conquerors, but others were strangely uneasy.

So the days passed one by one. Each time the identical procession occurred with Joshua, the priests and the people of Israel making the full turn of the city.

But then came the seventh day. Instead of dispersing after the first turn around the city, they continued all day round and round, with the seven horns sounding, and the continual tromping of thousands of people marching silently. And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the seven priests blew one long blast on their trumpets that Joshua thundered the command, “Shout! For the Lord hath given you the city!”

At that moment every soldier in the ranks shouted a mighty shout that filled the air! And with a mighty roar the great walls of Jericho began crumbling until they had collapsed flat on the ground!

Joshua’s men rushed the city and, as they had been instructed, spared nothing alive save “Rahab the harlot and her father’s household and all that she had.”

And it says that she and her family dwelt safely in Israel “because she hid the messengers which Joshua had sent to spy out Jericho.”

“So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.”

*

Thus the first great victory was won in Canaan. And how was it won? By mighty armies possessing powerful weapons? Was it won by the strength and cunning of Joshua’s mighty men of valour? No! This could hardly be classed as “conventional” warfare.

On the contrary, this valiant victory was won by a seemingly weak and ill-equipped people who were just crazy enough to believe that God meant exactly what He’d said. And they were simply willing to follow the Lord and Joshua’s explicit instructions, and their “faith to follow” caused them to triumph in a most unusual way.

Often we are prone to equate bigness with greatness and numbers with power, whereas none of this is necessarily true.

In fact, God doesn’t go for bigness after the manner of this World. He’s seldom for the strong, but almost always for the weak.—Because God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He takes the weak things to confound the mighty and the foolish things to bring to nothing the wisdom of the wise. (Isaiah 55:8; 1Corinthians 1:27)

So don’t try to tell God how He ought to do things!—Just trust Him that He knows what He’s doing!—And go God’s way, no matter how crazy it may seem. Tomorrow you’ll be glad you trusted Him!

 

 

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God’s Delays

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorFor we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
—Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

*

We want our dreams to become reality yesterday. But I’ve come to appreciate what I now call divine delays. God wants you to get where God wants you to go more than you want to get where God wants you to go. So take a deep breath, enjoy the journey, and know that God will get you there when you’re ready to get there. Your current frustration will be cause for future celebration if you hang in there long enough. Don’t give up! God is building emotional endurance. And the key to emotional endurance is experiencing high levels of disappointment that break us down so God can build us back up with a holy confidence. Anytime I feel stretched emotionally, I remind myself that God is expanding my emotional capacity to be used by Him in greater ways.

You may not want to be where you are. Maybe you’re wrestling with depression or reeling from a mistake that seems unforgivable, or you’re just sick and tired of being sick and tired. Dare I suggest that God is cultivating character? How do I know that? Because you are His masterpiece! He is chipping and chiseling. And like a half-finished piece of art, it may not look beautiful yet. But God always finishes what He starts, as long as we don’t quit on Him. So you may not like your present circumstances, but they may be the key to your character development.

We so quickly forget the central fact of our faith: without a crucifixion, there is no resurrection. Those days between death and resurrection are long and dark, but that’s often when a miracle is about to happen. You never know how or when or where a dream will be resurrected, but if it’s God-ordained, then God Himself will bring it back to life, somewhere, sometime.
—Mark Batterson, Soulprint (Multnomah Books, 2011)

*

God has made promises in His Word, and when you pray, you should bring those promises with you to remind Him. When you remind God of His Word, it shows you have faith in it. And it’s a positive declaration of your faith and your knowledge of the Word which pleases Him. For “without faith it is impossible to please Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these (His promises) ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4) You have to quote the terms of the Contract (the Bible) to the Contract Maker (God), and hold Him to it. He is bound by His Word. So remind Him of it, cling to His promises, memorize and quote them, and never doubt for a moment that God is going to answer—and He will!

But always remember His conditions, His terms of the contract: faith and obedience! Faith and obedience come first, then God answers prayer. If we are obeying the Lord and are faithful and trusting and believing, then God’s got to bless and answer. Of course, sometimes God allows our faith to be tested.

It’s helpful to remember that God’s delays are not necessarily denials, and that sometimes we just have to have faith and wait for Him to answer, which usually results in “the trying of our faith, which worketh patience.” (James 1:3) Learning patience seems to be one of God’s most frequent lessons, yet one of our own rarest virtues, as it really tests our faith and drives us to the Lord and His Word.

God answers prayer, but not always our way. It takes Him time to make a baby, a flower, a tree, a sunset—or even a blade of grass. You can’t rush God. You’ve got to wait till it’s God’s time, until you have learned the lesson God is trying to teach you, or the conditions are ready for the result that God wants to bring. Like the man in the Bible who was blind from birth, who had to be blind all his life, so that everybody would know it, and so that Jesus could come along someday and marvelously heal him, that God might be glorified. It may take years before you know why, but the time will come, and you’ll know God was right! Give God a chance. Give Him time. Wait on the Lord.

The greatest darkness is just before dawn; the greatest desperation is just before salvation. The greatest hopelessness attacks just before rescue. If you can hold on one more breath, one more step, one more hour, one more day, you can have glorious victory. Trust God and thank Him for the answer, even if you don’t see it immediately. You’ll be glad you trusted Him tomorrow.
—David Brandt Berg

*

In order to build your faith, God will give you a dream. Then, He’ll urge you to make a decision. But then He’ll allow a delay, because in the delay He matures you and prepares you for what is to come.

The truth is, you’ll have difficulties while God delays. This isn’t because He doesn’t care about you or that He’s forgotten your circumstances; rather, it’s one of the ways He pushes you toward the deep end of faith.

As God delays, you’ll face two types of difficulties: circumstances and critics. This is a natural part of life. God designed it this way because He knows we grow stronger when facing adversity and opposition.

When Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt into the desert toward the Promised Land, he had one problem after another. First there was no water. Then there was no food. Then there were a bunch of complainers. Then there were poisonous snakes. Moses was doing what God wanted him to do, but he still had problems.

David was anointed king, and then for the next several years he was hunted down by Saul. Joseph had a dream of becoming a ruler, yet he was sold into slavery and thrown into prison on a false charge, where he languished, forgotten. Imagine the difficulties Noah had building a floating zoo!

The Bible says that when Moses died, Joshua was appointed the new leader. Moses led the people across the desert, and then Joshua led them into the Promised Land. Did he get the easy part? The Bible says that when the Israelites entered the Promised Land, there were giants in the land. Even in the Promised Land there were problems!

God does this because He is building our faith and character. When we finally come to a place where the difficulties become so bad, where we’ve reached our limit, where we’ve tried everything and exhausted all our options, it is then that God begins a mighty work through us: “This means tremendous joy to you, I know, even though you are temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials and temptations. This is no accident—it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold.” (1 Peter 1:6–7 PH)
—Rick Warren (http://rickwarren.org/devotional/english/how-god-builds-your-faith-difficulty)

 
 

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Bible Stories

There Are Giants in the Land

Dramatized (Numbers 13, 14, Deuteronomy 1, 9, Joshua 11, 14, 15)

free-bible-studies-online-bible-stories-there-are-giants-in-the-land

It had been many months now since they had left Egypt, and the Israelites camped at Kadesh-Barnea in the desert. Just a few miles to the north lay the hills of the Promised Land. Moses called the people together and said, “We have reached the land which the Lord our God has promised to give us, so go up and take possession of it as the Lord told you. Do not be afraid!”

The elders of Israel weren’t so sure they could do it, and hesitantly said, “Let us send men ahead to spy out the land first and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.”

Despite their lack of faith, the Lord agreed to their plan and told Moses, “Choose a prince from each of the 12 Tribes and send them to explore the land of Canaan.” So Moses chose the spies and sent them out.

Disguising themselves, the 12 spies went up and explored the land from one end to another. Finally, on their way back, they stopped at the mountain city of Hebron.

Looking at the city, one of the spies named Palti exclaimed, “Look at the height of those colossal fortified walls! They tower all the way up to heaven.”

“And look who lives here,” another spy named Nahbi cried out.

“Good Heavens,” Palti gasped, looking down the road. “Giants!”

A couple of great, hairy giants came striding by and ominously turned their heads to look fiercely down at the little men. “Who are these little grasshoppers?” one of them bellowed in a deep rumbling voice, pointing his massive spear in their direction. The other giant roared with laughter, “Those little field mice you mean?”

Nahbi trembled, sweat beaded on his face and he stammered, “L-l-let’s leave. Quick!”

But Caleb said firmly, “No. We need to find out more about this place first” and, leaving the rest of the spies, he and Joshua headed up to the city and disappeared into the massive towering gates. It was several hours before they returned after spying out the city. They had found out that all the mountains around Hebron were inhabited by a race of giants known as the Anakims, all of them well over 10 feet tall!

“Hebron has been renamed Kiriath-Arba, after the greatest of the giants, Arba,” Joshua said, “and is ruled by three giants.”

“I believe we can take the city,” Caleb added. “It will be a fight, but …”

“Take the city?! Are you out of your mind?” a spy named Gaddi gasped. “I never want to see this land of giants again!”

Leaving the city, the spies went down into the valley of the nearby Eschol Creek where the giants’ vineyards were ripening in the sun. They cut down a branch of a giant cluster of grapes, two of them carrying it along with other fruit back to Moses.

Forty days had passed by the time they finally returned south to Kadesh-Barnea in the desert. Upon seeing the spies return, Moses and Aaron and the entire camp came out to greet them. The spies displayed all the fruit to the people and Joshua told Moses, “We went into the land to which you sent us and it is a very rich land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord promised.”

Excitedly, the people began to talk of going up to take the land, but then Palti and the others said, “But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. On top of it, the Anakims live there—a race of fierce giants over 1O feet tall!”

The people began murmuring with dismay, but Caleb shouted, “We should go up and take possession of the land immediately, without hesitating, for we are well able to do it.”

But Nahbi protested, “We can’t attack them. They are far stronger than we are!”

Then Nahbi, Palti and the other spies began to spread more discouraging reports. Palti said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. Their cities are strong and walled right up to heaven!”

“Yes,” Nahbi agreed, “and all the people we saw there are of enormous size! We felt like grasshoppers compared to them. Why, there is a proverb in Canaan which says, ‘Who can stand before the Anakims?'”

Upon hearing this, all the people wept aloud and began grumbling against Moses and Aaron. “Why did the Lord bring us to this land just to have us all be killed by the sword?” they cried. “Our wives and children will be taken as captives. Let us choose a captain and return to Egypt. It would be better to die in Egypt!”

Others began crying out, “It’d even be better for us to die in this wilderness!”

Then Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes and said to the entire assembly, “The land we passed through is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into it and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will completely destroy them! Their protection is gone, and the Lord is with us.”

But the people replied, “The Lord hates us! That is why He brought us out of Egypt—to deliver us into the hands of the giants to destroy us. For how can we fight them? Our brothers have made us lose heart!”

Then Moses cried out, “Don’t be afraid of giants! The Lord your God, who is going before you, He will fight for you!”

But it was too late. The whole camp had lost all faith in the Lord and even began to talk of stoning Caleb and Joshua. Suddenly the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of the Tabernacle and the Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people refuse to believe in Me, in spite of all the miracles I have done among them?

“How long shall I put up with this evil congregation which doubts Me and murmurs against Me? I have heard the complaints and murmurs which they grumble against Me! Say to them, ‘As truly as I live, saith the Lord, I will do the very things I heard you ask for, and you shall all fall in this wilderness.—Everyone over 2O years old that murmured against Me. Not one of you shall enter into the Promised Land!

“But because My servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows Me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land, and his descendants will inherit it. And Joshua will lead Israel to inherit it.

“As for your children, O ye rebels, which you said would be taken as captives, I will give the land to them and they will take possession of it. They will enjoy the land that you have despised. But your bodies shall fall in this desert. For 40 years you will suffer for your lack of faith and will wander until the last of you dies. Now turn around and go into the desert again.'”

Then the Lord smote the ten spies who had brought back a discouraging report, and they all died of a plague!

The entire camp wept and mourned before the Lord, but He turned a deaf ear and paid no attention to them. So they turned back into the desert and began their long, long years of wandering there. Finally 40 years passed and the last of the old generation died. Moses, now very old himself and just about to die, told the younger generation of Israelites, “Hear, O Israel! You are about to go in and conquer nations greater and mightier than yourself, with great cities, walled in high up to the skies. The people are strong and tall, the children of the Anakims. But be assured that the Lord your God is the One who goes ahead of you! He will subdue them before you, and you will destroy them as the Lord has promised you.”

After Moses died, Joshua boldly led the armies of Israel into the Promised Land, and soon they had conquered vast portions of it. As they were dividing up the land between the 12 Tribes, Caleb came up to Joshua and said, “You know what the Lord said to Moses at Kadesh-Barnea about you and me. I was 40 years old when Moses sent me to explore the land. brought back a good report. So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance forever, because you have followed the Lord wholeheartedly.'”

His spear in his hand, the white-haired old man said, “The Lord has kept me alive for 45 years since then, and here I am today, 85 years old. I’m just as strong to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me the hill country of Hebron that the Lord promised me. The giants are there and their cities are large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out!”

Then Joshua gave him Hebron as his inheritance, and Caleb led his clan up the mountain in the boldness and might of the Lord his God. In the fierce battle that followed, he defeated the armies of the giants and took their city! From there he marched against the giants living in nearby Debir, and his young nephew Othniel attacked and defeated them. Joshua’s armies then destroyed the Anakims from the rest of the hill country so that no giants were left in all the land of Israel.

 
Food For Thought

The 10 fearful spies walked by sight and not by faith, but even worse yet, they and the people doubted the Lord’s promises, that He would bless them and help them to conquer the Promised Land. Because of this, Paul says that the Lord was “grieved 40 years” with a people who had no faith!

“The Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it!” (Hebrews 4:2)

The spies’ fearful reports caused all the people to doubt. Backsliders seldom ever backslide alone!–They almost always take others with them. It’s so easy to make logical, reasonable excuses why you can’t make it, and most people will accept your excuses because they don’t have faith either, and in excusing you, they’re excusing themselves!–But will God excuse you?

First the people murmured against their leaders, but later directly against God, saying that God hated them! Hadn’t God already done countless miracles for them during all their many months in the desert?–But they still didn’t believe God could protect them against overwhelming odds.

What is backsliding? Whatever God has shown you to do and has blessed you in doing, if you turn back, that’s backsliding! You don’t even have to leave God’s Work to backslide, you can just refuse to do His Will, or even look back (Luke 9:62), and that, too, is backsliding.–Even if only in your heart you turn back, for soon the body will follow! God hates to see people turn their backs on what He has told them to do, or even things they’ve started to do for Him. ‘If any man shall draw back, My Soul shall have no pleasure in him!” (Hebrews 10:38) “My Soul abhorreth him that turneth back!” (Leviticus 26:27, 30b)

What if they had tried to invade the Promised Land with all those old doubters and unbelievers? It would’ve meant disaster! They might have all gotten killed, so the Lord wisely purged out the rebels, allowing only the believing youth with Joshua and Caleb to go in, and they won!

The people who complain about the battle and then quit just before the victory’s won, never get to enjoy the fruits of victory! A lot of backsliders have quit just before God was about to give them the crown. For God’s sake, don’t miss your reward by stopping short of the victory!

 
 

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Anchor

Cultivating a Passion for God

By Peter Amsterdam

free-bible-studies-online-anchorOne of our core values is passion for God. “We love God with our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. We seek a close personal relationship with Jesus, and to grow in emulating His attributes and living His love.” (From TFI’s Core Values)

Passion for God is a powerful statement. One of the definitions of passion is intense enthusiasm for something, a keen interest in something. So when we say that we have passion for God, we’re stating that we have an intense enthusiasm for God, a keen interest in Him. Some synonyms for passion are excitement, zeal, delight, fervency, desire, hunger, thirst, craving, conviction, drive. When we say we are passionate for God, we are speaking in terms of having desire, hunger, thirst, a craving for Him.—That we have zeal and drive, fervency and excitement, and of course, love.

When Jesus was asked, “Which is the most important commandment?” you can feel the intensity in His answer. He said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:28–30 ESV) That’s a powerfully passionate statement.

As Christians, we are to love God with all of our being—with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. That’s a call for rich, deep, and full love. A complete love, a love-Him-with-everything-you’ve-got love.

We seek a close personal relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is relational. We say that God is “relational” because He is three persons in one: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They exist in relationship. God is a relational Being, and as such, He seeks relationship with us. We are made in His image, so we are relational beings as well.

The beautiful relationship God had with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was damaged because of their choice to sin. God is holy, so after sin came into the world, He could no longer have that same personal relationship with humans. Sin damaged the relationship and separated us from Him. This is why God made salvation possible through Jesus. He wants to repair the relationship that sin severed; He wants to bring us back into relationship with Himself. He is seeking to be in relationship with us, because He loves us.

God is so passionate about being in relationship with us that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to sacrificially lay down His life through His death on the cross in order to bridge the gap between Himself and humanity. That’s how much He loves us. That’s how much He wants to be in relationship with us. He’s passionate about humanity. He’s passionate about you. He’s passionate about all of us. And we feel the same passion about being in relationship with Him. As the verse says, “We love Him, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19 KJV) We could rephrase this concept to say that we are passionate for Him because He was first passionate for us. We mirror His passion.

To convey His deep love and passion for us, God used language and imagery in the Bible which speaks of us as being married to Him. He said, “Your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name”; that we are “married to Jesus who was raised from the dead, so that we should bear fruit to God”; “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 54:5; Romans 7:4 paraphrased; Isaiah 62:5)

These and other marital metaphors describe the passion which God has for us. It represents the passionate union of heart, mind, and spirit that He desires to have with each of us.

Saint Augustine said, “To fall in love with God is the greatest of romances, to seek Him the greatest adventure, to find Him the greatest human achievement.”

Our love for Him results in our desire to build a deep relationship with Him, and putting effort into strengthening that relationship is something that we have to do. As such, we are committed to spending time communicating with Him through prayer, reading His Word, listening to Him as He speaks to us, and paying attention to what He says. He is an integral part of our lives, and what He says to us matters.

As we develop our relationship with Him, we get to know Him better, and as we do we start to become more like Him. We begin to understand what He likes and doesn’t like, and we make an effort to do those things which please Him, and as we do, we begin to change. Being in relationship with Him changes us.

Understanding God’s passion for us brings the awareness of His desire to bring others into relationship with Him. Realizing His passion for those who don’t yet know Him motivates us to do our best to let people know that there is someone who deeply loves them and wants to be a part of their life. God’s passion becomes our mission.

It is our love of Christ, our love for God that compels us, forces us, necessitates us, drives us, and requires us to love Him fervently—with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength—and to cultivate a close relationship with Him. It compels us to strive to be like Jesus, to emulate His qualities and to share God’s love with others so they can know Him too.

One of our goals, as followers of Jesus, is to imitate Christ. We want to take on His nature and attributes. As we grow in our relationship with Him, we become better people—we exhibit godly attitudes, we have godly ethics, we have integrity, we live His words. As we grow to be more like Him, He shines through us, and when He does—when others see us imitating Him—whether they know it or not, they are seeing something of God.

How can we cultivate such a close relationship with God? By:

  • Giving time and priority to the relationship.
  • Reading and meditating on God’s Word.
  • Having regular communication with God in prayer.
  • Obeying God’s Word and the things He tells us to do.
  • Having a clean heart through regularly confessing and asking for forgiveness for our sins.
  • Seeking to glorify Him by our commitment to follow Him as we seek His purpose and will for our lives.
  • Discovering what is important to God and making those things important to us.

Passion isn’t passive. Being passionate about something means you’re going to do something about it. Passion results in action. We who are passionate about God are active for God. We carve out time for God, whether that means getting up earlier in the morning to make that time possible or sacrificing some activity that we enjoy. We make choices that strengthen our close friendship with Him. If you want that passion, ask God daily to give it to you. It’s a prayer that He delights to answer.

And remember, deep love develops over time. As we see God’s faithfulness to us in our daily lives, His touches of love and blessing, His supply of our needs, and particularly His grace and sustaining power during times of trial and affliction, our love and trust for Him grows stronger.

Many people feel that they don’t have enough passion for God. They don’t feel an emotional passion, which may cause them to think that their level of passion is lacking. Not all of us experience feelings or highs in our spiritual life; some people are inclined that way while others are not. You don’t have to have feelings of passion to know that you love God deeply or to accept His calling for your life. Feelings aren’t the proper measuring stick for passion. It’s not a question of what you feel internally. What matters is that your passion moves you to action, that it urges you to take steps on His behalf, that it energizes you to be a messenger of the Good News to those around you.

As you develop a closer relationship with God, one of friendship and intimacy, your passion will grow, and as it does, doing the things He asks you to do will naturally follow. Your passion will be manifested in your resolve or determination to follow Him, like some of God’s greatest missionaries who resolved to stake their lives and ministries on God’s promises, regardless of feelings.

I’ll close with a beautiful prayer for passion, by Amy Carmichael:

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire;
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.

If you have even a spark of faith, a hint of desire to draw near to God, He can blow on that little flickering ember in your heart and bring it to life, causing it to grow and finally burst into a beautiful, dazzling flame that reflects the heat and passion of God’s powerful love!

May we all grow in our passion for God!

 
 

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