Thursday, October 4, 2018

Is this my idea...or...

That bracelet was a craft project during one of our Teen Girls Sleepovers...probably 5 or 6 years ago.  'Amats' is the Hebrew word for 'Courage'.

In sitting down and trying to figure out what's holding me back...you know, you get asked that question at almost all big conferences at some point...I've had to question my courage.

And I come down to this...if I knew, absolutely knew, that I had a word and direction from God, I could go after it with everything.

But I have been wrong so many times.

See, I kinda had the idea that if something occurred to me,  from out of the blue, so to speak, not as a product of my own reasoning ( or maybe as a product of some particularly non-typically brilliant reasoning) I figured it had to be God.  And I'd go tearing off that way...only to run into a brick wall.

Now, I understand timing and all, and I know Joseph's Words all seemed in direct contrast to everything that happened in his life until Pharoah pulled him out of jail, but those times are not of that nature. 

I got it wrong.

So I'm a little gun shy now.

And when a random idea related to something I feel I have a promise on landed in my brain this morning, I didn't jump up and  do it.

Because I am tired of running into walls.  I'm tired of offering my dreams up to a chorus of crickets...or, worse yet, outright disdain.  I'm tired of sending Ishmaels out...because it seemed like a good idea. 


Gideon said to God, " If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised -- look I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor.  If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand as you have said."  And that is what happened.  Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew -- a bowl full of water.

Then Gideon said to God, "Do not be angry with me.  Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece.  This time make the fleece dray and the ground covered with dew."  That night God did so.  Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.  (Judges 6:36-40, NIV84)

Gideon gets a lot of flak for that. 'Putting out a fleece' has even entered the vernacular...and is rather disparaged.  But,  Gideon had a whole army to convince; I don't think the fleece was to convince himself; he knew he had had a word.  I think it was to convince the rest of the tribes that he had really heard a word.

If God will confirm a word to the people who need to hear it, who need to believe, I don't think it's out of line to ask Him to confirm a word that might be Him...or might be my own problem-solving  brain at work.

So, I'm asking for confirmation.  If that idea was a God- idea, I'll follow through.  If it wasn't...well, either there is another door down the road a bit...or maybe I've got the whole thing wrong and NONE of it was God...just my imagination.  God knows what I need. 

It's not a lack of faith in God...it's a lack of faith in my ability to wait for His voice and not go following my own.  I need a landmark so I know it really is Him.

I'll let you know if anything comes of it. ;-)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Between Studies

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi


The photo is not really related to the post, but Facebook wants a picture to post with the link, so...

I thought I'd do an update on the 3 + 1 (three chapters in the Old Testament, one in the new) reading...I'm kinda embarrassed to admit that I'm a total of at least 3 months behind.  Reading 6 days a week should have been easy, right?  Somehow, since it wasn't EVERY day, it got easy to overlook.  I'm still plugging away; I'm in 2 Samuel (David is thinking he's covered up everything with Bathsheba), just read Ps. 139...we are fearfully and wonderfully made...and grieved with the Ephesian believers as Paul told them 'you will never see my face again;' as I near the end of Acts.

It's a good plan to read through the Bible in a year.  Well less than a year, if you do it daily.  I tried backing it out to 6 days a week...which would still finish in a year...but, well, I got behind.  I thought about skipping Joshua, since I was doing the study on it, but part of the reason I am reading is to systematically mark the ESV I'm reading in...and I did the Joshua study from the NIV.  So I didn't skip it.

So, you know, it's going to take more than a year.  I'll just keep plugging away and maybe finish around Easter. Cause, you know, the important thing is to be intentional, not to finish on a schedule.  Having a goal is good...but the main thing is to keep going.

I'm not sure what the next study will be.  I'm still kinda mulling over the lessons from Joshua and letting those sink in.

I know I need to be much more intentional about 'inquiring of the LORD' before I undertake things.  I've found myself getting tripped up...again...by assuming I know what's going on and what I need to do and then finding out, well, I didn't.  My results weren't as dire as some of the results from running ahead in Joshua's day, but I'd still rather have not made those errors.  I got hurt and I hurt others.  No bueno.  

God gives us a promise, but we still have to do it His way.  Because His way really and truly is the best way in the long run.  And I generally don't figure out His way on my own.  It comes by asking.

So, yeah.  Still chewing on it...

Friday, September 21, 2018

Blogging Bible Study: Joshua 24 - Joshua's Farewell, Part 2

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Joshua 23 contains Joshua's last instructions to the leaders of the nation; chapter 24 is his farewell to the people. 

At least, that's the way it looks to me.  You could put a different spin on it and conclude that both chapters were to the entire nation, and if I dug into different translations that may bear it out.  But the NIV implies that chapter 23 is to the all the leaders of the entire nation, and chapter is to all the tribes...

[Joshua] summoned all Israel -- their elders, leaders, judges and officials -- and said to them... (23:2)

Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem.  He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel and they presented themselves before God. Joshua said to all the people.... (24: 1 - 2a)

It looks to me like he spoke first to the elders, and then addressed the whole assembly of tribes, with the leaders positioned in front.  But it could go either way.  In any case, with no jumbo trons or public address systems, the upshot was that only the leaders heard him anyway, and repeated to their tribes what he said.  And the words of chapter 24 are clearly meant for the entire nation.

Joshua first reviews the history of Israel, speaking to them the words God had laid on him to speak (notice the first person pronouns in verses 2 - 13):

I took your father Abraham...and led him...and gave him many descendants
I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau.
I assigned Esau the hill country of Seir; Jacob and his sons went to Egypt.
I sent Moses and Aaron
I afflicted the Egyptians
You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians
I brought you to the land of the Amorites...I gave them into your hands.
I destroyed them before you.
I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you again and again.
I delivered you out of his hand.
I gave [the citizens of Jericho, the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Gigashites, Hivites and Jebusites] into your hands.
I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you.
I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant. 

God did all of that.  ALL of that.  After reminding the people of all that God did, and that they are where they are solely because of what God did, Joshua gives them a challenge that is still ringing in our ears today.

"Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness.  Throw away the gods your forefathers worship beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day 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 for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."  (24:15)

The people, of course, responded,

'Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods!...We too will serve the LORD, because He is our God.'  (24:16, 18a)

Joshua, however, knew the fickleness of his people, and warned them,

'If you forsake the LORD and serve foreigh gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.'

And the people declared again...and again...that they would serve the Lord.

Joshua then recorded all the decrees and laws, and had a large stone set near the Tabernacle at Shechem.  The stone, he stated, was to be a witness.

'This stone will be a witness against us.  It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us.  It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God." (v. 27).

Then the people were dismissed to go to their designated inheritance.

There is an epilogue of sorts, recording the death and burial of Joshua (at age 110), the burial of Joseph's embalmed body, as he had requested (Gen. 50:25), and the death and burial of Aaron's son Eleazar.

There is also a little declaration in verse 31:

Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the LORD had done for Israel.

The first two chapters of Judges overlap the narrative in Joshua somewhat and reiterates that the people who were there that day served the Lord.  The later generations, however...well, their story is related in the rest of the book of Judges, dismal as it is.

Because, of course, we are notoriously bad at remembering what God has done for us. And we humans  have a history, down through the ages, of disregarding the lessons and wisdom of our elders.  Even as individuals, we tend to forget the awe of standing in the moment and seeing God move as we go about the normal tasks of everyday life.  We forget that the freedom and ability to actually go about those tasks...and not be hiding from marauders or scraping for food or trying to find a place to shelter for the night or dealing with disease or any of the hundreds of other things that would disrupt life to the point of just trying to survive...is one of God's richest blessings.  That was the covenant:  God said to serve Him alone as God, from a heart devoted to Him, and He would keep away the wild animals and the invading armies and the devouring locusts and all the other hazards.  It sounds so simple.

But it requires being different than the people who do not serve God.  Not obnoxious about it, but different.  They serve different gods.. they have different priorities...and, remember, those pagan societies killed their own children as sacrifices to their gods.  Serve the LORD, Moses said, So that you and your children might live.

So ultimately the book of Joshua reminds us that God is the one who fights our battles, if we serve Him, and every one of us has a choice to make.  Will we obey the God who loves and cares for us...or will we be like those around us?   There's nothing magical about crossing the Jordan to the Promised Land; once arrived there, it takes an intentional choice to live by God's heart.  It's easy to think we can handle it on our own;  living in a house we didn't build and eating food we didn't plant, but the truth is...we have to continue to choose to serve the LORD.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Blogging Bible Study: Joshua 23 - Joshua's Words to the Leadership

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

After a long time had passed.... (Jos.23:1)

Years, since Joshua had sent the tribes to their territories to clean out the rest of the pagan population in their respective regions.  They had broken the military strength of their enemies; all that was left was to clear the rest of the folks out.

Joshua was now an old, old man.  He and Caleb were the only guys over 60 years old when they crossed the Jordan, all those years before, and he knows his time to depart is near.  He called in all the elders, leaders, judges and officials to him and reminded them of what they had lived through since they crossed the Jordan.

"I am old and well advanced in years.  You yourselves have seen everything the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the LORD your God who fought for you.  Remember how I have allotted as an inheritance for your tribes all the land of the nations that remain -- the nations I conquered -- between the Jordan and the Great Sea.  The LORD your God will drive them out of your way.  He will push them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, asl the LORD your God promised you." - 23:2a - 5

Then, he solemnly charges the leaders what to do after he's gone:

1) Be strong and courageous and live by the Law given by Moses (v.6)
2) Do not in any way serve or honor the gods of the pagans left among you (v. 7)
3) Do not associate with the people who do not honor God (v.7)
4) Hold fast to the LORD your God (v. 8)

He reminded them again, that it was the LORD who drove out their enemies; it was the LORD who made one man able to defeat a thousand enemies; they had not done it in their own strength. 

'So be very careful to love the LORD your God.' (v.11)

He continues with a warning of what will happen if they fail to follow those instructions.  And it's interesting to note what constituted failure: making alliances with the foreigners, intermarrying with them and socializing with them. And this wasn't about racial differences...it was about belief systems.  Because fraternizing with people whose beliefs are fundamentally opposed to the worship of God is a huge trap.  It began with the serpent in the Garden and it remains the same even today.  The arguments sound reasonable, even.  What could it hurt?  One bite?  One bit of incense?  A few little wooden images?  Is it really that big of a deal? 

Yes.  Because it always leads to death.  And what was the choice Moses gave them back in Deuteronomy 30? 'This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live...' (Deut. 30:19)  That was no random selection of words...the pagan cultures ALL practiced child sacrifice.  Choosing the culture of death would literally kill their offspring.

Look at words of the warning:  'If you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them, then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you.  Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your back and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you.' (Josh. 23:12-13)

It was a big deal.

And, just in case the message hadn't gotten through, he repeats it for emphasis, because, just as God has been faithful to keep His promises, He will also be faithful to execute His judgment.

'You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises that the LORD your God gave you has failed.  Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.  But just as every good promise of the LORD your God has come true, so the LORD will bring on you all the evil he has threatened, until he has destroyed you from this good land he has given you.  If you violate the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the LORD's anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.'  - (vs. 14b -16)

It is a big deal. 

Of course, we all know the rest of the story; that the people of Israel repeatedly fell into the patterns of the people around them and repeatedly suffered for it, until the Babylonians finally destroyed their capital city and place of worship and drug all the leaders and their households off to exile.  Not because they refused to serve God, but because they kept trying to mix the worship of God with the worship of the gods of the unbelievers.  Because it was what the folks around them were doing.

Not this generation, or even the one after, but eventually...a generation grew up that didn't really believe what they'd been taught about what God had done and said.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Next week...Joshua's last words to the nation.

How much of the ungodly culture am I allowing to influence my worship? How can I remove the influences of the culture from my worship and still remain relevant enough to be an influence on folks who just don't get the whole One True God thing? 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

..In the Midst of the Mess, Part 2

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Ok, I admit it.  Last night...I was ready to throw in the towel.  I mean, really throw in the towel.  I had decided that I was incapable of doing...well, what I was doing...and perhaps if I stepped down someone who had better people skills than me could take over.  And do a better job of pulling opposites together.  At least without inadvertently running roughshod over folks who were legitimately doing their best under circumstances I was clueless about.

I was ready to bail out,  run for cover, shut myself up at home because I didn't think I could EVER get this thing right.

But this morning...

Our first speaker was a lady I hadn't heard before, Amie Dockery.  I had no idea what she was going to talk about and, to be honest, I was expecting it to be good but not, you know, specifically applicable to my situation.

O mi goodness.

I do not know when I have EVER sat in a service in which the speaker described, right down to the words floating around in my brain in the last 18 hours, exactly what was going on in my life.

Now, there are a bazillion topics that she could have talked about in a women's meeting.  But she chose to talk about the lures the enemy uses to pull us away from God's purposes.  And these weren't the same ol' same ol' things normally heard.  No, she dug into the temptation of Jesus in a way I had never heard before.  I mean, I thought I knew what she was going to say...and she said nothing like I thought she was going to say.  She talked about three specific lures.

Not gonna go into her descriptions, but  all three lures had been cast at me since the sun went down last night.  And I was perilously close to falling for them.

That doesn't mean that I'm not a socially awkward person who routinely puts her foot in her mouth.  But what it does mean is that that is not a disqualification from service. I'm not allowed to quit just because I am flawed.

Ultimately, those flaws simply mean that I have to lean harder into God and my relationship with Him.

That's actually why they are there.

I told you.  Every year it happens this way...first breaking, then restoration and refreshing.  I should quit being surprised by it.

Friday, September 7, 2018

A not-Bible-Study-post in the midst of my mess

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi


I didn't get the Joshua post up today; it's Conference Weekend.

The weekend after Labor Day, in which we switch over the church to all things feminine and host a weekend for women.  It's always powerful, always stretching, always needed. What usually happens at the conference is a breaking and a restoring. The Spirit puts a finger on what's ugly, what's inhibiting growth, what's got. to. go.  And by the end of the weekend, the Spirit has also washed away the broken bits of the ugly and given a fresh perspective and purpose to take its place.

Now, as a staff person, I get a whole nuther aspect on the weekend.

And sometimes, the thing that unmakes me really has nothing to do with the service or the speaker.

Sometimes, in the logistics and the planning, I get my lessons.

Tonight was one of those times.

A friend held up a picture of how my attempts to help...to fix...to catch things...looks to other folks.

It wasn't a pretty picture.

Sort of like the picture above; my old attempt to re-liquify honey that had crystallized.  Only I made a mess instead.

The speaker was good, but I sat in my spot and processed the picture I'd seen.  It was a rough go, I'll be honest.

And that's one thing that I don't know how to fix. 

 So I'm looking for the second half...the restoration, the encouragement...tomorrow. I honestly don't know how God can redeem this mess...but I do know that He can.

I am really ready to stop being the bull in the china shop.  Just bein' real. 

So I'm putting a demand on the anointing for part two.  The redemption and refreshing. 

I'm ready.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Blogging Bible Study: Joshua 22 -- Disaster of Assumptions

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

What an example we have here of the dangers of assumption and lack of communication.

The chapter starts off well enough; Joshua calls the Trans-Jordan tribes in, commends them for their faithful service, challenges them to be very careful to keep the commandment  and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave to you:  to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and your soul (22:5),  blesses them and sends them home to their families and possessions.

So the Reubenites, the Gaddites, and half the tribe of Manasseh headed home across the Jordan River.

Where they proceed to build an enormous altar.

Now, the law was clear that all the sacrifices were to be made at the tabernacle,  on the altar consecrated in the wilderness and carried about by the priests. So, to all appearances, this was flagrant disregard for the Law and all that Moses had instructed them about sacrifices and worship.

Now, the Trans-Jordan tribes had not discussed this altar with anyone on the west side of the Jordan.  They just built it.  The rest of the Israelites noticed the altar and immediately concluded that the folks across the river were in rebellion.

The whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them.  (v. 12).

But someone thought a parlay might be worth a try, before they wiped out a sizeable portion of their nation.

Always good to get the other side of the story before taking action.

So the Israelites sent  Phinehas, son of Eleazer, the priest, to the land of Gilead -- to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh.  With him, they sent ten of the chief men, one for each of the tribes of Israel, each the head of a family division among the Israelite clans. (v. 13).

When the deputation arrived, they got in the faces of the Trans-Jordan tribes:

How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this?  How could you turn away from the LORD and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now? (v. 16)

They  reviewed the history of rebellion in the people...they reminded them of the judgement that happened after the sin of Peor,  of what happened to the whole nation when Achan sinned at Jericho.

The accusation was clear.  Judgement was impending.  What could those folks say for themselves?

No!  We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, 'What do you have to do with the LORD,  the God of Israel?  The LORD has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you - you Reubenites and Gadites!  You have no share in the LORD.'  So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the LORD.  

That is why we said, 'Let us get ready and build an altar -- but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.'
 On the contrary,  it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the LORD at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings.  Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, 'You have no share in the LORD.' (vs. 24-27).

There's more in the following verses, but it basically reiterates the declaration that the massive altar is there as a talisman of their devotion to God, not  meant to be any kind of substitution for the actual altar.

The delegation let out a big sigh of relief, I'm sure, after they heard this explanation.

Today, we know that the LORD is with us, because you have not acted unfaithfully toward the LORD in this matter.  Now you have rescued the Israelites from the LORD's hand. (v. 31)

To make it all official, the Trans-Jordan tribes named their altar 'A Witness Between Us that the LORD is God.' (v. 34), and everyone went home.

There's a lot to consider in this story. 

What strikes me immediately is how quickly both sides of the issue assumed the worst.  The Trans-Jordan tribes looked at the Jordan River -- which they had chosen to not cross -- and considered it a barrier between them and the rest of the nation. And they immediately were afraid that one day in the future their kids would be rejected by the rest of the nation because of that barrier.  Now, they had had lots of opportunities in dealing with both Moses and Joshua to come up with some sort of insurance that such a thing would not happen, but they did nothing about it until they got home from war.  And then they put up this really suspicious looking thing without any kind of explanation to anyone.

They did it because they were afraid of something that might happen in generations to come.  They did it because they felt their choice would be held against them in the future.  There were probably other ways to address the issue...all involving dialogue with the very folks they were ultimately afraid of.  Would that offend them?  Better to just do what we need to do, right?

The rest of the country reacted, based on what they observed.  They assigned the worst possible motives to the erection of the altar.  And they did not consult with the Lord or inquire of Him what should be done about it.  Which was part of the reason they had such disastrous outcomes regarding Achan and Baal Peor.  They were afraid, too....of the consequences of the sin of part of the nation on the whole body.  They were angry and offended anyway.

Wouldn't it have been better to discuss this before anyone took any action?

Fortunately, there was discussion.  And the explanation was deemed valid and not what had been anticipated.

The church split...er, war between the tribes...was averted.

We relive this scenario over and over again in modern Christianity.  Congregations split, folks get offended, often because no one wants to talk about things in the early stages.  Unfortunately, we rarely get the deputation to see what the truth about a dispute may be, and folks become more entrenched in their opinions....one side justifying their actions, incredulous that anyone would think they would be THAT wrong in their intentions, offended  because those others really believed they could have such devious motives, whilst the others can't believe their brothers and sisters could do something so...inconsiderate...of the body as a whole, offended that the others considered them so inconsequential that they weren't even worth TALKING to, for goodness sake...and opinions fly and feelings get hurt and ...in the worst cases, the local body collapses and the building goes up for sale.  At the very least relationships are severed and people are wounded and the body suffers.

Things are almost never as bad as they seem.  How can we all learn to take a breath and LISTEN to concerns  and pray with the folks who are seeing things from a different viewpoint so that we ALL can come to an agreement that's based on God's care for His people?  If both sides truly fear God and want His will...there will be an explanation and a way through that preserves the integrity...in every sense of the word... of the body.