Blind Obedience

Yes, it’s that word.

The words that makes us, our children, and our pets cringe (I don’t have pets, but I’m pretty sure obedience school isn’t the funnest place to be for  a dog).

We can’t reason with it, can’t excuse it, can’t overlook it, can’t explain it away.

We just have to do it.

Man.

It is so hard it makes our heads hurt and our insides feel scooped out–when we do it and when we don’t do it.  Any way you look at it, it’s not any easy thing.

It’s made me look at the story of blind Baritmaeus in a whole new way,  though.  Having been studying in Mark for the last few months, I’ve had some more time to mentally chew over passages I would have otherwise breezed through, particularly those accounts of healing, but they are all over the place, I mean, they were a key component to to Jesus’ three-year ministry.

But let’s look a the context that surrounds this story, first.

In chapter 10, Jesus once again confronts the trickery of the Pharisees and rebukes them with scripture, welcomes the little children, and spends a good amount of time telling the disciples what it really means to BE a disciple.  It’s not glamorous.  It means (vs. 29-31) leaving home, brothers, sisters, mother, children, fields for the sake of the gospel.  That’s pretty much everything we can possibly think of, right? He ends this instruction with the words: “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Jesus then moves on to predict his death, the disciples are astonished and those who follow him are afraid, He is no longer talking in parables, he is predicting something very serious: the end (or at least that’s how they see it).

The next is an account that is almost comical in an very frustrating way.  James and John, having just heard Jesus predict his death, ask that they be seated at his right hand and his left in heaven.  Whaa?  I would be more flabbergasted if I didn’t see their personalities in my own.  My own stupid selfishness: “Lord I know this life is completely about you, but I have this one little request that somehow is all about me and my needs.”

Oh, I am so thankful for the disciples and how they point to my own folly and self-serving attitude again and again.

And finally, the story of blind Baritmaeus.  As Jesus and his disciples are leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus is sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he began to shout, asking that the Son of David have mercy on him. Verse 48: Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus instructs his disciples to speak to him and they tell him to cheer up, get on his feet, because Jesus was calling him!

Wow.  Can you imagine?  Jesus calling you personally?  Guess what?  He does that every day, he is calling us, and he is asking us to jump up and approach him.

He asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go, your faith has healed you. ” 

Bartimaeus received his sight.

Here’s the thing: Bartimaeus wasn’t counting the cost, the Lord was calling him and he JUMPED up.  His faith healed him.  Please don’t misconstrue this last statement.  I’m not saying if you’re not healed that you don’t have enough faith, God’s ways are higher than our own, I want to place the emphasis on Bartimaeus’ reaction. He obeyed, he did it, he jumped up and Jesus met him there and after receiving his sight, he followed Jesus along the road.

I have some good friends who have been on a very interesting journey the last few years, they heard God’s calling to be missionaries in India, they obeyed, prepared, they sold their house, raised support, went to language school,  and after about a year of preparation, they went.  A few months in, the wife came down with a serious physical condition, they carried on their work, ministered, but things weren’t looking good physically.  They came back to the States, she was officially diagnosed and they questioned: What do we do?  They prayed and felt like God was calling them to go back, they were there a total of 2 years, but now they are back in the States again, getting treatment and it looks like for right now, the door to India has closed.

For them, I know this probably looks like a very frustrating defeat, but for me, on the outside looking in, it represents TREMENDOUS faith and obedience and it is such an encouragement.

When God called they, like Bartimaeus took courage, they had faith, threw off their cloaks and followed Jesus “along the road.”

Care to share any personal roadblocks you’ve seen God use in a bigger way?

  

God Has Not Forgotten Us

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Gen. 8:1

God has just sent a flood to cover the whole earth, having destroyed all of mankind except for one man and his family–and oh yes, two of every living creature upon the earth.  Here they are floating on the sea for 150 days, and God remembered Noah, and all the animals on the ark.  God was present in the deepest, darkest recesses of these waters.  He was present when I’m sure Noah’s hope faltered again and again, when fear seized him, wondering when they would ever get out of the boat, having brought his three sons, their wives and his own wife with him, knowing that yes, they would be questioning, wondering too, “Has God forgotten us?”

No, He hasn’t. 

He loves us and he has a plan.

And I love that his plan for Noah unfolded little by little while still floating on this small (compared to the seas covering the earth) vessel.

First, the springs of the deep and the floodgates of heaven close and the rain stopped falling (1:2)

Then, the water receded from the earth slowly, steadily, for 150 days (vs. 3)

Then, the ark came to rest on the the mountains of Ararat and many more days later, the tops of the mountains became visible (vs. 4-5)

Do you sense it?  There’s hope coming. We can begin to see dry land.  Opportunities avail themselves, someone says an encouraging word, you are beginning to feel like the sun is peeking through in the tiniest way.  The small seed has germinated and it’s sweet, little fresh head is pushing itself out of the loamy soil.

Forty days after this, Noah opens the window to the ark and releases a raven.  The raven comes back.  Next, he sends out a dove to see if the water has receded from the ground.  Has the dove been able to find any material with which to make it’s home?  No, the dove returns…seven days go by and Noah sends out the dove again:

When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf!  

(Hooray for the exclamation point at the end of this verse.  Such joy, such hope!)

Then Noah knew that the water had receded.

He waited seven more days, sent the dove out, but the dove did not return.

Noah was 601 years old when the water was dried up from the earth.  He removed the covering from the ark and saw that the earth was dry.  Can you imagine that moment for even a minute?  The joy, the anticipation, the excitement the RESTLESSNESS in the bones of every single creature on that boat–human and non?

More waiting?  Yes.

Then, two more months go by and the earth was completely dry.

God spoke to Noah, saying to him, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives.  Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you–the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground–so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.”

And so Noah and his whole family exit the ark, in what I envision to be some glorious, majestic procession, there is not a stampede, because we read, “All the animals…came out of the ark, one kind after another.”  The act itself should have had trumpets and pomp and circumstance–a choir, at least, but there wasn’t, just this glorious, undefiled new earth, this new thing that God had created out of something very ugly and base and scary.

And upon this earth was a new beginning.

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and sacrificed some of the clean animals and birds.  Wow.  Even then, Noah had everything he could possibly need to offer thanks to the Lord.  I am completely overwhelmed.  How good, how amazing, how perfect is God?

And the Lord was there, because it says, “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of this heart is evil from childhood.  And never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.'”

As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease

More beautiful beyond words…

What Made Daniel and His Friends Completely Awesome?–Part II of II

Beginning in Chapter 3 of Daniel, after Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, (renamed by Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego after Babylonia’s pagan gods) had been assigned to positions of power all over the province of Babylon, the King made a statue. A huge image of gold: 90 feet high and 9 feet wide and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.  The statue was dedicated and the decree clear: once the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music sound, all must bow down at once to worship this image of gold, and you know the drill: those who do not will be thrown into the fiery furnace.

We’ve see Daniel’s courage under fire (no pun intended) in the first two chapters, now let’s see what his friends are truly made of in this one:

1) They were respectful (3:13)–when the King heard that they were not bowing down, they were brought before the King and listened to him speak.  I think it’s great that the king went painstakingly through his instructions with them re: the statue, as if they had no idea what the entire kingdom had already been engaged in.
2) Saw no need to defend their actions when they knew they were doing God’s will (3:16)–this may just be one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.”  I am so convicted by this verse, I find, over and over again that I need to justify, explain why I am doing something, when all I really need to do is sit back and let my testimony speak for me and allow people to think I’m a little crazy if they want.
3) Believed in God’s sovereignty and ability to save them (3:17)–at the same time acknowledging that even if God chose not to, they would not serve false gods or worship them and after they are thrown into the furnace:
4) Again, just like Daniel, through their deliverance, they compelled this mighty king to acknowledge how big, how mighty this one, true God is (3:28)
5) they (or rather through their actions, God) turned the king’s heart (3:29)
(also see Prov. 21:1)
6) Gained promotion just by standing unswervingly behind their convictions (3:30)

I’m pretty sure I’ve never turned the heart of a king, but who knows, maybe I’ve turned the heart of someone almost as powerful.  Sometimes we see, we know who we influence, other times we don’t, we simply have to have the courage to stand by our convictions.  Most times it’s easier said than done, right?  But just watch and see if it’s not an opportunity for God to take you through that fiery furnace without even a trace of smoke on your clothes.

He is gracious.

What Made Daniel and His Friends Completely Awesome?–Part I of II

As my pastor continued his series on courage, he shared with us the story of Daniel.  Yep, he’s awesome, and I managed to exptrapolate of few thoughts of my own on the first 3 chapters of this book by the very same name:

Just to give you a little background, the nation of Israel is seized by the powerful King Nebuchadnezzar, he brought captives from many conquered lands to serve in his government, it was his custom to choose the best and the brightest, and among this cream of the crop were Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  They start off chapter 1 by distinguishing themselves as set apart, honoring the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, by refusing to eat from the king’s table–food that was most likely sacrificed to idols, they prove that just by standing by their convictions that they are not only just as capable but even more so that the other youths who do take of the king’s offerings.  

Moving on to chapter 2, the stakes get a bit higher, we’re talking life or death here, and in fact, throughout the rest of the book of Daniel, we’re talking life or death…but Daniel, as well as his friends are up for the challenge.  Nebuchadnezzar has a very disturbing dream, but instead of just calling his magicians, sorcerers, etc. just to interpret it, he commands that they tell the king exactly what the dream was and interpret it.  Impossible?  Certainly.  But for the God who is the revealer of dreams and mysteries?  Not a problem.  Not only does Daniel tell the King exactly what the dream was, he translates it in great detail.  Amazing, simply amazing. I want to share more tomorrow on Chapter 3, but I wanted to give you all some thoughts to chew on, some take-aways, that might help you with something you may be facing right now.  In fact, I want to issue a challenge:  how many of these can you implement this week?

I’d love your feedback!

1) Daniel was willing to go against the grain (1:8)
2) Spoke with those in authority with wisdom with tact (2:14)whew, it’s taken a couple of years (10-15, still working on it..) for me to get this one down
3) Daniel asked to approach the one in authority (2:24b) who was already in a bad mood
4) Used his God-given gifts (1:17)
5) Enlisted the prayers of his friends (2:17)
6) Thanked and praised God for his revelation (2:20)
7) Confidence–God had given him this message, now it needed to be told (2:24 and 2:45b)
8) Gave credit where credit was due: to God (2:28)
9) Compelled those in authority to give all credit, glory and honor to the “God of gods” (2:37).  How powerful is that?  Here is the pagan king, worshiper of idols, grumpy, ruthless, and very, very powerful recognizing that Daniel’s God, is “a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries” (2:47)
9) Assigned his godly friends to positions of leadership all over Babylon–you may say it’s favoritism, I say it’s common sense and wisdom.  He knew his friends were God-fearing men capable of great things…

More to Come…

What-Ifs Don’t Help

Well, this last weekend took an unexpected turn–literally.  I pulled out onto the main street for an early morning meeting on Saturday, going about 5 miles an hour up a busy, four-lane road, when it happened.  I was going south, he was going north, but he wasn’t, for a while.

For a while he was going northwest.

Exactly in the direction of my car.

“Surely,” I thought to myself in the 3-4 seconds I had to see him coming, “Surely, he’ll adjust his course.”and then I thought to myself, foot on the break, “Just brace yourself.” And sure enough, the impact…and this:

Whammo.

I’m thankful to be sitting here three days later typing this.

Facts spilled out of his mouth like a pile of beans…and I couldn’t help but feel bad for him.  At one point, after his 10th apology, I touched his arm and said, “I’m sorry, I have no idea what you’ve been through.”

I thank God:
-I wasn’t a car full of teenagers who weren’t wearing their seatbelt.
-I wasn’t a car of young kids who would grow skittish for months, maybe years, just to get back into a car again.
-That my daughter wasn’t in the back seat, that no one else was in the car.

It made me realize that God can allow or cause absolutely anything to happen in our lives.  Life isn’t out of control.  Things happen, and sometimes, we are allowed to step back and reflect.  Other times we aren’t.  Even still, what-ifs don’t help.  What if I had woken up 10 minutes earlier?  What if I had just grabbed a banana instead of making oatmeal?

It doesn’t help.

What does help, is knowing that our Creator God has our lives in our hands and just and Job said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job 1:21b

I thanked God that it was me, and I thanked him that he spared my life.

I’m thankful I’m here.

What can you be thankful for today?

Should We Build Some Extra Rooms Now?

Transfiguration (def.) change of form or appearance; Christ’s appearance in radiant glory to three of his disciples

transfigure (def.) change in form or appearance esp. so as to elevate or idealize

So this theme of standing up for your convictions has been resonating with me lately, last Sunday’s message on Daniel,  and now this week’s study in Mark, so I think it must be worth sharing.

I don’t want to get in too deep of a theological discussion of this instance of transfiguration, but I do want to see how we can relate this awe-inspiring event from the lives of Jesus and his three closest friends, Peter, James and John to our own lives.

Prior to the Transfiguration, beginning in Mark 8:31, Jesus had a discussion with the disciples predicting his death, saying that he must suffer many things, be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, that he would be killed and 3 days later rise again.  Upon hearing this, Peter immediately springs into action, rebuking Jesus, and in turn, Jesus rebukes Peter saying pointedly that he only has the things of man in mind.

He then calls the crowd and the disciples to himself as sort of a pre-commission, telling them exactly what followers of Christ must do: deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him, saying, (vs. 38) “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Moving on to Chapter 9: 2-13

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(C)”> with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(D)”> whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(E)”> it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud:<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(F)”> “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(G)”>
Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(H)”> what they had seen until the Son of Man<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(I)”> had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(J)”> must suffer much<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(K)”> and be rejected?<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(L)”> 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(M)”> and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”


Are there people in your life, when you look at them, are you like, “Man, he/she is the coolest.  They keep their calm, they love people.  They’re Jesus with white hair and orthopaedic shoes.”  

A good idea to elevate?  No. Emulate?  Yes.

These are people who have “gotten” it.  Who have denied themselves, have put everything else down except for the cross of Christ and who are followers of him.

What happened when Moses saw God? (Exodus 34:29-30)  “When Moses came down from  Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.”

How do we change our form or appearance to be more like Him?  How do other people see a marked difference in our lives?  My bible study introduces these verses: Rom.  12:1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, bothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.  

There’s something about these verses that make me want to pump my fist in the air [Go ahead, you do it, nobody’s looking] Yes, we can do this, we can discern HIS will for OUR lives.  It’s amazing, liberating.  Isn’t He wonderful?

What small thing can we do today to reflect his glory?

Welcome the neighbor in
Bridge the gap of uncomfortable silence and call our friend
Extend ourselves in grace to the difficult boss/co-worker
Be exceedingly patient as we wipe up a child’s spilled drink
Be polite when the other person isn’t

Got anything else?

What We Read to Our Children

I can’t say it enough: I love my momma.  She is the sweetest, kindest, and strongest spiritual giant that I know.


I am the baby of the family, the youngest by about 8 1/2 years, the “surprise”.  And yes, for that reason alone, I was spoiled, not so much with material things growing up, but my mom just had more time to devote to me than had I been born closer to my brother and sister.  One of my favorite times with her was bedtime.  In fact, it was at bedtime one night when I was around 5 years old that I prayed the sinner’s prayer and accepted Christ into my life.  Never underestimate the power of the gospel in a child’s life.


And it was at bedtime that my mom would read to me, and of course the themes and stories progressed and matured as I did (one of my favorite stories as a wee one was Sleeping Beauty, I think it was the crazy beautiful colors and the beguiling look of pure evil in Maleficent’s eyes that captivated me).  If I had to pick, though, these would be the two most formative books that she read to me:


Joel (Spanish Edition)

The first is Joel, a biography of a boy who, on September 15, 1979, when he was only 22 months old, was involved in a devastating accident that left him with burns over 85% of his body. He was burned after a tractor trailer crashed into the car he was in, resulting in the rupturing of its fuel tank. He was rescued from his parent’s burning car by a stranger. The tissue damage he suffered included the loss of the fingers on his right hand, his left hand entirely, his ears, and damage to his skull.  This is his story and his parent’s story.



The second story is one that 99% of you will recognize, that of Joni, this is a woman, who at the age of 17, dove into a shallow part of the Chesapeake Bay.  She suffered a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels and became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down.

During her two years of rehabilitation, according to her autobiography, she experienced anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, and religious doubts. However, she learned to paint with a brush between her teeth, and began selling her artwork. To date, she has written over fifty books, recorded several musical albums, starred in an autobiographical movie of her life, and founded Joni and Friends (JAF) in 1979, an organization for Christian ministry in the disabled community all over the world.


Of course I can’t tell you every last detail of their stories, but these two, out of the many titles that my mom read to me over the years as I snuggled up against her shoulder, had the most impact–and who knows, it’s possible that these titles were the ones that gave me the courage to write my very own story.  I think a lot of times, we can get so caught up in projecting this perfect image of ourselves, “I’m healed, I’m better, I swear!” when, truthfully, here are two people who can’t hide the deep hurts because they are physical and that’s what I find so inspiring, we share in the struggle with them, but we also gain this galvanizing perspective that God can use anyone, at any time under any circumstance no matter how devastating the loss.  

So yes, Charlotte’s Web is great (we’re reading that right now), but how about throwing George Mueller’s biography in there too next story time?

What have you been reading with your kids lately?

I May Be Starting to Get this Bread Thing

No wonder Jesus got so frustrated with the disciples.  He was doing everything he could to appeal to them on their level, talking of bread, wine, etc. and still they weren’t getting it.  I’m pretty sure that’s why we’re referred to as sheep so often, we’re dumb, we need direction, CONTINUAL direction, the only thing we really are good for is hearing our Shepherd’s voice.  It’s true, my friend raised a couple of sheep for 4-H and she said tenderly, repeatedly that the sheep always knew her voice.  It made me want to cry.

This week’s lesson for my bible study in Mark brought me to 8: 1-21, the feeding of 4,000.  We were asked to contrast this with the feeding of the 5, 000 (6:30-44).  In both instances the disciples complain after Jesus says that they need to feed the crowd.  In the first account, they complain about how costly it’s going to be (8 months wages!) in the second account the disciples complain about the inconvenience (we’re in the middle of nowhere, how are we going to do that?!).

Yet, both accounts start off with the approximately the same amount of food (5 loaves and 2 small fish and 7 loaves and a few small fish).

And both accounts have the same miraculous results: full bellies all around and 12 and 7 basketfuls of leftovers.

It bears repeating: OUR GOD IS AMAZING.

Moving forward in chapter 8, now we get to the frustrating part: after feeding the 4,000, Jesus sent the crowd on their way, got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha, here the Pharisees came and questioned Jesus.  In order to test him, they asked for a sign from heaven, Jesus sighs deeply and says that no, they will not get their sign (I wonder if He was thinking to himself, “I AM that sign?”).  After this, he gets into his boat and crosses over to the other side.

The disciples had forgotten to pack food for the trip and only had one loaf of bread left, Jesus warns them to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.  Here, my study refers us to I Corinthians 5:6-8 where the old yeast of the Pharisees is referred to as malice and wickedness.

The disciples get this quizzical look on their faces and talk among themselves and they insist: “It is because we have no bread.”

I can feel the frustration and sadness in Jesus’s question: “Why are you talking about having no bread?  Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?

And don’t you remember?”

He asks them how many basketfuls were left over after each feeding and they answer in turn, and he asks them, “Do you still not understand?”

Jesus was expecting them to have seen, heard, and remembered that God was bringing them new bread and he was providing out of his abundance!  NOT out of anything they could earn or provide on their own.  He wanted them to live out full, abundant lives, not in fear or worry, simply doing what God had called them to do: to trust God to meet needs, to heal, to preach the gospel and walk in a manner that’s worthy of being called His disciples.  I know it, I’m preachin’ to the choir right now.

If I am doing what God has called me to do: be a godly mother, nurture my child and teach her the ways of Christ, live out my life in a way that testifies to the gospel of his grace, that’s it.  Why strive for anything else?  Why question the one loaf we have in our hands?

My pastor, at least once a month in his sermons says, “You say to yourself, but I’m just a homemaker. No, you are NOT just a homemaker, you are shaping minds, you are shaping hearts, don’t forget about that.”

Love it.

The "Do Nots" of Courage

Ok, so you thought this series on courage had ended, I did too truthfully, but yesterday my pastor picked up on this theme with the story of Joshua and I can’t deprive my audience of good teaching, can I?   

And what an amazing story it is…Joshua 1 is a pep rally of sorts, the kind of thing that most of us need when it comes to a new year…you may not be on the cusp of a battle or an unclaimed territory but then again, you just might, so last night, I took a look at verses 1-9 one more time.  I prayed and I ruminated and what stuck out to me was this: the “Do not” phrases.
The book of Joshua starts off with a command, an out with the old, in with the new kind of thing. Moses, their leader for so long was dead, their patient shepherd had led them, taught them, become furious with them, rallied them, had seen God provide for them and watched them complain in response.  So patient.  Behind the Israelites were 40 years of spinning their wheels as a result of continued disobedience, but Joshua, in his “newness” was about to lead his people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land– but not without some struggle.  
Repeated in this incredibly fortifying speech by God is his promise to be with them wherever they go as well as these do nots:
  
#1 (vs 7b) Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do notturn from it from the right or to the left.  
This is a tough one for me,  if I discover a new pastor or teacher, I become slightly enamored.  I gobble up their writings and their sermons and several months later take a breath, step back THEN evaluate what I’ve learned and where they are going with their teaching.  
Don’t be like me.  
Always, always measure teaching against scripture and if there is a writing or idea that makes you uncomfortable, scrutinize it, ask questions, don’t swallow it whole, examine it in the light of scripture.   Pray about it and go back to James 1:5  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask of God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  God wants us to search, but his also wants HIS word, HIS teaching and the work of HIS Holy Spirit to be preimminent in our lives.
#2 (vs. 8) Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth.  I’ve been reading in Mark 7 about our hearts lately, how it’s not what what comes into our body (i.e. dirty hands, “unclean” food) but it’s what comes out, our words that make us unclean.  So how do we clean up our words?  We clean up our hearts, we speak the truth of God’s word out loud, we speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs we sing and make music in our hearts to God (Eph. 5:19).
#3 (vs. 9b) Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified.  Fear.  The very mention of the word can send shivers down one’s spine.   About a year and a half ago, I think while still in divorce proceedings, fear had overtaken me.  I would lay in bed at night with Little A as she tried to go to sleep and sing a simple chorus with the name of Jesus over and over again.  That helped a lot–for both of us, but then when it came time for momma to go to bed, that was a whole other story.  I finally had to post this sign on my closet door so my eyes could’t possibly miss it: FEAR NOT, FOR I AM WITH YOU!  Yes, the God who appeared to Moses in a burning bush, who labeled himself I AM was the same I AM who calmed a raging sea, is the same I AM who is with me as I lay my head on the pillow every night. 

These statistics, taken from here may be a little eye-opening for you: 

8% of what we worry about actually happens. Of this percentage…
4% of our worries that happen are beyond our control. We cannot change the outcome. These worries may include our health, the death of a loved one or an impending natural disaster. Often times the reality of these events are more bearable than the worry.
4% of what we worry about we have some if not all control over the results. Basically…this is the consequence of our actions or inaction on the problems and challenges we face.
#4 (vs. 9c) do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  Easier said than done, right?  How can we beat discouragement?  Honestly, I think that’s tied up in the first two do nots, the more emmersed we are in scripture, the more we can see that we are living, breathing Gideons, Davids, Ruths, Esthers.
We surround ourselves with encouraging people.  I’m very fortunate to have an incredible close bunch of friends who will come alongside me and say “You are doing a good job.  It’s hard.  X is going to happen.  I can see it, don’t lose heart.”

Lastly, stand on his promises, here are just a few:

-I will never leave you nor forsake you (Josh. 1: 5)
-For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you “Do not fear, I will help you.” (Is. 41:13)
-So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Is. 41:10)
-“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 19:11)

What are some of your favorite Bible promises?