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August 2005 Archives

August 1, 2005

Limited Mercy

For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses. Joshua 11:20

God commanded that the people of Canaan were to be exterminated. This is what Joshua did. All but Gaza was captured, and the only people who remained were the Hivites living in Gibeon, for they had deceived Israel.

Where was God's mercy?

Is this the same God I know? The God who shows mercy to me freely?

Are there limits to His mercy?

I believe the truth is: God's mercy is unending for those who would receive it, but for those who will not listen, there is justice.

The story of Joshua's campaign to take the promised land seems so harsh. Upon first glance, it appears that God is cruel - commanding the annihilation of the people. What we don't seem to remember is the forty years when Israel wandered in the desert. The Canaanites knew of God's plan. The Gibeonites had heard it; they used the truth of it to deceive Israel, saying they had been told of the things God had done for them. The people of Canaan had ample opportunity to leave, but they stayed. They continued the worship of their gods, and eventually God Himself hardened their hearts.

Have you quit listening?

We live in a world that shuts its ears to the truth. There are limits! Not to God's love, but to His mercy. The day is coming. Our only hope it to prepare to leave.

Father, forgive me for testing the limits of Your mercy. Give me ears to hear Your voice and the wisdom to follow Your will.

August 2, 2005

How I Want to Be Remembered

These are the kings of the land that Joshua and the Israelites conquered... Joshua 12:7a

No matter who you are, most people strive to be remembered.

But would you like to be remembered throughout history as one who was conquered? Would you like to be a tick mark in someone's list of men who tried to make it and failed? The kings in the promised land must have wanted more, yet here they are - thirty-one in all, who are merely remembered for their failure.

Lord, I want to be on a list of conquerors. I don't want to be seen as one of many men who failed in life. Oh, I have failed plenty, but will I one day be seen as a man who succeeded? Will my children and grandchildren someday be proud of their heritage? All my successes are meaningless if I am remembered as a disgrace and a failure. Forgive my failings, Father. Help me to reach out and grab hold of Your victory. Reign in me, so I might be remembered as a man of success.

August 3, 2005

There is so much to be done!

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." Joshua 13:1

I've been told many times to live in such a way that I will have no regrets. None of us want to reach the end of life and realize how much we missed.

Joshua must have experienced some regret. He had much to celebrate about his life. Yet the Lord reminded him of the land not yet subdued. There were large regions where the Israelites had not yet taken the land - places that interestingly are still a source of contention in Israel today.

Unfortunately, I believe regardless of how we live our lives, there will still be work undone. There will still be unsettled conflicts, uncaptured dreams, and promises yet to be fulfilled.

Lord, I know I am finite. I will never achieve everything I would like in this lifetime. I also realize I shouldn't live life worrying about what I will miss because I won't enjoy the blessings You give. Help me to do what I can to further Your kingdom Help me to be content with You wonder blessing. Continue to work though me as You choose. There is so much to be done!

August 4, 2005

Just As Vigorous

I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Joshua 14:11

Besides Joshua, Caleb was the only man who remained from an entire generation. It is fascinating to me that at the age of eighty-five he was just as strong as he had been at forty. But greater than his physical strength was his strength of character and his belief in God's power and ability.

The Anakites were giants. They were the people whom the spies had described when Joshua and Caleb first visited the promised land. Their fortified cities in the hills around Hebron were some of the last that remained in the land. Yet Caleb was not intimidated by them. He knew God would fulfill His promise. He did not hesitate to say, "but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out." He knew that one man can drive out a legion of enemies if the Lord is with him.

Lord, this week I have faced temptations that I thought were gone. Apparently, some of my enemies remain. Like giants hidden in fortified cities, they have continued to thrive. Yet the time has come for them to be driven out. With You helping me, there is no temptation than can survive; there is no enemy that is too great. Make me strong and vigorous - in body and spirit. When I am eighty-five, I want to be fighting the good fight, so that others might know Your power. Stand by me. Fight for me. I am still confident of this: I will see Your goodness in the land of the living!

August 5, 2005

The Impact of Faith

Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the people of Judah. Joshua 15:63

By the time the book of Joshua was written, Israel was pretty established in the promised land. There were areas that had not been subdued, but much of the land had been taken and the people destroyed.

It's interesting to me that the Jebusites remained in Jerusalem. There is something very unique about Jerusalem. God chose Jerusalem out of all the cities in the land to place His temple. To this day, it is a blessed city. Why is it that God had not driven out the Jebusites, so His chosen people could freely occupy His chosen city?

I wonder if there were some in Jerusalem who still worshipped the Lord God? There are no stories in the Bible to indicate this, but Jerusalem had a heritage of worship. Melchizedek was the king of Jerusalem who gave provision to Abraham after Abraham's chase to rescue his nephew Lot. Not only was Melchizedek the king, he was a priest of the Most High God. Jesus Himself has been called a priest in the order of Melchizedek. Jerusalem's history indicates that the people had worshipped the Lord God. Maybe some remained. Maybe God spared them like he had promised Abraham in regards to Sodom - that if He found ten who worshipped Him, the city would not be destroyed.

We never know the impact of our faith sometimes. Someday, I will ask why He spared the Jebusites. Until then, it's an important lesson to consider.

Lord, give me a faith that could save an entire city. If You came looking for ten who follow You, let me be among them. I love You, Father. Your grace amazes me.

August 9, 2005

Chariots

The people of Joseph replied, "The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have iron chariots, both those of Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel." Joshua 17:16

What a contrast.

When Caleb was offered Hebron, he knew God would clear the way for him. He wasn't intimidated by the giants and their fortified cities. Yet the descendants of Joseph, who were quite numerous, could only see the iron chariots owned by the Canaanites. They lacked the faith that God would keep His promise. Consequently, the Canaanites were never fully driven out of the land.

Lord, I confess that too often I am concerned about the enemy's chariots. Regardless of the many promises You have kept, my doubts allow the enemy to remain. Give me the courage to drive him out completely. Give me the faith of Caleb, who could only see You and Your plan. No fortress is too big for You.

August 11, 2005

The Best Inheritance

"The Levites, however, do not get a portion among you, because the priestly service of the Lord is their inheritance. Joshua 18:7

Something that frustrates me to no end is working day-in and day-out and having nothing to show for it. Many days it seems that all my effort is wasted because it feels like the paychecks last a little less each month. Much of this feeling is natural. Children are expensive! The older they get, the more they cost. (They are well worth the expense, I might add.) And if you are like most middle-class Americans, more and more money is paid on debt every day.

Even so, we have so much more than most of the world. A middle-class American is considered wealthy by the standard of a vast majority of people. At the end of our lives, we at least have something for our children to divide. Many children across the planet get nothing more than a funeral bill.

I wonder if the Levites resented their inheritance. They worked day-in and day-out in the Lord's service, and what did they have to show for it? They had cities in which to live and pastures upon which their flocks could graze, but nothing else. No land was considered theirs. Their children had no place they could call their own.

The truth is: the Levites had the better deal. Serving God for a lifetime is greater than owning a piece of property for all eternity. He is our whole reason for being. What a privilege it is to glorify Him.

Father, help me to seek a proper inheritance. Help me to reach the end of my life and pass along a legacy of relationship with the Living God. You are so much more than anything the world offers. Show me Your glory today.

August 12, 2005

The Heart of the Matter

(But the Danites had difficulty taking possession of their territory, so they went up and attacked Leshem, took it, put it to the sword and occupied it. They settled in Leshem and named it Dan after their forefather.) Joshua 19:47

Isn't it sad how there are always those who lack faith in God, despite all they have seen Him do?

The Danites obviously had problems. They could not take possession of the territory God had given them by the casting of lots. Many times before, God's people were met with resistance, but never was there resistance too much for the Lord God. Yet the Danites, when faced with a challenge, decided it was easier to take a city far north of their chosen home. They never seemed to occupy the territory given to them, and interestingly, the city they took and named after their forefather was later a site chosen by king Jeroboam for his own form of worship - something the Israelites had known before, honoring a calf of gold. The town the Danites stole became a blemish in Israel's history.

At the heart of the matter was a lack of faith. If they had believed God completely, He would have made a way for them. But instead, their failure became the failure of a nation.

Lord, forgive my struggles to trust You. Forgive my lack of faith. Build in me a faith that will become a shining success in the history of my descendants. May the lands I conquer be a place where You are known for generation upon generation. No longer will there be stolen legacy.

Make me a man after Your heart.

August 14, 2005

Do Not Pass Go

Any of the Israelites or any alien living among them who killed someone accidentally could flee to these designated cities and not be killed by the avenger of blood prior to standing trial before the assembly. Joshua 20:9

I've always known that a city of refuge in Israel was a place someone could avoid death for the unintentional death of another. But somehow I had a sense that being in a city of refuge kept one from judgment.

This is not the case.

A city of refuge was not some "get out of jail free" way of avoiding a trial. The death, whether it was intentional or not, would still be judged. And if guilt was determined, there was no place to avoid the sentence.

A refuge is a place of protection - not necessarily a place of escape. Judgment must still be passed. Consequences must still be faced. Eventually, deeds will be counted, and sin will be punished.

Lord, someday we will all stand before the judgment seat. Nothing can keep us from the trial that will determine our eternal fate. What an awful day that will be for those who have not received Your grace. When we die, heaven doesn't wait for all. Death is not some "get out of jail free" way of avoiding judgment. Sadly, there will be many who have no one to take their place. Your Son was sentenced on our behalf, and many have pushed Him away. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Yet on that day, there will be rejoicing, for the Lamb of God has already borne the punishment for those who believe. Help me, Father, to reach out to the lost. There is hope! There is an eternal refuge that awaits! Give the world ears to hear You.

August 15, 2005

The Real Promise Keeper

Not one of all the Lord's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. Joshua 21:45

God doesn't break His promises.

Oh, life won't be perfect; He never promised that. But there isn't anything He says that will not come to pass.

I'm a little torn this morning. There are a few things as wonderful for a parent than to see your child step into the Father's will. But it doesn't make it easy.

Today, we are taking a trip with excitement.

Tomorrow, we will make the same journey in sadness.

My daughter, who has grown up far too quickly, will be moving into a college dormitory in the morning. How can I leave her in another city? This beautiful young woman will no longer awaken in my house each and every day. She will be at a wonderful school charting the path the Lord has made for her, but she won't be here.

Help me, Father, to trust. I know You have big plans for this woman who was raised in my home. Take care of her. Promise me that You will hold her close to Your breast - for You fulfill every promise. Protect my baby girl.

August 17, 2005

Misunderstood Appearances

Then Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the clans of Israel: "The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the Lord, do not spare us this day. Joshua 22:21-22

The job they set out to do was finished.

Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh were free to return to the land which Moses had given them east of the Jordan. From all appearances, the first thing they did upon arrival was direct rebellion against God. They built an altar when God had commanded the people to only sacrifice offerings at the tabernacle.

The reaction of the other tribes reflected a good thing, a strong desire to follow the Lord. They prepared to destroy their brothers, however, without knowing the whole story. The altar was not for sacrifice. It was for remembrance. Future generations would see it and remember their spiritual heritage. God knew this. He knew their hearts. If their intentions had been otherwise, He might have taken the matter into His own hands.

Why are we so quick to judge sometimes? Only God knows a man's heart. There are circumstances in which we cannot trust what we see.

Lord, help me to not judge others simply by appearances. There are many things I might not understand that honor You. Give me a mind that is open to new ways, and give me a heart that is only focused on You. May You be pleased with the worship You receive, no matter how different from mine.

You are worthy of ALL praise!

August 21, 2005

Be Careful to Love

"The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the Lord your God." Joshua 23:9-11

Any success I may experience in life is a result of God's awesome power - not my own, for I am the weakest of men. With Him beside me, thousands will fall.

So why do I so easily bow down to idols of my own making? Why am I not more careful to love the Lord my God?

The gods I sometimes worship are not made of wood or stone, but they are just as real. Maybe it is affection or kind words that I depend upon to make me happy. What happens when they elude me? How is it that I can be on a mountain top when I have received attention from another, but the moment I feel ignored and alone, I find myself under the mountain rather than on it? Maybe it's because I get so focused on being loved that I forget to love in return. If I could be more careful to love, I might not feel so unloved at times.

Lord, I feel trapped in an endless cycle. Have I quit receiving love because I quit giving love? Or is it that I have quit giving love because I quit receiving it? (Which came first - the chicken or the egg? It doesn't matter! Either way, you end up with soup.) Help me to focus more on giving in spite of what I am receiving. Help me to love when I feel unloved.

Rout the enemies from the lands You have promised.

August 22, 2005

Pick One!

"But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as far as me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:14-15

Joshua made a choice. He and his household were going to serve the Lord. He could not choose for the entire community. The decision was theirs, and Joshua seemed content to simply say, "You make the choice. Pick one or the other, but make a choice."

We can't pick both.

No matter what we think, we cannot have our cake and eat it, too. It's either the One True God or the gods of this world. The One True God is jealous, and He doesn't like sharing us.

Lord, forgive me for not serving You. When I choose the gods of my forefathers, I am not choosing You. Help me to choose you each day. Help me to choose you this day.

August 23, 2005

Got Religion?

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

How many times have I said it? "It's about relationship, not religion." I truly believe that Christianity is all about a relationship with God's Son, Jesus Christ. Yet James, the half-brother of Jesus, speaks of religion as something God accepts. It isn't a religion of following a long list of do's and don'ts. It is a religion of caring for those who are most needy and caring enough for oneself to stay clean - to not be polluted by the world.

Interestingly, the Greek word in this passage that refers to not being polluted is also translated as "without blemish or defect." This same description is used in the Levitical law for any animal that is to be given as an offering. The animal was to be perfect - without blemish or defect. Isn't that what Jesus is? The sacrificial Lamb without blemish or defect? So... what I hear James saying is that Jesus is the most religious person who ever walked the face of the earth, and we should strive to become like Him - blameless, perfect, without defect.

Will I ever get there? Will I ever be "religious" enough to say I am not polluted by the world?

Not in this lifetime!

My only hope is to be made clean by the blood of the Perfect Lamb. Only He can wash me white as snow. So what does religion require? Relationship with the most religious One of all.

Lord, Jesus, wash me clean for I have been polluted by the world. You are the only man who can help me. Make me holy as You are holy. Make me religious as You are religious.

August 24, 2005

Empty Words

If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? James 2:16

Faith and deeds. What a sore subject.

I'm sure everyone can identify those times in life when their actions don't support their words. And what if the words are never spoken either? What does that say?

Faith is like love. Without something tangible, words are empty.

Lord, this passage makes me sad this morning. There are so many instances that have proven me to be a liar. Too often, I am mere words. And there are people in my life who say all the right things, but do nothing. Even worse are those who don't even speak but should. I have been orphaned - not by death, but by the absence of words and action.

You are a Father to orphans. Be mine today.

August 25, 2005

It isn't about me!

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. James 3:12

Have you ever noticed that the wisest people are also the most humble? Someone who has seen and learned much usually understands one main point: it is not about me!

So the next time you see a learned man, watch how he acts. Is he prideful and arrogant? Despite his knowledge, he may be a fool. But the next time you see one who is wise, you will know it. He will be more concerned with others than himself.

Lord, make me a man of wisdom. My pride too often reveals that I don't really understand the things about which I speak. It isn't about me! Make me a humble vessel. Use me how You choose.

August 27, 2005

Weird Truth

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10

I think I have always equated humility with misery - that to be humble is to be torn down. Maybe if I'm miserable enough, I can remember my low place. Maybe if I feel badly enough about myself, then I won't succumb to the sin of pride.

This couldn't be further from the truth.

True humility is rewarded. True humility brings joy. True humility is exalted by God Himself.

How can it be that through the honest acceptance of my low position I can be lifted to the highest place of all? It's one of those weird truths. In order to live, I must die. In order to receive, I must give. In order to be first, I must be last.

Somehow along the way, I've twisted my thinking - that if I feel rotten, I must be on the right track.

Lord, You are all about joy. How did I get it in my head that You want me to be miserable? in truth, You long to lift me up. You want to fill me with inexplicable peace and contentment. You love to see me smile. Forgive me for chasing the sadness in hopes of finding humility - for knocking myself down because I thought You wanted me there. Make me a man of humility who understands his place - standing at the top next to the Greatest One of all.

August 28, 2005

The Greatest Power

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Most Christians never tap into the greatest power available to them, confession to another brother. Far too many plod through each day feeling unrighteous and sinful when freedom is within their grasp.

My own life didn't start to change until the secrets were out in the open. The sins I hid within eventually poisoned my mind and spirit, but confession to another man was like a valve that drained away the toxic waste eating at my soul. My frequent confession to God alone seemed to be powerless. No matter how many times I told Him I would never fall again. I couldn't seem to find the strength to endure.

Yet as I have begun to speak the truth to a brother who cares and to a wife who is committed to stay beside me, I discover that the chains from my childhood no longer bind me. Satan is not strong enough to hold me down because I have a newfound desire for holiness. Freedom is no longer a concept; it is real!

Do I fall? Yes.

But will I stay down? Not for long, for in my weakness others help to sustain me.

Lord, as a Christian, I am a part of Your Body. I no longer need to go it alone. I am righteous because You washed me in Your Son's blood. I simply didn't realize that another man holds the sponge. Help me to courageously confess, so I might never again question my worth. Thank You for those who know me and love me still.

August 29, 2005

Those that Remain

When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. Judges 1:28

The Israelites may have conquered the lands God promised, but there were places where the Canaanites remained. Eventually, those not driven out were forced into labor, but even so, their presence affected the Israelites; the gods these people worshipped became too enticing.

We all have things in life that we try to conquer, yet we never seem to obtain complete control over them. How many times have I prayed as Paul did, "Lord, remove this thorn from my side."? Yet, it remains. The question is: What am I going to do with the thorn? Will I be enticed by it? Will I vacillate between obedience and disobedience? Or will I turn to the One who rules over all?

Lord, I accept that in this life I may never gain control over every enemy, but give me the strength to deny the gods that remain. I choose to worship You.

August 31, 2005

Tests!

"I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their forefathers did." Judges 2:22

Certain trials and temptations never seem to go away. No matter how much we think we have grown, there are enemies lurking around every corner.

Why doesn't God simply remove them?

God allows circumstances - not to make us fall, but to test us - to teach us to turn to Him.

Lord, there are times that I wish all the challenges I face would simply disappear. Yet without them, I would grow lazy and complacent. Sometimes I fail. But without the chance to try, I learn nothing. Help me to keep Your way. Help me to walk in it, so when trials come, we will succeed together.

About August 2005

This page contains all entries posted to The Potter's Hand in August 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2005 is the previous archive.

September 2005 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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