Joshua couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Let me see if I am hearing you right, Lord. You want us to march around Jericho once a day for six days, right? And on the seventh day, we are to march around it how many times?” (Joshua 7 & 8)
“Seven! Ok, I’ve got it. Now you want me to go tell my army that this is our battle plan. They are going to laugh at me, God. But I will do it.”
That’s how the career of Joshua began following the death of Moses. He got the job because he was chosen for it by God, and because he had shown promise as a leader. They had faith in him, and would follow him anywhere. What God proposes seems worth questioning from a warrior like Joshua. But he didn’t do that, rather, he was obedient to Jehovah and gave the orders just like he received them.
On the seventh time around Jericho on the seventh day, the trumpets sounded, the people shouted and those walls came tumbling down! It was a great victory in their very first battle in the land of Canaan. Now it was time to go on to the city of Ai, another walled fortress but not nearly as formidable as Jericho. The scouts Joshua sent out reported that it was unnecessary to use the entire army, only 2,000 or 3,000 soldiers were needed in this campaign
Joshua trusted the report and sent out 3,000 men. But this time something awful happened. Because Achan had stolen some of the devoted items from the first battle against Jericho, he brought sin and disobedience to the children of Israel.
When Ai saw the army from Israel, they were ready for them. The king of Ai commanded, “Charge!” They chased the Israelites into a rock quarry where 36 soldiers died in the battle. Word spread quickly about their defeat and the people began to cry out to Jehovah in fear. But God had a plan! It was a scheme of deception.
To the north of the city, Joshua would set up camp with 30,000 of his best fighting men. Five thousand hid in ambush to the West. When the armies of Ai came out of the city, Joshua and his army fled across the desert with all the men of Ai in pursuit, leaving the city defenseless. Those who lay in ambush entered the city, captured it and set it on fire.
“The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising against the sky, but they had no chance to escape in any direction, for the Israelites who had been fleeing toward the desert had turned back against their pursuers… The men of the ambush also came out of the city against them, so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives.” (Joshua 8:20 & 22)
Beloved, there are times when it is appropriate to be deceptive and shrewd in our dealings with the enemy. In War and Sport, we are not to let our opponents know the game plan. That is also true in spiritual warfare.
From these pages in the life of Joshua there are four principles for living a victorious life:
1. Living victoriously does not guarantee a life without defeat. It should not come as a surprise that valleys come between the mountaintops of your life. As long as we are in this world we can expect spiritual warfare and sometimes we will not win. When that happens, you should shout, “Hallelujah!” God is about to show you something that you cannot learn unless you spend some time on your backside, bruised from the battle. Thank God that He is there to pick you up!
2. Sin is often the reason Christians stumble. God gave explicit instructions that the spoils of Jericho belonged to Him, but Achan saw something he wanted and took it. His sin caused the defeat at the first battle of Ai. We must not blame God when we step out of line. There are certain consequences for following our way instead of God’s way.
3. When defeat comes you must believe that God has a plan. The defeat at Ai brought fear into the hearts of God’s children. Joshua became depressed and cried out to Jehovah, “Why did you bring us here if you were going to make us look bad in the face of our enemies? You should have left us in the wilderness!” God said, “Stand up! Get off your beds of self-pity and prepare for battle. I have a plan.”
4. The only plan that will work comes from the mind and heart of God. No matter how smart we are, how skilled at planning, how far advanced in our career, man’s plans are never God’s plans! At the second battle of Ai, Jehovah shows us a new wrinkle about dealing with the enemy. It is a plan of deception!!! He told them to pretend to be doing one thing while planning to do something totally different. What is the principle here? When dealing with spiritual warfare in business, school, relationships… it is O.K. to conceal information from the enemy to improve your position. Giving too much information may pass the advantage to the evil one. Jesus told His disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes… be on your guard against men…” (Matt. 10:16-17)
The battles we wage are very real. Daily we face an enemy every bit as fortified as the walled cities of Jericho and Ai. God’s plan is for you to be victorious in battle but if you are not, He is a God of second chances. This time listen to His plan. It may sound ridiculous and it may place you in the uncomfortable position of trusting Him more than you trust your best friend. But in the end it is the ONLY plan to follow. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord...” Isaiah 55:12
"My enemies are not the ones who sneer and make fun. I could put up with that or even hide from them. But it was my closest friend, the one I trusted most." (Psalm 55:12-13 - Contemporary English Version)
My pastor preached an excellent message recently about the “enemy,” in which he spoke about, (1) the enemy within, (2) the one that comes in the form of the closest person to us and (3) discouragement. It brought to mind an incident at the beauty shop a few days earlier when two hair stylists were discussing a book that one of them was reading. The name of it was “Prayers for Women.” In the conversation, the young lady recalled some of her personal struggles.
I interjected into the conversation that there is nothing that God can’t handle!!! “When you are feeling ‘discouragement,’ that’s the time to pray and give thanks for everything God has done for you. Discouragement comes from the enemy, not from God.”
I suggested several practical steps which would provide a defense against the spiritual warfare she was experiencing:
1. Keep a daily journal.
2. List the blessings God has bestowed each day by staying focused on the best that God provides.
3. Make note of the fact that God is everywhere, all the time. Know that evil, in whatever form it may come, will be revealed and defeated.
My new friend admitted that, although she is growing in the Lord, some of her so-called friends have become critics. I assured her that the task is not easy, but it is also not impossible. As we parted, I told her to remember to pray for her critics because they are God’s children, too. She thanked me for the uplifting message I had shared and said that there must have been a reason for our conversation.
I smiled and said that I struggle too and that I am a “work in progress” and God is not through with me! As I left the shop, I told her to keep the faith. "According to your faith will it be done to you." (Matthew 9:29)
GospeLines Prayer:Thank you Lord for providing the Word to lift up one of your children. May we continue to trust you and to remember Psalm 55:22 (New International Version) "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall."
Preparing her toddler for his first experience at worship in the "Big Church," Mom told Criss repeatedly, "this is God's house. We must be quiet in God's house." His little hand held tightly to hers as they found their place near the back of the auditorium. With wide-eyed amazement, the toddler searched every corner of that big room and inquired, "Where is God?"
That's a fair question. We build lovely buildings for worship to honor God, but a building is not God, nor does God necessarily live there. The handiwork of my Creator is revealed in all that I see, the trees, the mountains, the flowers so delicately made. But nature is not God. Paul the apostle wrote, "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit." Indeed, He resides in me because I am a Christian, but I am not God.
Where is God? He is in you and me, and everything we see and touch begs to show the power and majesty of our Lord. His mercy is in that act of kindness you performed; His beauty is in that rose sitting on your desk; His hope resides in the heart of that homeless man you passed today; His love is expressed in your personality and character every day of your life.
GospeLines Prayer:"Father, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart reflect your mercy and truth all the day long. Let others see Jesus in me." Amen and amen.
I love downhill skiing! I was almost 40 when I first tried skiing; but, now I'm probably considered a fanatic - not good mind you; but willing to ski down almost anything.
A few years after I began skiing, a friend asked me to help him teach a small group of people who wanted to learn to ski. Without giving it too much thought, I said "Sure, I'll help." Wow, was I in for a special treat.
I was a little late getting to the spot on one of the more aggressive slopes where we were supposed to meet. As I arrived, a standard "Ski School" line of people were intently listening to my friend as he discussed making "snow-plow" turns. There were about 10 students and they appeared to range in age from early teens all the way up to their fifties. Interesting to see such a mix of ages in one group…? For a quick moment I wondered what they could possible have in common.
When my friend finished talking, he skied over to me and said, "Your job is to follow behind the students and blow this whistle any time someone gets too close to the edge of the run. It's a special whistle that tells them to stop immediately."
I noticed that he had a whistle as well; so, I asked what his was for. "Oh, that's to tell them to turn. One toot means turn right; two toots means turn left." You see, my friend forgot to tell me that all of his students were blind.
With a bit of effort, most of us can imagine walking in the dark. Running in the dark is almost impossible to comprehend. But skiing down hill… No amount of imagination can make this a reality for a sighted person. Well… maybe that's not totally true…
Christians walk (with the Lord) by faith, not by sight. "We regulate our lives and conduct ourselves by our conviction or belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, with trust and holy fervor; thus we walk not by sight or appearance." (2nd Corinthians 5:7 - AMP) "We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2nd Corinthians 4:18 - NIV)
So, maybe running (or skiing) in the dark is not as difficult as we first thought if we can hear the voice (whistle) of the Lord telling us when to turn and when to stop.
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…" (John 10:27 - KJV)
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 2:5
On August 4, 1987, Jim Dixon set sail from Rhode Island for a trans-Atlantic voyage, alone in a small sailing ship. His story is one of fulfilling a life-long dream while overcoming tremendous odds and numerous obstacles along the way. It was a bittersweet day for his family and friends as they called out their words of encouragement until the crashing waves and soft summer winds no longer permitted. Jim was on his way across the Atlantic.
There is a story in the Gospels about a man with a vision…a dream! (Luke 18:35-43) His name was Bartimaeus and his dream was to receive his sight. He was among the crowd of well wishers who greeted the travelers going to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover. He heard a noise in the streets and asked what the commotion was about. “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by,” they told him.
Was it possible that this was what he had waited for all those years? Through his darkness he had never lost hope that things could change. He never lost his dream of sight. He had heard about this one from Nazareth who could give sight to the blind. Why not him? Why not now?
1. He dreamed a great dream. Bartimaeus was the only one in that crowd that believed his situation was NOT hopeless. He never gave up. Some people have ceased to believe in the miracles of God, yet others dare to dream on. Jesus had a dream and he spoke of it more than 80 times. It was the dream of the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. What is your dream? Do you dare to believe that God is more than ready to give you the desires of your heart? Bartimaeus had never met Jesus before…he had no personal relationship with Him, but when he acted upon the limited knowledge he had, Jesus rewarded him with healing. Beloved, God doesn’t require perfect dreams, just dreams! The early church hesitated to dream at first, but it took the stoning of Stephen and the conversion of Saul to shake them from their complacency. Act upon the faith you have and you will be rewarded.
2. He overcame great obstacles. People who dare to dream the impossible dream have learned to overcome obstacles. Bartimaeus’ obvious hindrance was his sightlessness. But there was another obstacle he faced, one which causes many of us to stumble. He depended on the eyes of others to tell him what was going on around him. “What’s that noise about?” he asked. When he learned that Jesus was coming he pushed his way to the front and cried out to the Saviour, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” The people rebuked him for his outburst, but he yelled all the louder. “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Never allow your dreams to be intimidated by negative Christians who would hush your cries to the Lord! I wonder how many dreamers give up because they have been discouraged by negativity. Harold Ivan Smith said, “There may well be that moment when I conclude my dream is unreachable and I give up. All I know is… it won’t be today!”
3. He obeyed a great command. Jesus ordered that Bartimaeus be brought to him and Luke records, “he came near” to Jesus. The only response we can give to Jesus when He calls us is to listen and obey without excuse.
When Ian Thomas preached his sermon about the burning bush he said that God was trying to tell Moses, “I don’t need a pretty bush or an educated bush or an eloquent bush. Any old bush will do, as long as I am in the bush. If I am going to use you, I AM going to use you! It will not be you doing something for Me, but Me doing something through you.”
A dreamer who lacks obedience is like a soldier who has gone A. W. O. L. It isn’t good enough just to have big plans and lofty dreams. When God gives His approval it’s time to act. Once a commitment is made to follow the Lord and we have suited up in the uniform of God’s armor, absenteeism is not a choice.
Immediately upon receiving his sight Bartimaeus “followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.” (v. 43)
What an awesome testimony! Bartimaeus would never have been considered a leader of people. The influence of a blind beggar was nil. But once he obeyed Jesus and received his blessing, his faith impacted all those who knew him and many who did not. He dared to dream and live it out.
What is your dream? It may not be to sail the Atlantic Ocean alone, as Jim Dixon dreamed of doing. Maybe you have tired of dreaming, or perhaps you think you cannot achieve your dreams so you’ve given up. Beloved, it is never too difficult and it’s never too late!