God’s strategy

The mighty warrior Joshua was in the midst of a great campaign in the promise land seizing territories and completing God’s plan; however he experienced a minor setback. The city Ai defeated him. This really seemed to shake Joshua who was not used to defeat. Scripture relates that he “tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening”. (Joshua 7:6) Then he did what all wise men do who fear the Lord, he prayed and pleaded before God.

God provided all the wisdom Joshua would need. Not exactly what a confident and independent generation wants to hear. It wasn’t that Joshua did it his way. His wisdom came from God. God’s plan was to coax the army of Ai out of the city and with a strategically placed ambush, take the city and destroy its army. Simple enough and yet like Joshua we often do not see the solution to our challenges until we humbly present them to the Lord.

Joshua set 30,000 men behind the city and told them to wait patiently. He then led 5,000 men against the city. When the army of Ai came against them, Joshua and his men fled. Every last soldier in Ai abandoned the city to chase Joshua. The 30,000 who were waiting in ambush entered the city and torched it. Now those chasing Joshua looked back to see their city in flames. They turned and tried their best to take back the city. But now their own defenses could be used against them by the Israelite Army that occupied the city. In addition they had Joshua and his 5,000 to deal with. The Army of Ai was sandwiched between both forces and was completely destroyed.(Joshua 8:10-22)

Sometimes no matter how much success we have, life can present unexpected setbacks. We need not to give up. We should do like Joshua. Not that we should tear our clothes! Clothes can be expensive, and if made well, difficult to tear anyway. However we should present our challenges and difficulties before the Lord and trust that He will give us the wisdom to be victorious.

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Surviving the wilderness

No Walmart, no Costco and plenty of empty stomachs! (Exodus 16)The Israelites couldn’t even find a 7 eleven. Naturally they began to complain that life was better in Egypt where their masters provided everything they needed for their pitiful existence. (Exodus 16:3)The fact that they had no freedom, no rights and could suffer all types of imaginable abuse without any protection was incidental. The point is that they had plenty to eat as long as they depended on their Egyptian masters.

Why had God taken His people to the middle of the dessert and given them nothing to eat?  The Israelites had grown dependent on their cruel masters. It was time for them to learn to depend on their God, the God who with His mighty hand freed them and whose purpose was to make a great nation of them in the Promise land.

In the desert there was nothing. No distraction, no help, and no way for the Israelites to provide for themselves. It was a wasteland perfectly designed to cause God’s people to look to heaven for help. Sometimes in our lives we too are going through the desert or wasteland.  Life seems to offer little hope. We are starving for the satisfaction of some of our most basic needs, such as love, health, comfort, companionship, perhaps food and even a roof over our head. Only God can save us and we finally turn to Him.

It is no wonder that God made it necessary for the Israelites to freshly gather manna every day.  They could not save for the next day and were forced to repeat the same lesson of dependency on their divine maker. God is the most remarkable teacher. It took more than a generation but the Israelites did learn to trust in God and a mighty nation of faith was formed, able to conquer the promise land. God is still making men and women of faith, capable of great achievements. But to do this we must pass through the wilderness of pain, problems and challenges, where there is little that can be found. Alas we are left alone and must learn to turn to the one that will forever be faithful and will never leave us. He will supply every need as the shepherd boy said “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1)



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Stubborn Unbelief

Moses stood before the mighty Pharaoh and asked rather politely to let his people go. Pharaoh was not interested in losing his wealth of slaves, forcing Moses to perform the first of many miracles. He had his brother Aaron cast his rod on the ground and it turned into a serpent. Pharaoh must have thought it a simple trick and did not believe. (Exodus 7:1-8)

Moses then met pharaoh by the Nile where with Aaron’s rod he turned the Nile into blood. That was a major trick and must have been devastating for the Egyptian economy and the health of their people. However Pharaoh still would not believe. (Exodus 7:14-24)

Many plagues later Pharaoh still would not change his mind. Then came the most devastating lost of all for Egypt, the slaying of the first born. Finally Pharaoh would let them go. But he rescinded only temporarily, still not accepting or understanding the power of God. He would send his army against the defenseless Israelites most likely expecting an easy victory. Was he surprised when he witnessed what had never been seen before? God had made a path through the sea. There were the lowly Israelites, former slaves, passing through the midst of the sea on dry land and on either side of them a high wall of water. Surely now pharaoh would believe that these people were God’s people and that perhaps he should just let them go. Perhaps he would wake up to the reality that slavery was just wrong or that people do not have the right to make subjects of other people just because they have a stronger army.

Pharaoh did not have any of these great revelations. Instead he was consistent in his unbelief. He ordered his army to pursue the Israelites through this path created by God. Then he would witness the collapse of water on his army. They were destroyed. (Exodus 14) Pharaoh could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he would have believed from the very beginning. However the price of unbelief can be even higher.

The price of unbelief can be as high as all eternity. John 3:18 says “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Christ is still trying to reach the most stubborn hearts, so do not be dismayed. Our responsibility is simply to “Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15)

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Anger and a Senseless murder!

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; James 1:19 

Although it is an old story it is not easy to forget.  Kayla barrowed money from her good friend Kamisha, a young lady who had just graduated from college, to buy pampers.   Later Kamisha found out that Kayla had spent the money on herself. Kamisha then demanded to be paid back, when Kayla did not pay her back an argument broke out. The argument would last several days via texting and facebook,  until the two women would confront each other in Kayla’s kitchen. According to one story Kamisha literally spilled the baby’s milk. Kayla lost control of herself and stabbed Kamisha with a knife. Although Kamisha was not killed instantly she died from the wounds while lying in a hospital bed. It was in August of 2013 that Kayla was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

It is one thing to say that anger and emotions can cause us to do regrettable things, however this was a criminal act.  We have another example from the Bible; when Moses saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite, in a fit of rage he killed him.  Moses was driven by emotions, and took action without thinking.  He was then forced to flee from his country, his home and his family.

In Psalm 37:8 we read “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” Paul in Ephesians 4:26, advises “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” Most acts of violence tend to take place between people who know each other and often know each other intimately. In some cases it is the plate flying across the room that was never meant to hit someone or the forceful shake we never thought could cause harm.  Often it is with regret that theses horrific events are remembered.

None of us are exempt. We are all capable of anger and intense emotions.  However we must be slow to act in these cases.  We must plan ahead; what prudent actions we can safely take. One of my favorites is to walk away and keep walking.  However that is not always an option.  Perhaps we must close our eyes and call upon our lord for strength before we weakly give into to our emotions. We will later realize that refraining from thoughtless actions has saved our family, our friendships, our lives and even our souls.

Try Verses on anger

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No more excuses!

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh….(Exodus 3:11)

Moses was having a pleasant time. He was relaxing while tending to his sheep in the quiet stillness of the night. However, for no apparent reason, a bush went up in flames, and didn’t burn up. Then the voice of God was heard. Moses was terrified and hid his face. Then it got worst.

God proceeded to give Moses directions to speak to the mightiest man on the planet. He had to tell the ruthless pharaoh of Egypt to let the enslaved Israelites go.

Moses came up with one excuse after another. First He said “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? (Exodus 3:11) In other words I am not important enough to speak to pharaoh. Then Moses said, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13) The implication was that he didn’t know what to tell the people who were supposed to follow him, the Israelites. God told Moses what to say, but Moses was not done giving excuses he said “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.”(Exodus 4:1). God performed several miracles before Moses to show him what he would do as proof. But Moses was still not satisfied and said “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)

Four excuses, Moses truly had self esteem issues. He was certain that he lacked the qualifications. He must have been thinking “Just let me take care of my sheep, that’s all I am good for.” But he was wrong.

Many of us have had these moments, when we doubted our abilities or capacity. Perhaps we thought “Lord I know you don’t make mistakes, but there must be someone better for this task, responsibility, or position.” But we are wrong also. If God calls us to do something or hold a position he will equip us. He will educate us and prepare us. If He wants us that means we are the best person for the job. It could be a talent or an expertise we have or perhaps a quality in our character that God sees. God can see the gifts he has placed in us, while we sometimes only see our failures and weaknesses.

With Moses the excuses finally stopped and he did go to pharaoh. Ten plagues later, and a disastrous defeat for pharaoh’s army and the Israelites were free. The whole time all Moses held in his hands was a staff, but the power of God was behind him every step of the way.

If we say yes to God’s calling in our lives His power will be behind us every step of the way, the enemy will be defeated and what awaits us will surely be the promise land.

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A simple plan, march and shout

So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat….Joshua 6:20

The city wall was tall and thick, perhaps 13 feet thick (http://www.bibleplaces.com/jericho.htm). The city, Jericho, was ancient and filled with experienced soldiers, the bible described as “mighty men of valor” (Joshua 6:2). The proud people of this great city must have felt secured, armed with fine soldiers and a mighty wall. However God had promised this land to the Israelites. Surely God would give His people an ingenious plan filled with an incredible strategy never heard of in the ancient world, a brilliant military campaign that generals would be studying centuries later; not exactly.

God decided to give them, what amounted to virtually no plan at all. All they had to do was march around the city. The Israelites must have become the laughingstock of the ancient world. What was wrong with these people? Did they think that marching alone would bring down such a wall? Perhaps they could stomp their feet really hard and the earth would tremble just enough. How many Israelites must have questioned God and their leader Joshua after the first day of marching? They had marched around an entire city. They must have been tired. Day two through day six, they had to do the same thing. Then on the seventh day God’s request was even more challenging and hard to trust. He asked Israel to march around the city seven times, blow their trumpets and shout. We can only wonder  about the number of Israelites that were questioning the sanity of this plan.

However the majority of them must have believed. They trusted in God, while Jericho trusted their mighty wall. The wall lost. It came down and the Israelites took the city completely defeating those men of valor.

The plan might have been simple, but it wasn’t the plan or the marching that defeated Jericho, it was God. In our lives we must face constant challenges, and perhaps a more elaborate plan might be more comforting, but God remains our true source of strength and in the end He is the one that will give us the victory. Should we put away our brains and never try to plan or strategize? Of course not, but when all the planning in the world fails us, perhaps it’s time to depend on God. Sounds simple, however, that’s what we need to bring down a mighty wall.

Can we trust God more than the train?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; Proverbs 3:5

There I was speeding through the Bronx on an elevated train way above the ground. Children were playing and having a great time. Mothers seemed relaxed and contented. The driver of the train was nowhere in sight. But I was happy as can be and without a care in the world. I figured I was 100% safe. No reason to be concerned with who might be driving the train, his or her physical condition or capabilities; I was not worried about the condition of the train or the old tracks. What could go wrong? I trusted the construction of a system whose parts in some cases dated back to the 1800’s and an anonymous driver. As a species we are actually more trusting than what we think. We trust our waiters, our cooks, our babysitters, and our doctors. However when it comes to God how often does our trust fail?

Why do we doubt God even if we have experienced his power first hand? The Israelites had experienced the power of God who liberated them from Egypt with a mighty hand. But when they came face to face with the giants in Canaan they could not believe that God would provide a victory. Sarah had experienced the protection and guidance of God but upon being told that she would have a child, also did not believe and only laughed. I have also doubted God and yet I have personally experienced God’s blessing and care. Why do we spend so much time doubting?

Perhaps part of the doubt comes from our own feelings of inadequacies. The Israelites felt small next to those Giants and Sarah was sure she was too old. Often in finding our faith we must come to grips with the reality that when we cannot continue the fight, our God can. That when the problem is too great He can solve it and when it is impossible for us it is still possible for Him. The giants were thoroughly defeated, and Sarah would rejoice to see her baby born.

Everyday God is acting in our lives in miraculous ways. Let us trust Him. He is more reliable than the NYC subway system and has been around a whole lot longer. He is not anonymous and hears you when you call. He arrives on time and will definitely take us where we need to go.