This is a test

Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their ancestors did.”

Judges 2:20 -22

These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience).

Judges 3:1-2

I wasn’t going to write about this because it seems I have written a lot about spiritual battles lately, but when it came up two days in a row while reading through the Bible, I knew I was supposed to write something.

What are the things that God is leaving in our lives to drive us to trust Him and keep His way?

Why do we need to be battle-tested?

What new thing does God want us prepared for?

I tell myself that I prefer the verses about God leading us beside still waters and making us lie down in green pastures. But when I look back on my life, I do enjoy the sense of victory over a challenge that came my way. So, I guess I am thankful for both – the peace and the battles.

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How to Succeed at…Anything!

The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.

Deuteronomy 28:13

I was just thinking the other day about how strange it was to be considered the girl “Most Likely to Succeed,” among my high school classmates. I wasn’t the smartest or the prettiest, and definitely was not the most socially astute!

The verse above is the only thing I can figure out that made the difference. I truly tried my best to follow God. I know other classmates of mine did, as well, so it still doesn’t totally explain why I won, but it serves as an object lesson.

Follow God and you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. My other God-fearing classmates were always at the top, too, never at the bottom!

What about those who suffer as martyrs for their faith? In their spirits, they are still at the top.

It’s Your Fault

While reading through Deuteronomy this morning I ran across these verses:

23 At that time I pleaded with the LORD: … 25 Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.” 26 But because of you the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the LORD said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.”

Deuteronomy 3: 23, 25-26

I had to stop and read verse 26 again. Did Moses just switch from writing a narrative to directly interacting with his audience? Who is the “you” he is referring to in that verse? I read the first section of that chapter again, and could find no direct clues. I had my hunches, but I thought it best to look further. So I kept reading.

This is what I ran into:

The LORD was angry with me because of you, and he solemnly swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land the LORD your God is giving you as your inheritance.

Deuteronomy 4:21

During this section, Moses was talking directly to the Israelites so he was most definitely meaning, “you fellow Israelites,” when he used the pronoun, “you.”

He DID mean, “you fellow Israelites,” back in chapter 3. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that Moses, of all people, would blame others for what God clearly told him was his fault. I have always struggled a bit with how harsh God’s punishment seemed to be for Moses when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it (see the story in Numbers 20). But only God knows the heart, so He must have seen something that He realized required discipline.

As I am writing this I am realizing that Moses’ patent refusal to accept responsibility for his own actions, that were in direct conflict with what God had explicitly told him, show why God didn’t allow him to lead the Israelites farther into Canaan. Conquering Canaan was going to require all sorts of crazy, strange, unique and downright ridiculous-seeming strategies that would need to be followed without editing or questioning. Moses liked to question.

Moses had done an amazing job getting the Israelites this far. But he was getting tired.

It is heartening to me that God chose to use someone as human as Moses, who, even at the end, wasn’t perfect.

This passage is also getting me thinking – what in my life is out of reach because of actions that I have not taken responsibility for?

Speaking from the experience of being a person with autism, and having relatives with autism, I can say with some confidence, that blaming others for things we should take responsibility for is a common struggle for us. Neurotypical people can struggle in this area, too. But it seems especially prevalent among those of us with autism.

Here’s to owning our mistakes and making it a better day, with God’s help, of course!

He Knows Where We’ve Been

While reading through Numbers today I was struck by the following:

Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. At the LORD’s command Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages:

Numbers 33: 1-2

The Israelites have just reached the Jordan river for the second time and are getting prepped to finally go in and take the land that was promised to Abraham hundreds of years ago. They have wandered in the desert, somewhat aimlessly, for 40 years because of the doubts of the first generation. But now they are ready to trust God and move into the next big adventure He has for them.

I found it comforting to know that God kept track of every part of their journey, both the highs and the lows. I am glad that He doesn’t command me to write down every bit of my journey (hmmm, actually, I think He has, which is why I feel compelled to write today – interesting). Ok, so He doesn’t, in His explicit word, command us to write down where we have been, though for some of us, that is what He asks of us. But regardless, He keeps track of where we have been. He cares. He knows how everything fits together.

You are not alone or unimportant. The God of the entire universe knows where you have been and cares to help you move forward into the next big adventure in your life.

God loves YOU!

Is it Ok to Question?

I have been reading numerous Christian personalities talk about how they weren’t allowed to question things in their church. Or how they believe that doubts drive us to greater faith, so doubts should be embraced as ok.

This is what I have found to be true in my Christian walk.

It is ok to have questions. David often voiced his questions in his Psalms. I once had a pastor say that we should never ask the question, “Why?” But the man after God’s own heart, David, asked, “why?” on several occasions. For instance:

I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”

Psalm 42:9

But notice, even in David’s questioning, he still keeps God in the proper place in his life. He questions God, but doesn’t disrespect God in the process.

Sometimes our doubts get so big that they make if difficult to keep God in his rightful place. The Bible promises that God won’t leave us while we struggle to find our faith again:

if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

2 Timothy 2:13

But I have also learned that the only way to find faith again is to actually practice faith. What is faith?

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see…. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:1, 6

Believe that what God has promised is true, even if what you see right now doesn’t make sense to you. Have confidence in what you do not see. Believe that He will reward you, even if you can’t see how right now.

The other day I was frustrated about a truly minor situation, but it was still really maddening to me. I asked God to fix the situation, but He wouldn’t. Instead, He reminded me of the verse:

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

It took some work, but I managed to get myself to thank him for being with me. And it was the craziest thing – I felt awesome, even though I was still stuck in a less-than-ideal situation!

I shouldn’t have been surprised as He promises that:

However, as it is written

“What no eye has seen,what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”[b]
the things God has prepared for those who love him—

1 Corinthians 2:9

Blessings on your journey!