Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bees in the Promised Land

While Timmy was playing in the yard, a bee stung him on the hand. He ran to his mother, crying, "I hate bees! I wish God had never made them." His mom put some ointment on the sting and said, "Let me get you something that will cheer you up. Do you want some toast and honey?"

Timmy perked up. "Yeah I'd love to have some honey!"
"Are you sure?" she asked. "You hate bees, but it takes bees to make honey." Tim looked at his toast and honey, which he was holding with the hand that had been stung. "Hmm. I never realized that bees had a good side!"

And so it is with life. Everything has a good side and a bad side, including the Promised Land. Moses sent twelve men into the land of Canaan to spy it out. The spies saw the land "flowing with milk and honey" but they also noticed the giants living there. Israel would have to fight the big guys to obtain the land that God had promised them. (See Numbers 13)

When they returned, ten spies gave a frightening report, saying they shouldn't go into the land because the giants would win. Joshua and Caleb said just the opposite--that the land was fruitful and God would give them victory over the giants. Although all 12 spies looked at the same territory, they came to different conclusions because 10 focused on problems and 2 focused on blessings. What we choose to focus on determines whether we're terrified or hopeful!

What does this have to do with your situation? You are "spying out the land" where you now live and are giving daily reports on what you see. Are you looking at your problems and missing what God has promised? Are you like the 10 whiners, or the 2 winners? You choose.
Keep looking up!
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Facing the Giants

Many of the incidents recorded in Scripture teach us valuable lessons that we can apply to our lives today. When David killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17), we discover some truths about how to approach our "giant" problems. Let's examine some facts about this famous battle and David's secrets to gaining victory.
1. We must first conquer our fears before we can conquer the giant. Everyone in Israel was afraid to face the giant. "When all the men of Israel saw the man, they fled from him and were greatly afraid" (17:24). David was the only one who wasn't afraid. We can't enter any battle trembling in fear, but must be totally confident of winning.

2. We must trust God to stand behind His covenant. David stood firm in God's covenant and asked, "For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?" (17:26). Circumcision was a sign of God's covenant. David understood the "uncircumcised" giant was no match for him because David had God's backing and Goliath wasn't under the covenant. Every child of God is under the New Covenant and we must trust the Lord to come through, even when the enemy taunts us.

3. We must remember God's faithfulness in past battles. As a shepherd, David had killed a lion and a bear that tried to attack his flock (17:34-36). These experiences were training exercises to get him ready for Goliath. David acknowledged this when he said, "He trains my hands for battle" (2 Sam. 22:35, Ps. 18:34, 144:1). He reflected on God's faithfulness, knowing that the God who gave him the skills to kill the lion and bear would also give him victory over the giant.

4. We must follow God's instructions and not man's. King Saul tried to equip David for battle by putting his bronze helmet and armor on him. David had never worn soldier's armor before and could barely walk (17:38-39). If he had tried to fight Goliath in the typical way he would have been killed! Instead, God had him use a rock and sling. We must listen carefully to the Lord about how to attack the problem, which might not be the way it has always been done.

5. We must give God the credit for giving us the victory. David didn't take credit for slaying the giant but wanted the Lord's name to be exalted, "that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel" (17:46). And that prophecy was fulfilled. It's 3,000 years later and people all over the world know about David killing the giant through the God of Israel.

Now go kill that giant you are facing today.
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Purpose for Joseph's Pit

Joseph was thrown into a pit in the wilderness by his brothers. They had planned to kill him, but Reuben suggested that they throw him into a nearby pit instead (Gen. 37:18-22). It was no accident that the pit just happened to be where they were. God had planned in eternity past for it to be there, knowing that it would one day serve a divine purpose. It was an ordained pit! Notice three things about this pit:

1. The pit kept Joseph from being killed.
His brothers fully intended to kill him and saw the pit as a way to get rid of him without shedding blood (v.22)
2. God made sure the pit was dry (v.24). If water had been in it, Joseph would have drowned.
3. The pit was used as a holding tank until the Ishmaelite traders came by and escorted him to Egypt (v.25-28). It was no accident that the traders just happened to travel by that route at just the right time. God was leading them (without them knowing it) so they would take His servant to the desired destination. And it was there that the Lord eventually made him a ruler!

Sooner or later, someone is going to throw you into a pit. When it happens, keep in mind that the Lord has a purpose for your pit. Although your enemy had the first word, look for God to have the last word. He is just using your pit as a holding tank to get you to a better place. And He will, if you will keep your heart right and not get bitter at your brothers.
Keep looking up! (Even when you're at the bottom of the pit)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Take Your Hands off That Neck!

Jesus told a parable about a king that forgave a slave who owed him $50 million (in today's dollars). It would take 4,500 lifetimes to pay off the debt, yet the merciful king let him off the hook! You would think that slave would be so grateful that he would forgive all his debtors as well. Not so with this guy. He went and found a fellow-slave who owed him $15. When the fellow-slave couldn't repay, he wrapped his hands around the other man's neck and began to choke him (Matt. 18:28).

Are your hands around someone's neck? Maybe you aren't choking anyone physically, but what about in your mind? The $50 million debt represents our sin-debt to God. When we ask God's forgiveness, the Merciful King lets us off the hook. Since we have received His mercy, we must extend mercy to all our debtors and let them off the hook as well. How do we forgive our debtors?
1. Forgiveness is based on what God did for you, not what that person did to you.
I cannot give away something that I haven't first received. I can't give you $15 if I haven't first received $15. And I can't give forgiveness to others if I haven't first received it from God. But if the Lord has given me $50 million worth of forgiveness, it will very easy for me to give away $15 worth.

2. You must feel compassion for the person who hurt you.
The king "felt compassion" for the slave and then forgave him (Matt. 18:27). He changed the way he viewed the debtor, and his anger turned to pity. He actually felt sorry for that pitiful slave! Find a way to feel pity and compassion for that person, and then you'll find that forgiveness will come with it.

3. "Let go" by taking your hands off their necks.
You've got to quit demanding repayment. Maybe that repayment is an apology that's owed you, or you're waiting for an ungrateful person to say, "thank you." Quit expecting that person to make things right. That means you must swallow the debt yourself, just like the king had to take the loss for the $50 million debt he was owed.

When you forgive your debtors, the burden you're carrying will be lifted off your soul. And that's worth a whole lot more than the $15 debt you forgave!
Keep looking up!
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Previous devotionals can be found at in the archive.