“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 17:6). These words (repeated in Judges 21:25) sum up the Book of Judges. As I am reading this in my devotions, I am amazed at how the nation of Israel, back then, reflects the dire spiritual and moral condition of our country right now. The time of the judges begins after the Israelites entered the Promised Land. Moses, Joshua, and the elders after Joshua had all passed away. The majority of the people did not know God’s Word, and most of those who did turned away from God’s teaching and commands. So, if God and His Word are rejected, does this result in a country or people becoming better? Read the Book of Judges for yourself and find out! People have told me that religion is not good for America. To a certain extent, I agree that “religion” imposed on people is not good. However, when a nation rejects Christ and chooses a “godless” path, the door to chaos opens wide. When the leaders and parents of children provide no moral compass for our children, is it any wonder that they make self-destructive choices? Can we see a connection between the increase in violent crime and the absence of the presence of Christ in people’s hearts? Do we really buy into the idea that “sexual freedom” is something good? Why do we ignore all the heartache and pain that come into broken families due to unfaithfulness? Individual morality with no accountability only feeds the power of the sinful nature. Any passion for God gets replaced with soul-crushing addictions. Fear grows as we find ourselves surrounded by more and more people who have no fear of God and simply do what is right in their own eyes. Take another look at the Book of Judges. The message is loud and clear. When we try to replace God as the King of our life, we can expect nothing but bitter consequences. My prayer for our country is that we would repent and turn to God. As Christians, we must pray and live godly lives…showing others what it’s like to follow Jesus, love others, and share hope. There is yet hope for change, but it has to start with us.
Every day we grow a little older. This truth can depress us or inspire us to make the most of life. I’m glad the Bible reveals many great examples of growing older in grace. Caleb is one of them. He first appears in Numbers 13:6 as one of the 12 spies of Israel sent into Canaan to explore the land. When they returned, only Caleb and Joshua spoke words of faith to the people—while the other spies delivered a bad report. God blessed Caleb (and Joshua) by allowing him to enter the Promised Land. All the other Israelites, 40-years-old and up, died in the wilderness. Fast forward. In Joshua 14 we see Caleb as an 85-year-old man. At this time, the Israelites had captured and possessed much of the Promised Land. Many of Caleb’s friends had already begun to settle down to a life of ease. However, Caleb had other plans! He came one day to Joshua (Israel’s leader) with a testimony and a request. “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years…. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 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. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day” (Joshua 14:10-12b). The Bible records Joshua’s response to Caleb: “Then Joshua blessed Caleb…and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly” (Joshua 14:13-14). Caleb inspires me! I am blessed by his wholehearted devotion. God honored Caleb by giving him the strength he needed to keep expanding the Promised Land. I believe God will continue to give us new dreams and visions—even as we grow older. Along with this, I see from Caleb’s life that God’ strength is available to those who desire to do God’s will. May we courageously pray as Caleb prayed, “…give me this hill country” (v12a)! Possessing the hill country will not be easy and simple, but we can do whatever God calls us to do. Thank you, Caleb, for being an inspiration to all of us! “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
I hear a lot of prayers for prosperity, but they make me wonder. Don’t get me wrong. I think prosperity beats poverty by a long shot. However, I have observed that many believers seem to handle adversity better than prosperity. When troubles come, we tend to look to God and cry, “Help!” But, when money and blessings abound, a mist often creeps up on us. We start thinking, I don’t need God so much, and we slowly slack off in our prayer and Bible reading. All the extra responsibilities that come with abundant provisions can choke our fellowship with God and His people. This happens too often…but it does not need to happen! In the Book of Deuteronomy, the Lord anticipated the Israelites’ desire to have a king after they entered the Promised Land. Kings, because of their lofty role, often found themselves surrounded by the temptations of prosperity. How would they serve God and the people as humble servants while possessing great power and wealth? Here is what God said about being fit for a king: “The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, ‘You are not to go back that way again.’ He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:16-20). God gave these commands so the kings could handle prosperity and still grow in the Lord. But, when you read the history of the kings of Israel, you discover how few actually obeyed God’s Word. Most failed the test of prosperity. God wants to bless us but how will we handle His blessings? Let’s avoid what God tells us to avoid and embrace what God tells us in His Word to embrace. This will enable us to be good stewards of His blessings and avoid falling into the deceitfulness of riches.
Don’t let life steal your song! As COVID-19 continues to stretch on, many people struggle with discouraging and stressful thoughts. As believers we possess a power within us which is greater than the darkness in the world. In my experience, the time I struggle the most with thoughts is at night when I am in bed. Sometimes the enemy attacks me with a barrage of negative thoughts which I wrestle with until I receive the victory from Jesus. King David in the Bible recorded in many of his Psalms the times he battled in his heart and mind. Yet, he never gave up, and always came back to praising the Lord with his mouth and in song. David ministered to the Lord by songs in the night! “The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy” (Psalm 65:8). “I remembered my songs in the night” (Psalm 77:6). Recently I have asked the Lord, “Would You help me to honor You with songs of joy and faith in the night, and would You help me to wake up with a song in my heart?” What peace I have when I wake up with a song to Jesus on my mind! Often, it’s a song we have sung during a worship service. One that has blessed my life goes as follows: “Jesus at the center of it all…. From beginning to the end, it will always be, it’s always been You, Jesus, Jesus. And nothing else matters; nothing in this world will do. Jesus you’re the center. Everything revolves around you” (words and music by Israel Houghton, Michah Massey, and Adam Ranney). Our battles are fought on the field of faith. The Lord will help us to sing and worship Him even though we may be struggling and wrestling with our thoughts. And remember: the battle belongs to the Lord! It all comes down to Jesus…loving Him, following Him, and singing our song of victory to Him. He is the center of it all! We have the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, and He is worthy to receive our songs in the night!