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

2-22-22

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?

Not a Fairy Tale

A Survey of the Land

Joshua 17-18

Fairy tales don’t have settings. Sure, technically the setting would include in the forest or at the castle or under the sea but we don’t REALLY know where the stories took place. City? Country? Even continent? We aren’t told. Believe it or not, Cinderella’s castle wasn’t actually in Orlando. Fairy tales don’t have detailed settings; because, fairy tales aren’t real.

But, the Israelites occupying the Promised Land, as well as SO MANY other events of the Bible, those are stories with a setting, a lot of very specific and detailed settings to be exact. For the last couple of days, and for the next few days, our Joshua Bible reading has and will include a good bit of geography from ancient Israel. Some of these places actually still exist in the exact same location, today! And others have been lost through the years. Just for fun I looked up the “Stone of Bohan son of Reuben” which is just one of several landmarks listed as part of the northern boundary of Judah’s inheritance (Joshua 15:6). Sure enough, no one knows where that stone is today or what significance it held, but it meant something to the people of their day. The writer of Joshua didn’t give GPS coordinates, but he gave all the information needed for the tribes to find and settle their land, and he left enough clues for us to retrace and map out who got what.

This was their new home. The land promised to them by God. The home they had been anticipating for hundreds of years, and fighting for the last 4-5 years. It was better than a fairy tale or dream – this was a real true event. Real people in a real land receiving their real inheritance from a very real God.

I enjoy Bill Schlegel’s Satellite Bible Atlas which offers a historical geography of the Bible. Every major Bible event is mapped out, with dates and commentary. And, this post would have been available sooner today, but I was having too much fun watching videos Schlegel created which include further photos and videos of the REAL land of Israel. They really help the Bible lands come to life. I encourage you to see for yourself at Satellite Bible Atlas and accompanying videos. As an associate professor in Israel for 25 years Schlegel knows the area very well.

One day I plan to visit the Holy Land, either before or after Jesus returns. Until then, it’s exciting to take some video field trips and learn more about the land God gave His children. Real people in real places. God’s promises are true.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here Joshua 17-18 and Psalm 70-72

In Suffering – surrounded by enemies

Psalm 69

We’re going to take a little break from discussing Joshua today to look at Psalm 69. This is one of the Psalms which is most often quoted or referenced in the New Testament (probably coming in 3rd after Psalm 110 and Psalm 22). Similar to Psalm 22, it is a portrait of a suffering servant. In the New Testament these verses will be used to describe Jesus, the ultimate suffering servant. But most likely, there have been a time or two when you thought theses verses could have been describing you, too.

Have you ever felt like you were sinking? Your troubles choking out your breath? The saddest picture I find is from verse 3 “I am worn out calling for help, my throat is parched, my eyes fail, looking for my God.” You can tell someone needs a hug! They are feeling so desperate. Their suffering is so great!

But this is not the cry of someone who has just had a couple bad days in a row – flat tire, sickness, general stress mounting. No, this is David, Jesus, or you surrounded by enemies. You know you aren’t perfect, certainly God knows that (verse 5) but these enemies don’t want to destroy you for something evil you have done, but for the very God you serve. They don’t understand you or your God so they hate you without reason and seek to bring you down for who and what you stand for. “For I endure scorn for your sake…zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me…people make sport of me. Those who sit at the gate (the town elders, ie – politicians, city councils, professors and principals) mock me” (Psalm 69:7a, 9, 11b, 12a).

Just this week I heard of the 3rd grader in trouble for wearing her favorite mask to school. It said Jesus Loves Me and the principal didn’t like that. Or the college student who was told he had to reserve a small “free speech zone” on campus from which to speak to others about his Christian beliefs and excitement. And when he complied with their rules he was once again told by campus police that he had to stop because some of the students were still complaining. Luckily the Supreme Court had something to say about that one recently.

Surrounded by enemies. We, in America, are watching our nation slip (or free-fall nosedive) from being a nation of “In God we Trust” where the large majority claimed Christianity to a foreign feeling country where our rights are being restricted at every turn. Suddenly “Dare to be a Daniel” means something to us. As new laws and policies develop, we have a new-found appreciation for what our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and other Christian hostile nations have endured for generations. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith? It feels so strange to us – but we are not the first to feel this way. Remember Paul, repeatedly thrown in jail for the crime of speaking the name of Jesus? David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul and the disciples, the list goes on and on and includes many modern and Biblical role models and even martyrs. Hopefully you didn’t sign up to be a follower of Christ because you thought it was always going to be easy and pleasant. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith! Christians unite, and take up our armor of God (but that takes us into another devotion for another day).

Back to Psalm 69 – After saying his eyes fail looking for God, and all he does see is enemies who insult God surrounding him, he says, “But I pray to you, O LORD”. He is NOT throwing in the towel. Even though it is sometimes hard to see God in the suffering, we keep on praying to Him, knowing He is the Creator, the Sustainer, our Loving and Powerful Rock. Even when it looks bleak, we know the war is far from over. And, we know who does indeed win the war. And, that is why we don’t give up and don’t give in. We are not swayed by the town elders or those who mock us or try to destroy us because of our God. Our God is bigger.

There is one verse towards the end of the psalm that says, “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:30). Doesn’t that sound like he is having a good, sunny, easy day! It’s almost like this verse landed smack dab in the wrong Psalm. Singing, praising, glorifying, thanking. What happened to the enemy surrounds and I am scared and suffering? Oh, it’s still there. In fact, the verse IMMEDIATELY proceeding the praising, singing, glorifying, thanking says, “I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me.” (Psalm 69:29). The trouble isn’t over, but David is still praising. It reminds me of Julie Andrews/ Maria (yes, The Sound of Music was my favorite growing up). Anytime she needed a confidence boost, when she was scared in a thunderstorm, or when the dog bit or the bee stung – she burst into song. We have something much better to sing about than girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes. We have a God who saves, even though we suffer. When we are caught in the storm we have a God who saves. And even while the winds blow and our enemies surround we can pray and lift our voice in song. Jesus did, too. After the Last Supper, before going to the Mount of Olives knowing that is where he would be physically surrounded by his enemies, he sang a hymn.

Keep praying. Keep praising. Keep singing. Keep glorifying. Keep thanking.

The enemy surrounds but they don’t win in the end. Our God saves.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Joshua 15-16 and Psalm 69

If God Wrote Birthday Cards

Joshua 13-14 and Psalm 67-68

When I first read today’s passage and the opening verse of Joshua 13 I chuckled out loud thinking how inappropriate we would deem this opening remark, if it had come from anyone other than God. The verse says, “When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him, ‘You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.'” (Joshua 13:1 NIV). Who wouldn’t love to open a Hallmark greeting card that says , “You are VERY old, and there are lots of things you haven’t been able to accomplish yet “? Thanks, God. I can always count on you for telling the truth. I am now ready to just curl up and die.

But, the more I thought about it, the more I am sure that is not what God was saying.

Sadly, we have become a culture that doesn’t honor the aged. We all want to be told how young we are, or look or act. We love to have others in awe of how much we have accomplished already in our few short years of life thus far. We sell products that will fix that devastating gray hair and wrinkles so you can look like you did 20 years ago so no one will ever have to know just how old you really are.

Joshua was there as a young aide to Moses when the 10 Commandments were given and the people were told that if they followed the commandments and feared the Lord they would be blessed. They would be able to cross the Jordan, increase greatly, prosper in the Promised Land and enjoy long life (Deuteronomy 6, specifically verse 2 for long life). Getting old is a blessing. And VERY old, a double blessing! “The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.” (Deuteronomy 6:24 NIV). When God told Joshua he was VERY OLD, this was definitely not a put-down as some would read it today. It was a compliment to Joshua and a testimony of God’s faithfulness.

We would do well to regain a thankfulness for every day we are “kept alive”, rather than constantly trying to turn back the clock. As well as, looking up to those who have been kept alive longer.

Job 12:12 — Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?

Proverbs 16:31 —Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.

Remember too, that God was not saying this to Joshua in the final verse, final chapter of Joshua’s life. We are still in chapter 13 and Joshua won’t be dead and gone until chapter 24 (at the ripe old age of 110). Yes, a lot of the ACTION of the book of Joshua, as well as the life of Joshua has been completed by chapter 13…but God is certainly NOT done putting Joshua to work! Biblehub.com gives a timeline of Joshua’s life and they suggest that Joshua will live 24 more years from this point. We can’t give away everything that is yet to be done in the rest of Joshua’s life and book, but God has a lot more direction and guidance to give to His servant Joshua and Joshua does it. Just a few verses down from God’s VERY OLD comment, we read how God says HE himself will continue the work of driving out the inhabitants of the Promised Land, and He wants Joshua to “Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.” (Joshua 13:6 NIV). It doesn’t help to have taken the land, if no one will be there to justly divide it and distribute it. Even though Joshua’s work at the thrilling battle front just may be winding down, there is still a lot of important work to be done. Going from the front lines to the desk job isn’t a demotion. Your ministry may look different through the years. Be thankful for the long life and listen to see what He wants you to do next!

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.” (Psalm 68:19-20)

If God helps you escape death today, praise Him for it and be thankful for yet another day to dig in His Word, to serve Him and watch Him carry your burdens.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 13-14 and Psalm 67-68

Creating a Nation

Psalm 65-66 and Joshua 11-12

Joshua and the Israelites are getting things done and cleaning up Canaan land. Piece by piece, city by city, town by town, they are accepting their inheritance – the Promised Land that God has been preparing for them the past 430 years.

Beginning with the promise made to Abraham, the old man with no offspring, that if he followed God he would be made into the father of a great nation that would occupy the land. The promise was passed down to Isaac his miracle child, and given again to Isaac’s son Jacob, the father of 12 sons/tribes. It was these brothers that were saved by Joseph when he brought his family to Egypt to survive the famine in their land. A new pharaoh brought the Israelites into slavery and for the next few generations their numbers continued to grow in Egypt. Then Moses entered the scene with the 10 Plagues and “Let My People Go”.

This hasn’t been the easy way to grow a nation. But, God doesn’t have to go the easy route. He was not just creating any nation, but creating a holy nation that called on Him and relied on Him and followed Him.

In Joshua 11:15-16a it is recorded, “As the LORD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses. So Joshua took this entire land…”

The work passed on to the next generation and the promise passed on to the next generation. And here they were, back in the land where Abraham had pitched his tent. They were seeing the fulfillment of so many years of waiting and watching to see how God would make His promises come true. They had seen the waters of the Jordan stop flowing at flood stage so they could cross into this land. They had felt the ground shake when the walls of Jericho came down. They had witnessed the sun standing still! This was not a usual way to create a nation, because they did not have a usual God!

I love that this same awe of God is found about 200 years later in the writings of David. David is still writing about when God “turned the sea into dry land” (Psalm 66:6), as well as His majestic creation, His forgiveness, His care through rain and crops, and His “awesome deeds of righteousness” (Psalm 65:5).

I especially love a passage from yesterday’s Psalm reading – Psalm 62:11-12

“One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard;

that you, O God, are strong,

and that you, O Lord, are loving.

Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.”

We serve a strong and loving God who rewards his faithful children. It is not enough for God to just be powerful (that could be scary). It is not enough for God to just be loving (that is also scary if you consider a loving but powerless God). But a loving and powerful God is the one I want to follow. He will have good things for His children and the strength to deliver them. Just as He delivered in mighty ways for the children of Israel as they entered the Promised Land under the outstretched arm of Joshua, God is now preparing the fulfillment of all His promises in the Coming Kingdom of God which will be ushered in at the return of His Son Jesus. And that is an event you don’t want to miss.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 11-12 and Psalm 65-66

Friend or Foe?

Don’t be Deceived!

Joshua 9-10

The lessons for us today just keep coming in the book of Joshua! In the last few days we’ve learned from Joshua: arm yourself daily with God’s word for strength and courage and success; God’s will, way and day leads to victory; and stop blaming God when we ought to be dealing with the sin amongst us which will then help us to overcome defeat.

Today we learn valuable intel on how to distinguish friend from foe, how to guard oneself from being deceived, and the all important how to get more hours added to your day. The answer to all three – Ask God. Don’t try to do it on your own. Trust His way and His understanding and His power, not your own.

The Canaanite neighbors have heard how Joshua and the Israelites have destroyed Jericho and Ai (on the second attempt). Some are ready to fight. Others find it easier to deceive. The sly Gibeonites, who live just over the next hill, came to Joshua. Pretending to have just made a long journey from a far off country, with worn-out clothes and old food, they convince the Israelite leaders to make a peace treaty with them. Three days later the Israelites learn they have been tricked. They have just signed a treaty protecting the lives of those who should have been their next targets.

What went wrong? They had been so careful. They had even tasted the Gibeonites’ stale bread! All their senses and intuition and prior knowledge told them this was safe and trustworthy and reliable and in their best interest. Scripture tells us, “The men of Israel sampled their provisions, but did not inquire of the Lord.” (Joshua 9:14 NIV).

I believe it is even harder today to distinguish friend from foe. Satan would love to have the world believe that what and who is actually an enemy of God is harmless, trustworthy or far-off. When actually this danger is at our doorstep, dressed in a disguise. And, since it looks good and convincing and seems to make sense Christians take the bait and sign the peace treaty and align themselves with the enemy. Because they did not inquire of the Lord.

Deception abounds on so many fronts. Who is God? Who is Jesus? What happens when you die? What is the value of a life? Who really has your best interest in mind? Who can be trusted? Who is on God’s side? And who is not?

God knows. And He wants to reveal the answers to you. Ask Him – not your own heart. Seek His wisdom – not man’s. Read His word. Spend time in prayer. Listen – to the Lord. Don’t sign the treaty without His okay.

Our reading in Psalms includes many great verses that would have been great refrigerator verses for the Israelites at that time – if only they had refrigerators.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock, and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:1

“My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:7-8

Don’t be deceived. Trust God alone.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 9-10 and Psalm 62-64

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