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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflection: Battle: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



Reflection Questions


1.     What spiritual and relational battles have you been fighting on your own?

2.     Are you struggling in your own strength or in the Lord’s power?

3.     Is it difficult to trust if the outcome is not immediately visible? What do you do when doubts overwhelm?

4.     Are you willing to do it God’s way—even if the process is painful?


  Share: Have you experienced the Lord fighting for you? How?


Monday, December 29, 2014

Battle: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


Reading: Joshua 10

“The sun stopped in mid-heaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded a human voice; for the Lord fought for Israel.” Joshua 10: 13-14

Because the Gibeonites had made peace with Israel within the land, five kingdoms allied to attack them. Because of the attack Gibeon cried out to Joshua for aid. And because Joshua turned to the Lord in prayer the sun stopped in mid-heaven and the battle completed. Because the Lord fought for Israel.

There are many trials in our lives when we wonder when the release might come and sometimes we may forget that some battles can be won in a day—if we are in prayer and the Lord fights the battle Himself.

Whether an immediate need or long term, there can be no permanent victory apart from the Lord’s presence. And often we are not willing to wait for His full answer but jump into a skirmish on our own. And then days—weeks—even years later the sin, the enemy, returns in fuller force than ever before.

Ephesians 6: 10-20 gives us the means and the reminder that God’s armor is ready for daily covering for us as well today. That the danger lurks unseen as well as seen and we need His covering—just as Israel did—that we might be able to resist on that evil day and stand firm.

“Joshua took all these kings and their land at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel.”

Lord, please help us to remember that whether the battle is stretched over time or when time stands still, there is no completed victory unless in Your power. Give us courage to stand and fight when you say. And only trust in Your plans no matter how extraordinary.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 130:5 & 7

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.
O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.”

Friday, December 26, 2014

Belief: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



Belief


Although they did not

know themselves this

God of Israel they

believed completely

His word would succeed

chose to become slaves

in His house of worship

to live as servants

than attempt rebellion

so sure of victory they

entered into protection

by promised words.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Reflection Unknown: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



Reflection Questions


1.     How often do you think others evaluate who God is based on our actions and our words?

2.     In what ways can our forgetfulness to seek His counsel affect long-term commitments we make in error?

3.     Is there any way back from impulsive promises that will keep our integrity with the Lord?

4.     How willing are we to do the most menial task if it will keep us in the Lord’s presence?

5.     Why do you think the Lord seemed to accept the Gibeonites actions of guile?

Share: Has another Christian’s actions ever caused you to mistrust the Lord?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Unknown: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


Reading: Joshua 9

“‘And now we are in your hand; do as it seems good and right in your sight to do to us.’ This is what he did for them; he saved them from the Israelites; and they did not kill them. But on that day Joshua made them hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord, to continue to this day, in the place that he should chose.” Joshua 9: 25-27

Like Rahab the Gibeonites believed in the words God had spoken and feared greatly for their lives. Unlike Rahab, instead of standing up and making a verbal contract, they used guile and deception to save their lives. They also hoped that the Israelites would honor a covenant because of their God.

And they did. “We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we must not touch them.” Joshua knew that the word they gave to others had to be upheld. Especially because it was their own error that created this dilemma. Once again they had not sought the Lord’s counsel but negotiated solely on human perception—on surface appearances.

I cringe too at how many times I continue to act on my own before seeking the Lord’s counsel, how often I think I have everything under control and instead bring embarrassment to the Lord’s name.

Yet the Lord blessed both Israelites and Gibeonites because they both trusted His words. Israel’s leaders experienced another important lesson in leadership and the Gibeonites not only kept their physical lives but were also given the means to discover the spiritual life of Israel as well. They worked for the house of God. Every day they would now see faith lived out.

They were willing to face the unknown. They believed God’s promises to Israel before they even had any relationship with the Lord. Now they had a lifetime to learn who He was. Somewhat like us, I think, when we first step out in faith. And God changes us from the inside out cutting away the sin that we carry—the sin we often do not even recognize.

The Gibeonites admitted to Joshua that he would do with them whatever he chose, but even if they died right then, they wanted to die under God’s words of truth—or be slaves under His words if in fact they would live.

Lord, please give us eyes to see You as clearly today.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 129: 4

“The Lord is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked.”


Friday, December 19, 2014

Servanthood: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



Servanthood


Unhewn stone

untouched by iron

not shaped by man’s hand

nor human purpose

instead an offering

imbued with obedience

regardless of cost

relinquished grasp

willing to accept

without dissent

God’s chosen path

grace extended to all

sin destroyed

sanctification begins.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reflection Unhewn: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



Reflection Questions


1.     What might be the equivalent of an unhewn stone for us in worship today?

2.     Do you think it’s possible to experience this or have we made our worship too man-shaped?

3.     Are there barriers towards hearing God’s word spoken that we resist them for ourselves. Or for others?

4.     Even the small children were included in the reading. How do we tend to filter theology according to age, whether literally or as new believers?


Share: What word have you heard spoken to you this week that caused you to worship?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Unhewn: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


Reading: Joshua 8

“All Israel, alien as well as citizen, …. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the aliens who resided among them.” Joshua 8: 33 & 35

Once again Israel went into a terrible battle under God’s orders, but this time no one lied, or stole, or disobeyed, despite the challenge and destruction. They did exactly as the Lord had ordered and as a result the whole of Israel received a blessing.

First worship—an unhewn stone—untouched by iron—a pure altar. Then a community side-by-side, that encompassed women and children and foreigners—no one present excluded—all given as equals. Then the full reading of the Law—all the words God had given Moses now given to Israel. God’s gift of identity, of relationship, of covenant.

I can’t help but wonder how willing am I to completely destroy all the false in me that still resists obedience to God’s redeeming power. Am I truly willing to open up to His redemptive grace or too willing to settle for easy and familiar?

Lord, please help us to be shaped by Your hand and not by our own man-made imitations. Give us Your strength to stand before You in complete obedience to all Your words—at Your altar—with courage to receive Your blessings and then to share them.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 128: 2

“You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be happy and it shall go well with you.”

Friday, December 5, 2014

Restore: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



Restore


One man broke faith

could not restrain himself

from forbidden spoil

caused innocent deaths

allies, animals, family,

children—all died

for his sin.


What blinds each of us to break

our bound word?


One man built faith

came to pour himself out

for all mankind

created reconciliation

as grace, mercy, given,

chose to die—to give

forgiveness.

              

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Reflection Restraint: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



Reflection Questions


1.     What is the difference between the Lord ‘building’ your house and you building your house with the Lord’s help?

2.     In what areas of your life do you find yourself chafing against God’s directions or boundaries?

3.     Forbidden spoils may be different for each of us in our relationship with God. In what ways can good things become blind to our promises?

4.     Self-centered choices almost always affect others. In what ways has a choice you made badly affected those you love, or how has someone you love hurt you by their actions?


Share: How has the Lord restored you when that restraint broke?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Restraint: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


Reading: Joshua 7

“Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I imposed on them. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen. They have acted deceitfully, and they have put them among their own belongings.” Joshua 7:10

This is such a difficult passage to process as we come from a perspective of God’s eternal grace because of our Savior’s love and sacrifice. To stand back and see such death, with innocents included—perhaps as much as we see today in news headlines around the world, is sobering.

The confusion is intensified by the miracles Israel had recently witnessed. They could not have doubted God’s power. Did they think one man’s actions would not be noticed? That he could get away with it? Do we? Do I? Just a little bit of insurance that come a rainy day he and his family would have means.

It reminds me of one college essay assignment my students and I researched and debated several years ago as to the acceptance or not re telling white lies. We began with, “Wasn’t it okay to give a compliment if it would bring happiness?” As we dug deeper into the white lies more and more real lie damage and repercussions became apparent. The topic became even more muddled than I had anticipated and according to my students’ essays, their responses reflected that. Whichever position they took, they based their stance on social mores, family values, personal experience, and sometimes religion—but no personal walk with God.

In our society sin too has often become glossed over and hidden. How would we react to our own cravings small and large if we too visually saw the abhorrence in God’s eyes and the consequences immediately?

We have received the amazing gift of grace and know we can bring our failures to the cross. But sometimes it takes us awhile to recognize that our choices and actions have caused damage to those around us—hurt feelings, broken relationships, lost trust, and sometimes shattered lives.

When I insist I can manage wholly on my own, making my own choices and decisions, and just check in with the Lord when I’m stuck, then I’m walking on shifting sand. And I sink.

Lord, whenever we begin to chafe against Your restraints, please remind us that Your boundaries are shaped by sacrificial love and seek Your will instead.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 127:1-2

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives sleep to his beloved.”

Friday, November 28, 2014

Shout: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


Shout


Did they wonder at their

covenant just confirmed

as all ages marched in silence

around thick resistant

Jericho walls?


Not the battle plan

expected

yet trusted.


Chose to remember Jordan’s crossing

to acknowledge sovereign words

and to listen

with open hearts,

unlike their ancestors.


Received God’s sworn reward

city fell at a shout!

Astonishment.

                  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Reflection Walls: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



Reflection Questions


1.     Are you facing an impenetrable wall right now? What kind?

2.     If the Lord gives you an incomprehensible plan, how likely are you to trust it?

3.     Or do you think that all solutions from God need to appear confusing because that will confirm His Presence?


Share: How are you praying for clarity?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Walls: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


 Reading: Joshua 6

“You shall not shout or let your voice be heard, nor shall you utter a word, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout!” Joshua 6:10

Israel trusted God and they crossed the Jordan safely. But now they had to face the formidable Jericho city and its valiant warriors. Perhaps their own warriors were ready at adrenalin high confidence and anxious to prove themselves in battle—show they would be loyal to whatever task God set before them.

Walk around Jericho for six days. Blow the trumpets. Be silent. When told to shout on the 7th day—shout. Even the smallest children would not recognize these instructions as a military maneuver.

“For My thought are not your thoughts and my ways, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8

The Lord placed before then a seemingly impossible assignment with no recognizable weapons or tactics to work with. A plan of attack with no precedent and later no replicated version.  Something like Jesus’ healings and teachings. As well as the Biblically recorded miracles of the Holy Spirit.  Unique—unexpected—deliberate—victorious whether the battle be spiritually unseen or physically tangible.

“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit’, says the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6

Concrete proof of God’s ongoing provision. His way. His power. His promises.

Lord, by Your word, in Your time, by Your plans, comes salvation to Your people. Help us to accept and follow Your methods regardless of our confusion. Everyplace is always Your land, Your hope, and Your Presence as the way.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 126: 5-6

“May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.”



Friday, November 21, 2014

Trust: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


Trust


Descendants by heritage

physical line from exodus

forty years of waiting

promise of new beginnings

withheld by ancestor’s sin.

Now stood to receive

prepared themselves under

knife of circumcision

mark of obedience

accepted God’s new provision

as manna ceased

ate fresh crops

renewed trust.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reflection Commit: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



Reflection Questions


1.     Have you ever had to wait a very long time for a fulfilled promise because another person stood in the way?

2.     How did you continue to stay committed?

3.     Did you come closer to the Lord, or further away, or a mix of both? What caused each reaction?

4.     What advice would you give to someone today in those circumstances?


Share: What unexpected form of provision has the Lord given you recently?



Monday, November 17, 2014

Commit: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


Reading: Joshua 5

“On the day after the Passover… The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.” Joshua 5: 11-12

The generation before them had enough faith to leave slavery behind and follow the Lord’s promise. Then in the wilderness their trust faltered and prevented them from reaching their new land. Yet, God did not forsake them, or leave them to perish, but continued to provide for them every day until they reached a natural life span, except for Caleb and Joshua who had stood in faith all along, now as then ready to obey whatever God said.

This next generation had to make their own decision based on their own experiences. Whatever they chose would be their new path: to remain bound in limitation as did the generation before them, or to trust the Lord’s Promised Land and step into a completely new experience.

First they too had to let go the past and step out in trust. They needed to choose to grow in their faith and act upon it, not even fully understanding what that would look like. All they had known was daily manna.  Would God continue to sustain them spiritually and physically?

And the choice required a cost: circumcision. A permanent act of obedience and commitment. For each man a personal decision. An act of trust to pass on to the generation to follow them.

Lord, please keep us from fears that reduce our days to mere existence and instead keep our hearts grounded in a living faith that sees each day as a new opportunity to walk in trust and fellowship with You.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 125:2

“As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people,
from this time on, and forevermore,”

Friday, November 7, 2014

Safe: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



Safe


Stood firm in the middle

until all completed.

Stacked the stones

as a memorial.

Still present

witness to faithfulness.

So all earth may know

God’s hand of grace and mercy.

Suffering that all

may cross from darkness to light.

                        Safe

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Reflection Memorial: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry




Reflection Questions


1.     What spiritual or cultural heritage have you received from your family?

2.     Do you see it as a blessing or a burden? Why?

3.     What faith inheritance do you most want your children to remember?


Share: What faith stone stands firmly in your life as a present memorial?


Monday, November 3, 2014

Memorial: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


Reading: Joshua 4

“When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’”
Joshua 4:6

Memorials commemorate lives and events. Personally within families, and publicly within the histories of communities and nations. Although often given at death, they in fact honor life, by acknowledging their gift of being to those who knew them.

Some are given to perfect strangers due to acts of bravery, of courage, and of honor.

Names are often identified in Bible stories to acknowledge a particular action, both as a positive example or a negative one. After the twelve priests faithfully stood firm holding the ark until all the people passed it might be expected that their names be part of the story as a memorial and perhaps within their own generation they were.

But Israel knew that God alone had saved them and so this memorial was not only to answer the questions of their children but also, “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, and so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” The memorial was even prepared ahead of time as each of the twelve tribes had a representative carry a stone with them from one side unto the other.

From a land of slavery into a land of promise. “So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.” Both a spiritual and an historical critical event to be passed along from generation to generation.

As a witness forever. Both the stones and the words of the story behind them.

Lord, you have also cut us off from the power of darkness and crossed us over to Your light. Lord, please help us to be as faithful and readily stand where You place us until all that You command is completed.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 124:6-8

“Blessed be the Lord who has not given us as prey…
… We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.”


 
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