Be Strong and Courageous!

February 29, 2012

Joshua 1:6-7 ” ‘Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.’ ”

Change, no matter how big or small, is scary. It can be intimidating when you look out and see uncertainty and the unfamiliar.  I am sure Joshua was intimidated by the view of the new land he was about to cross into as he led the nation of Israel into the land God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The people there were powerful and numerous.  He may have asked himself how in the world a nation as young as Israel would ever be able to cross over into their promise.

All of us at one point or another have felt this same way.  Change has loomed over us like a giant in a strange land.  We probably thought there was no way we could conquer it.  Fear gripped us, and we stood unsure as to whether or not to cross over.

If we did not have a God in front of us who parted the Red Sea, provided manna for us in the desert, and made water come from a rock, then these fears would be well founded.  But God’s call to Joshua to be strong and courageous is for us today too.  What is more, we have the Spirit of God living in us when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, the very Word of God.  That Spirit conquered the grave and now dwells within us,  guiding and strengthening us.  If Joshua could have strength and courage because of the God leading him across the Jordan River, then we too can cross over into whatever change faces us, whatever uncertainty challenges us, knowing that the Lord fights for us.

This doesn’t mean we won’t be left with some bumps and bruises.  That doesn’t mean we don’t have to be obedient and take the steps to cross.  But what it does mean is that as long as we allow the Lord to fight the battles for us, we can be strong and courageous in the midst of whatever change comes our way. So in whatever you are going through, big or small, be strong and courageous; for the very Spirit that raised Christ from the grave is raising you to new life in Christ and the promises he has made to you for his glory.

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Praise on the Other side of the Sea

February 15, 2012

Exo. 15:1-2 “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: ‘I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.'”

The Israelites saw a lot in their journey out of Egypt: frogs, gnats, bloody rivers, hail storms, and a river parted down the center. The Lord was shown mighty through the stubborn, hardened heart of Pharaoh as he displayed his power in a war against the “gods” of Egypt. After all was said and done, the Israelites stood before the Red Sea, safely on the other side. God redeemed them.

As a worshipper, what amazes me in the text is Moses’ response, and God’s next course of action. It wasn’t here at the other side of the Red Sea that the LORD gave Moses the Law. It wasn’t here that the man of God was instructed to build the Tabernacle. Instead, Moses stood before the people and burst out into song! He and the whole Israelite community began to spontaneously worship God and declare his victory over Egypt.

So I begin to ask myself whether or not I sing to the Lord out of the gladness of my heart for all the things he has done, or because it has become just another chore of my Christian faith. Do I celebrate God’s faithfulness in bringing me through the waters, or do I follow the pattern of the Israelites later on and complain because I am out of my comfort zone.

I believe many of us would be more content to “return to Egypt” where we can be comfortable (though secretly miserable), and never have to step out in faith to praise God even when we do not know what the next step is. Yes, there is uncertainty. The Hebrew people had no clue where God was going to take them next. But if we forget what it was like in the land we came from, then we are never going to be able to celebrate the land we are now in. What if we took time every day to praise God in song, or prayer (or both!) for his faithfulness in leading us out of the places we came from, even if we haven’t “arrived” in the place he promised us. May we follow Moses and Miriam, and praise God for his faithfulness and power that brought us through the waters, to the other side of the sea.

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Living With Your New Name

February 6, 2012

Gen. 32:27-8 “The man asked Jacob, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob,’ he answered. Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with man and have overcome.'”

Names mean a lot.  They are how people call you, talk about you, think about you.  Names meant even more back in ancient times.  Often, names revealed things about your personality, your career path, or your strengths and weaknesses.  In Genesis, Jacob’s name in Hebrew literally meant “he deceives”.  And for most of his life, this is what Jacob did.  He deceived and manipulated almost everyone around him.  And though he knew about the God of his father, he really did not know the God of his father.  But then God appeared to him one night.  This encounter left Jacob with a limp and a new name.  Instead of being known as one who deceives, Israel would be known as one who struggled with God and overcame.

However, I find it interesting that the very next chapter refers to this man as Jacob again.  Why is this?  I believe he is still called Jacob because he hadn’t yet had time to prove the new person he had become.  It wasn’t until he made amends with his brother, met with God for a second time, and had to mourn the loss of his beloved wife Rachael that Jacob would be known as Israel.  Jacob the deceiver had to known what it really meant to struggle before he could be known as Israel, the one who struggled with God.

For those of us in Christ, we have been given a new name.  We now are known as children of God, who are called to walk and talk like our Savior, Jesus.  Though we once were enemies before the Creator of the universe, we now are free to live for him, by the blood of His Son.  This is our reality NOW.  We did nothing to earn it, and could never do anything bad enough to revoke it.  The question now is whether or not we will live with our new name.  Just as Israel had to live out his name, we too bear a responsibility to love as God loves, serve as He serves, and even share in the sufferings.  Here’s the awesome part:

We don’t have to earn it.

This new name was given to us by the obedience of Jesus, not by our obedience.  So now, all we have to do is live it out! All we have to do is be who we were saved to be.  Where Jacob struggled for his name, our name was purchased for us by Christ.  We belong to Him, and nothing can change that.  So live with your new name, because you have been saved by the name above every other name.

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