Not What You Expected

Judges 4

February 28

I love this chapter of Judges, not just for the action, but that it lends credit to female leadership among God’s people. Although I could spend this devotion talking about that topic and the leading women through the New Testament, like Mary, Junia, and Phoebe, I have found something even more impactful from this chapter. I challenge you to look deeply into the issue of female leadership in Israel and in the Church, but for now, please read along.

We are introduced to a woman named Deborah, who is a prophetess and a judge (leader) of Israel at the time. A man named Barak wanted her to accompany him into battle to hunt down Jabin and Sisera of Canaan. She then tells him that if she goes, the honor of the battle will be given to a woman instead of him! He agrees, and as we continue reading, we are expecting Deborah to be the one who gets the honor and wins the fight. However, God had another plan in store for how this story would conclude.

In the tent of Heber the Kenite was his wife, Jael. She tricks Sisera into coming and relaxing in their tent, but kills him with a tent peg while he is sleeping! (The Bible is rarely appropriate for young children by the way) This is unexpected for us as a reader; we were never expecting another woman to be the one who gets the glory for this battle, but God made it happen that way. This happens all the time around us; we often have a vision for our lives, or our churches, and think that we have the best plan to make that vision come true. However, God knows much better than we do and works to make the best happen, even if it plays out differently than we thought it should. More often than not, what we think should happen rarely does.

-Talon Paul

Questions to Consider

  1. Have you ever had a plan or vision that didn’t work out the way you thought it would? Was God still faithful through it?
  1. When something doesn’t go the way you expected, do you get frustrated? Or are you willing to step back, breathe, and see what God is doing differently?
  1. Do you trust that God knows better than you do? Are you willing to take your hands off the wheel of your life and let Him take control?

Tell the Next Generation

Judges 2

February 27

As the book of Judges opens, we are very hopeful for the future of Israel. Joshua came after Moses and brought them into the Promised Land. The Israelites had become strong and were beginning to drive out the other nations from the land, a punishment from God on their deeds (see Genesis 15:6 and Deuteronomy 20:17-18). Unfortunately, as the generation after Joshua dies off, we find out that the Israelites are in serious trouble: they have not been listening to their God, and are doing things that were evil in His eyes, just like the people they were supposed to drive out.

One of the major reasons why they didn’t obey God is that this new generation did not know God or His ways (v. 10). How would an entire generation of Israelites not know the stories of the exodus from Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, or God’s faithfulness through the wilderness? This is probably baffling to us looking back on it; surely these stories from the past would have been enough to convince anyone to believe and obey God, right? But what if this story is the same as our own? What if we have forgotten God’s faithfulness and mercies over the years, or not talked about them with the next generation like we are commanded to do? (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

Things around us in the United States and in our churches have changed dramatically over the last few decades. There are many who have been raised without any knowledge of God or Jesus, and one of the major reasons why is the lack of people passing down their stories and beliefs to the next generation (not the only reason, but a big one). In fact, I had a friend who didn’t know that we celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus until he was 21 years old! Former missionary fields, like Africa, are now sending their own missionaries back here because we have fallen so far away from the faith. Maybe the writer of Ecclesiastes had it right: “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

-Talon Paul

Questions to Consider

  1. Think about your life and story; are there ways that God has moved and worked to bring you to the place where you are now? Don’t forget these stories, like the Israelites before us. I encourage you to take time this week and reflect on how God has been faithful to you.
  1. To those who have been in the faith for many years: have you been telling your stories and testimonies to those who are younger? What can you pass along to the next generation to help them trust in God more?
  1. To this current, young generation: Israel was punished for their disobedience, but we don’t have to be. We can make a decision right now to be different from them and choose to worship the one true God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Will you make that decision today? Will you forsake the gods you have set up in your hearts and trust in the only One who can truly save?

Your Choice

Joshua 24

February 26

Like Moses, Joshua had an opportunity to give a farewell message to the Israelite people he had led before dying. Under his leadership things have gone well. One of the greatest compliments given to a godly leader would be that your people served the Lord throughout your tenure. In verse 31 Joshua gets just that. 

Joshua uses these last moments to remind (common theme in this book) the people of where they came from and what God has done to get them to the promised land. God was the sole source of their successes and their only failures were when they tried to do it on their own. 

The part of his speech that gets the most attention is a challenge. After telling them all what God has done he looks out at the people and asks them to make a choice. If serving this God I have described is undesirable, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. Don’t wait, waiver or wander. As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord. 

It is a choice that is set out before each individual both then and now. Half commitments are not acceptable. It is a decision that we continue to make each day as we face the temptation to wander. Like Joshua, as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord. 

-John Wincapaw

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Look at Genesis 12:1-7 to see the significance of gathering the people at Shechem for these final words from Joshua.
  2. As Joshua recounts the history of the Israelites, what part did God play? Consider your own history – where has God been at work to bring you to where you are today (both during your lifetime and your ancestors)?
  3. What other ‘gods’ (popularity, addictions, wealth, power, affection, leisure, hobbies, security, or a significant person) have you been tempted to serve? When have you made a wrong choice?
  4. What do you choose today? Why? What can be a reminder of your commitment?

Nothing is Impossible with God

Joshua 10

February 25

The people of Gibeon heard of the victory at Jericho and quickly created a peace treaty with the Israelites. This ruffled the feathers of the 5 surrounding nations and their kings declared war on Gibeon.

The king of Gibeon cries out to his new ally – come help us. With God’s direction and encouragement, Joshua gathers his best fighters and comes to the rescue. The passage tells us that he surprised the armies and with the help of God’s hand they push the enemy back. 

Joshua sees that victory is at hand but fears that the enemy may be able to escape in the night. So Joshua looked up to the sun and told it to stand still, and miraculously, it did! 

Verse 14: There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!

I would suggest it is rarely (possibly never) a good idea to give God instructions. God is capable to do what we see is impossible. That does not mean we can tell him to provide us with all of our desires and entertain us with cool magic tricks. To be clear, that is not what Joshua did. God has already given the order, promised he would be with them and would hand over his enemy. Joshua was looking for God to provide him an opportunity to do what God already said He would do. 

God will do miraculous things in our lives. Especially when we ask Him to do things that he already wants to do. If there is calling in your life that seems impossible to you, know that your God wants to help you fulfill what he is calling you to do. What may be impossible to us – is not for God!

-John Wincapaw

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. There is an interesting story in the previous chapter (Joshua 9) of the Gibeonites deceiving Joshua in order to create a peace treaty with the Israelites. Why do you think Joshua – and God – still fought to protect them?
  2. If social media had been around at the time, what would those who witnessed the sun standing still post?
  3. What does it mean to you that the Almighty and All Powerful God can and has used His powers over His created world to influence or control an outcome?
  4. Is there a job you think God wants you to do that you feel you need more time for? How can you better order the rest of your day and projects to give the required time to God’s project?

Do we learn from our past mistakes?

Joshua 6

February 24

The Israelites’ failures in the desert can be summarized simply down to disobedience. Even though God was leading the way, they stubbornly chose their own. Will the new generation do the same? 

Once they have crossed the Jordan, the people have dedicated themselves to follow and obey. God quickly puts that to the test. He promises them Jericho but he tells them to take it in the most unorthodox way. He is going to show them that it will all be done by his power and not theirs. 

Imagine being excited to fight for God! He has proven he is with you. You are ready to go out on his behalf and the order comes down the command chain that we are not fighting but instead we are marching. Talk about a let down. You get to come back to camp and tell everyone of your great triumphs – err, a few miles walk around a city wall. And it gets worse. They have to do it for 6 days without seeing any results. 

I’m sure there was plenty of confusion and likely complaining. But on day 7, it was different. They got to walk around 7 times and wait for it, SHOUT! Talk about a warrior’s perfect picture of their first battle. I’m sure this tugged on all their desires to take this in their own hands and do what they were trained to do – fight. 

They were faithful – and after the 7th trip on the 7th day, they let out a shout and the wall collapsed and they finally got to fight. Although they did not understand God’s way in the beginning or during the process, it made sense in the end. They were able to go in and take the city without loss. Had they tried any other way, this level of success was unattainable. 

Most had learned that following God’s way (even when you don’t fully understand) was the best path. If interested in finding out again what happens when they disobey, you don’t have to look far, just read the next chapter. 

-John Wincapaw

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. When would God have you be silent? How well do you do this? When would God want you to SHOUT? How well do you do this?
  2. In what ways does God’s battle plans today seem crazy to a world that does not follow and obey God?
  3. Why was Rahab and her family spared (see Joshua chapter 2)? How can we be involved in saving lives from the coming destruction?

Prepare Yourself

God is going to do wonders among you!

Joshua 3

February 23

It is finally time. The Israelites are finally getting to go into the promised land. The years of wandering are over. The last day starts very similar to the first. They are standing in front of a large body of water that needs to be crossed. God once again shows that a large body of water is not an obstacle too big for Him. 

God gives Joshua the plan and again lets him know that he will be with him along the way. He gives him the words to say to get the people to follow. Joshua prepares the people for the miracle that is about to happen. Different translations may say cleanse, sanctify or prepare – but essentially get ready, God is going to do something awesome. 

The directions are to have the spiritual leaders carry the Ark of the Covenant (signifying God’s throne and presence) and the people were to follow. They were to take a couple steps into the water and stop. 

I love this! How much easier would it have been if God separated the water before they started moving. No faith required. Instead, they had to trust God would do what he said he was going to do. The waters begin to separate after their feet hit the water. 

Again, the Israelites get an amazing miracle to help them remember their God is with them and for them. Once everyone made it to the other side, God asked Joshua to set up a memorial. They were to set up another reminder for the generations to come to remember the events that took place. 

-John Wincapaw

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Everyone wants God to work in their lives, but are you ready for it? Is there something in your life that may be stopping God from doing something great? What might God be asking you to do to prepare, sanctify, consecrate or purify yourself?
  2. The Israelites had to get their feet wet before the water parted. Is there an obstacle in front of you? Describe it. To overcome it, what is a first step you can take in faith?
  3. When God does something amazing, it is important we set up ways to use it to tell others about his greatness. What has God done in your life that you could share with someone else? How will you share it? With whom? When? Where?

Be Strong and Courageous!

Joshua 1


After the death of Moses, Joshua had some large shoes to fill. Not only did he have to follow after Moses, he had the responsibility to lead the people into their promised land. 

Joshua had to be terrified. Maybe I am reading into how I would have responded with such a hard task but look how many times God assured him as they are getting started. Verses 3 and 4 – I will give you the land. Verse 5 – no one will stand against you – I will be with you and will never leave you. Verse 6-9 – multiple times He tells him be strong and courageous. 

God knew Joshua had a daunting task in front of him. He did not want Joshua to be overcome with fear. So He gives Joshua the best support and encouragement possible – I will be with you!

Notice how he doesn’t say it will be easy. This is something I think we all need to hear. Some get the idea if we follow God, go to church, get baptized…etc. that it will be easy. But still we all face difficulties, hardships and battle fear. We can be immobilized by fear or move on in strength and courage. 

I believe the promise given to Joshua is for us as well. No matter what stands in front of you: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

After embracing this promise we see Joshua step up and lead the people. He then had the opportunity to share that courage with the others who also saw the difficult task ahead. When they saw his strength and courage they vowed to follow him the same way they followed Moses. 

Others will see when you courageously face difficulties. It may give you an opportunity to share where your strength and courage comes from. Be ready to share that the presence of God can help us through anything. 

-John Wincapaw

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In Joshua 1:6-9 we hear God tell Joshua three times, “Be strong and (very) courageous.” What else does God tell Joshua to do in these 4 verses? How is this related to building his strength and courage? Why is it still important today?
  2. Who do you admire for their Christian strength and courage? Ask them what their secret is.
  3. How has surviving through a past fearful situation helped to grow your strength and courage? What are you facing now or in the future that will be easier with an extra dose of strength and courage? How can you exercise those qualities today?

Celebrate and Remember

Deuteronomy 16

February 21

Chapter 16 begins with the reminder to celebrate the Passover. It was a time that was set aside to remember how their God saved them from Egyptian slavery. More specifically from the angel of death that passed over those Jewish people who placed the blood of a lamb on their door posts.

We also see the reminder of the Festival of Weeks (celebrating the harvest/first fruits) and the Festival of Tabernacles (remembering the years of wandering). Each were given specifications as to how and when to celebrate. 

Each of these celebrations was to be a reminder of where they came from and to celebrate God’s provision. God provided a way out, he provided the harvest and he provided for the Jewish people in their 40 year wilderness wandering. 

Knowing that God will provide in all life circumstances should give us joy and help encourage us in difficult times. God has been there before and he will be there again. He provides, always!

We all should set up reminders to celebrate the way God has worked in our lives. The reminders can help us remain thankful and never take for granted what God has done, is doing or what he will do in the future. 

-John Wincapaw

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Make a list of how God has provided for you. How will you express your thankfulness to the Lord? What reminders do you already have in place, and what reminders can you add to your home, your routine, and your calendar to ensure that you remember and thank God for the way He has provided?
  2. What is the danger in not being intentional in remembering what God has done and provided?
  3. What is your favorite holiday? Why? How do you celebrate it? What might God want you to remember as you celebrate? How could you do that better?
  4. Each of the three festivals decreed in Deuteronomy 16 included bringing a sacrifice, gift or offering to the Lord. “No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.” (verses 16b & 17) What can you give to the Lord so you do not come before Him empty-handed?

Blessing or Curse?

Deuteronomy 11

February 20

Verse 26-27

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse—the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today;  the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods.

Chapter 11 is a constant reminder for obedience. We see multiple reminders to be careful – which to me shows how easy it is mess up. If we are not paying attention we can easily fall. 

The Israelites are about to finally leave the wilderness and go into the land that was promised. Before entering they are given some instruction to help them not fall away like those before them. It was focused on obedience to the law and commands that were being given to them. 

We often think of obedience as a restriction from the things we would like to do. But here we are reminded that God desires blessing for us and those blessings are for those who make the choice of obedience.

Obedience isn’t just knowing God or about his commands. It is making the choice to follow them. Making the choice to have them be a priority in your life. Surrounding yourself with reminders to do what is right so you are not tempted to fall away. 

It is a choice! We are not forced to do anything. God did not create humans as robots. He gave us the choice to obey or not. We make a choice everyday and that choice is tied together with love. If we love God we will obey him! 

Those that love God will obey God. Those that obey God will be blessed by God. 

-John Wincapaw

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. When have you experienced God’s blessings for obedience?
  2. Can you think of a time you may have experienced God’s punishment or curses because of a time of disobedience?
  3. What have you seen of God’s power and might with your own eyes? How can you pass this along to those younger than you who did not experience what you did? Why is that important to do?


Deuteronomy 6

February 19

Love is one of the most powerful things in the world. You love your friends and your church, but most importantly you love your family. God is our father and he gives unconditional love to us. As we should give him this love he also shows us many times in the Bible, that love comes with boundaries and rules. The commands in Deuteronomy 6 show this. In any relationship there has to be boundaries and rules in order for it to be a healthy and loving relationship. These rules, like not putting your lord your God to the test, must be followed. Love comes with these boundaries and rules to have a steady balance. Look at the relationships you have. The love you have with certain people comes with certain boundaries and rules.

-Genesis Dylewski

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How do you show your love for God? With your heart? With your soul? With your strength? Are there any areas of your life where you feel you should love God more? How so?
  2. What was to be taught to the children? How? Why? How well are you passing along the knowledge of who God is, and how to love and obey Him to the younger generation? What can you do this week and throughout the year to increase your involvement and effectiveness with teaching and encouraging the children and youth in their Christian faith and upbringing? What will happen if we don’t?
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