Strength, courage, and adequacy

Moses blesses Joshua

Moses Blesses Joshua Before the High Priest / James Tissot, late 19th century

God’s first words to Joshua are, “Moses my servant is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan.” Joshua had known that this moment would come.

Everyone knew that Moses would not lead the people into the Promised Land.

We have all experienced starting a new venture or getting a big promotion, something that we have prepared to do for a long time.

But when it comes time to actually start working, it’s only natural to have some jitters about our adequacy.

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Construction tools and weapons: spiritual multitasking

tools and weapons on the wall

from Charming Bible Stories / Henry Davenport Northrop (Philadelphia, 1893)

Nehemiah’s best-known accomplishment is getting a wall built. Lots of people have supervised similar construction projects. Not many have done so in the face of armed opposition that forced them to resort to multitasking. And even fewer have had their stories enshrined in Scripture so that thousands of years later, we can learn spiritual lessons.

Nowadays, multitasking seems to be the rule, not the exception. I have long observed people who claim they can be more efficient by doing several things at once. Usually I observe that they do at least one of the tasks so badly that they have to do it over.… Read the rest

How Gideon failed at success

Gideon and the angel

The Angel Puts Fire on the Altar of Gideon / James Tissot

Everyone wants to succeed at what they try. The alternative is failure. Successful people know failure. They have learned from it, worked out problems, and tried again until they succeed. That’s the way the world works. Unfortunately, the world also has pitfalls that can ultimately destroy the successful if they’re not vigilant. The Bible has many examples. Let’s look at Gideon.

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Joshua’s courage–and fear

Joshua and Israelites

Joshua and the Israelite People / Karolingischer Buchmaler, ca. 840

“Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”–Joshua 1:9, NRSV

Moses was dead. Joshua was scared. How do I know that? Because the Book of Joshua begins with God giving him a pep talk. Three times during that pep talk, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. When he got up from there and went out among the people, they told him to be strong and courageous.

So, was it wrong for Joshua to be scared? No.… Read the rest

Love your enemy: a dangerous prayer rewarded

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”–Matthew 5:43-44 (NASB)

The Bible, Jesus in particular, has a way of commanding whatever is most counterintuitive. We are such creatures of the world that, even as believers in Christ, the ways of the world seem more normal than what Jesus asks. Here he tells us to love and pray for enemies.

Ahmadinejad on a missile, after stealing the latest election

I have prayed salvation for Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and other enemies of America and Christ.… Read the rest

Don’t let caution put your fire out

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” — 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NIV)

Paul loved Timothy and trusted him with the most difficult of tasks. He wrote to the Philippians that of his entire staff, only Timothy was like-minded. Like Paul, Timothy suffered persecution, but it seems to have gotten into his mind.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul reminded him that the spirit God has given Christians is of power, love, and a sound mind.… Read the rest

A prayer for boldness

“Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word, but stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” — Acts 4:29-30

I keep reading of prophecies, or at least predictions, that American Christians face persecution like it has never happened here before. Quite a variety of people have written about it, and they offer a variety of evidence. Frankly, the writers exhibit quite a wide range of credibility, too.

As I read this passage from Acts, it struck me that, while I have no idea how likely we are to face systematic persecution, the Bible has already told us how to face it.… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: Go into the world

“Therefore go make disciples of all nations. . .” — Matthew 28:19a

“Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” — Mark 16:15

“You are witnesses of these things.” — Luke 24:48

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” — John 20:21 (All quotations NIV)

Whether “all the world” means going across the ocean, across the country, or across the street, many people find this commandment, in whatever form, the scariest thing Jesus ever said. Learning to lead a holy life is hard enough, but go talk to someone else about it?… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: Peace be with you

“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.'” — Luke 24:36 (NIV)

“A week later  his disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” — John 20:26 (NIV)

Have you ever been reluctant to encounter a friend because you owe him money? Or has a friend avoided you for the same reason? If you have not experienced either case, you surely know someone who has. Something very much like that explains this fourth next word of Jesus.… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: Do not be afraid

“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly, Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They cam to  him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.'” — Matthew 28:8-10 (NIV)

Matthew’s account of the first resurrection appearance is very different from John’s. We need not try to harmonize them or make them fit together, as they each have a different message for us to learn.

“Do not be afraid” is probably one of the most frequent commands in the whole Bible.… Read the rest