Where Does Your Confidence Come From?

But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!” But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!” (Numbers 13:30-33, NLT)

This year, I made it my goal to read through the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation, something I have not done in a while. Today’s reading plan included chapters 11, 12 and 13 of the book of Numbers. When I read the last few verses of chapter 13, I recalled a post that I wrote in October 2017 and decided that I would share that post again today. Here it is:

In 1930, a now well-known illustrated children’s book was published called The Little Engine That Could. In this story, a very heavy train needs to be pulled up a steep hill. Several large and strong engines are asked to pull the train up the hill but, for various reasons, they say they are unable to do it. They look at the task they are being asked to do and decide that the train is too heavy, or the hill is too steep. Finally, a little engine is asked and replies, “I think I can.” The little engine begins to pull the train, slowly at first, then a little faster, until it makes it up and over the hill, exclaiming on the way down, “I thought I could!”

After being delivered from the hands of Pharaoh, the Israelites had wandered in the wilderness for over two years when they came to the wilderness of Paran. At God’s direction, Moses then sent out men from each of the twelve tribes of Israel to spy out the land that the Lord had promised them. This group of men spent forty days spying out the land and then returned to give their report. The land was as fruitful and beautiful as God had promised. But, all but two of the twelve men reported that there was no way that they could take this land. The land was filled with people who were stronger than the Israelites, people who lived in fortified cities (Numbers 13:27-28). And not only that, there also were giants in the land, giants who made these ten men feel like mere grasshoppers. And that’s how these men viewed themselves, as grasshoppers (Numbers 13:33). “There’s no way we can take this land,” they reported.

Is God calling you to a task that seems too difficult? Do you feel that you are not qualified to do what God has called you to do? God doesn’t call you because you are the most qualified person for a particular task. You may be weak, but He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). You may not be qualified, but He is, and He is with you every step of the way when you step out in faith. If David had felt that he was too small and too weak to defeat Goliath, who would have brought victory to the Israelites. If Peter had looked at the water and said, “Uh-uh! There’s no way I’m stepping out of this boat,” he would never have walked on water. If the apostles had said, “Hey, we’re just a group of fishermen, tax collectors, just ordinary people,” how would the early church have gotten its start?

When God calls us to something, He will give us all that we need to do it. Our job is to say yes and put our confidence in Him. Instead of saying, “I think I can,” like the little engine, we need to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And, when that task is accomplished, our response should be, “I knew He could!”

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Stuck in the Mud?

Have you ever been stuck in the mud? Recently, a 79-year-old New Hampshire man found himself stuck in mud up to his neck while duck hunting. The man had waded through a swamp, which was only two to three feet deep, not realizing that the bottom of the swamp was coated in thick mud. He soon found himself hopelessly stuck in the mud, and the more he struggled to get himself out, the deeper he sank in the mud. He remained stuck there for 33 hours until rescuers found him and managed to lift him out of the mud and onto dry land.

While most of us probably have never been stuck in the mud like that unfortunate duck hunter, there are times in our lives when a dilemma in which we find ourselves makes us feel like we are stuck in a “pit of mud.” Sometimes, we end up in those dilemmas, those “pits of mud,” through no fault of our own. For example, a financial “pit of mud” may have been caused by a job layoff or the loss of income due to an accident or serious illness. But there can also be times when we end up in that “pit of mud” due to our own wrong behavior, such as marital problems caused by indiscretions or addiction to pornography. But no matter what dilemma we face, no matter how deep we find ourselves in a “pit of mud,” there is a way out.

The way out of a “pit of mud” cannot be accomplished through our own strength. The duck hunter in New Hampshire tried to free himself from the mud by using his own strength. But the more he tried to free himself, the deeper into the mud he went. On our own, we are likely to become more embedded in the dilemma we face. Our struggle to set ourselves free will often lead to us sinking deeper into the pit. The duck hunter needed the help of rescuers to be freed from that muddy swamp. And we need God to free us from dilemmas that drag us down deeper into the pit.

In Psalm 40, David told of being freed from a pit by God. In verse 2 (NLT), he wrote, “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” David was freed from his dilemma by God. God lifted David from the pit of despair, pulled him out of the mud, and set his feet on solid ground again. God can do the same for us when we, like David, wait patiently on the Lord, bring our dilemmas to Him and wait for Him to see us through them rather than futilely struggling through them on our own. As David wrote in verse 1 of that psalm, when we wait patiently on the Lord, He will turn to us and hear our cry.

If you find yourself stuck in a “pit of mud,” turn to God, lift your voice to Him and wait patiently as He hears your cry and lifts you out of that pit. After lifting David out of his “pit of mud,” God gave David a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to God. The result was that many saw what God had done for David and put their trust in God (Psalm 40:3). When God lifts us from our “pits of mud,” we need to sing that new song, we need to tell others of what God has done for us. Our testimonies can be what brings others to come to the Lord, to put their faith and their trust in Him.

A Way That Seems Right

In yesterday’s post, I shared my journal story of the hike that my wife, Linda, and I took in the Poconos in August 2012. The day after I made that entry in my journal, God was still speaking to me through the experience that Linda and I had at the stream. As I sat down to write in my journal on that August morning, I recalled that since the night before, a verse had been running through my head. That verse was Proverbs 14:12, which says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

On August 30, 2012, I wrote in my journal:

This verse was one of the lessons that we learned at the stream on Tuesday. The tree trunk that lay across the stream seemed like a good way to get across without getting wet, but it was narrow and could easily have rolled, with the result of falling into shallow water full of large rocks. We could have been seriously hurt. Then there was the possibility of stepping on the larger rocks to get across, but they were wet and covered with moss, so we would likely have slipped. So the ways that “seemed right” to us could have led to a problem.

The best way to get to the other side of that stream that day was to go straight through. When life presents us with trials, with difficult circumstances, we often look for a way around them. We look for a way that seems right to us. But just as the best way through that stream was to take off our shoes and walk through the icy water, the best way to get through trials, through difficult circumstances, is to go straight through them. We need to trust God to lead us in the way that is His. His ways are always better than our ways.

In my journal, I thanked God that Linda and I took the way through the stream. It wasn’t easy, but it was God’s way, so it was safe. And through the experience of walking through that icy water, God taught us a lesson in life that we will not soon forget. He taught us that, in our lives, in our marriages, in whatever we do, we should always seek His ways and not the ways that seem right to us.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

A Triple-Braided Cord

Journals are a great way to record the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. I recently came across an old journal of mine from 2012 and started thumbing through it. When I got to the entry for August 29, 2012, I stopped to read the words I wrote about what the Lord was doing in my life at that time. Or, more specifically, what He was doing in my marriage. My wife, Linda and I were working through some struggles at that time. On that particular day, I wrote about something that had happened the day before, something that marked a breakthrough for our marriage. I’d like to share that entry today, just a little more than a week before Linda and I celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary. Here’s what I wrote on that late August day in 2012, while we were on a vacation trip in the Poconos:

Thank you, Lord, for another beautiful day. Thank you for allowing us to have a wonderful time away. Thank you for bringing Linda and me closer in these past few days. I especially thank You for our hike yesterday, which turned into a lesson for both of us that we will always cherish.

Yesterday was such a breakthrough day for us both. The challenges we had on our hike were truly lessons in cooperation, leadership, and love. You gave me an opportunity to be a leader and I am grateful for that. Crossing that stream gave me an opportunity to show my love for Linda and I am grateful for that as well. I know that, in the past, I would likely have become impatient with Linda for being so slow and tentative crossing the stream. I may not have gone back into that ice cold water to help her across. I was so aware of the difference in me. I was patient and, when I saw how tentative and nervous Linda was, I just walked right back into that stream, despite the fact that my feet were already cold and red. My only thought was to help Linda to get across safely and quickly. After leaving the stream, when we got to the area where the path got narrow and a bit scary, I took the lead and, following my example, Linda overcame a situation she was first thinking about turning back from. Linda brought to mind the passage from Ecclesiastes that says:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a)

Thank you for yesterday, Lord. It was one of the best days of our marriage!

It truly was one of the best days of our marriage. It was a turning point and it was a day we will never forget. And, I know that it’s because it was not just the two of us there that day. The Holy Spirit was with us and as it says in Ecclesiastes 4:12, “Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

God Helps Us Fulfill Our Purpose

Moses commissions Joshua

When Moses died, the responsibility of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land fell to Joshua, who had served under Moses from his youth. Joshua had earned Moses’ trust and had served him faithfully. Moses had such confidence in Joshua that, when the Israelite army fought against the Amalekites, Moses appointed Joshua to command the Israelite army. When Moses knew that he would not be there to lead the people into the Promised Land, he asked God to appoint someone to take his place. God chose Joshua who was, in God’s own words, a man in whom was the Spirit (Numbers 27:18). And so, upon Moses’ death, the mantel of leadership fell squarely on Joshua’s shoulders.

But Joshua would not be left alone in accomplishing this task of leading the Israelites. Just as He had been with Moses, God promised Joshua that He would be with him, that He would not fail him or abandon him (Joshua 1:5). God told Joshua that he needed to be strong and very courageous. He told Joshua that he would have success wherever he went, as long as he was careful to do one thing, keep God’s Word – God’s law – in his heart, his mind, and his mouth, and obey that Word, not turning from it in any way (Joshua 1:6-8).

Just as God had a purpose for Joshua, leading His people into the Promised Land, God has a purpose for each and every one of us. Our purpose may not be to lead an entire nation of people like Joshua did, but we do have a purpose that God has planned for us since before time began. It may be to teach others, it may be to encourage others, or it may be to care for the needs of others. It may be something that seems too difficult for us or something that seems easy to accomplish. Our purpose is not too big or too small, it is God-sized, a purpose that God gives us because He knows that, with His help, we can accomplish it.

As we seek to accomplish God’s purpose for our lives, we can be sure of this: just as God promised Joshua that He would be with him, God promises that He will be with us. And just as God promised Joshua that He would never fail him or abandon him, God promises that He will never fail us or abandon us. And God promises that we will succeed in our purpose if, like Joshua, we are careful to keep His Word, His commands, in our hearts, in our minds, and in our mouths, and to obey that Word, not turning from it in any way. We need to study His Word, meditate on it, and then follow the commandments that Jesus gave us to love God and love each other. When we do, we will prosper and succeed as we live out our God-given purpose.

I Am What I Am (Because of God’s Grace)

Ninety years ago, on January 17, 1929, a character with a prominent cleft chin, bulging forearms, and a corn cob pipe constantly in his mouth made his debut in a comic strip called Thimble Theatre. This character was an unrefined but lovable sailor, whose love for spinach was outweighed only by his love for a woman named Olive Oyl. The character’s name? Popeye the Sailor Man. Popeye was an underdog hero who got his strength from eating spinach, which he somehow always had a can of. And Popeye made no bones about where his strength came from, singing, “I’m strong to the finich, ’cause I eats me spinach.”

So, you may be wondering what Popeye is doing in a blog called A Worshiper’s Journal. Perhaps one of this comic strip turned cartoon star’s most famous quotes was, “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.” In his first letter to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10, NIV).

When you look at the history of the early church and consider the growth of that church, it is obvious that Paul worked hard at spreading the gospel, the good news that faith in Jesus Christ brings salvation from sin to all who follow Jesus. He probably worked harder than any of the apostles. He certainly traveled more and suffered more opposition than the other apostles. He wrote more epistles than the others and founded more churches than the others. In fact, you could say that Paul was a key factor in the church’s becoming as widespread as it is today.

Like Popeye, Paul knew who he was (“I am what I am”) and like Popeye, Paul knew where his strength came from. But Paul’s strength did not come from what he ate. It didn’t come from his education or his upbringing. Paul’s strength came from God. In Colossians 1:29 (NLT), Paul wrote, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Paul knew it was Jesus who strengthened him to put him into service as he spread the gospel (1 Timothy 1:12). And though Paul knew that in his own power he was weak, he also knew that by God’s grace, the power of God was perfected in that weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Paul understood that it was the grace of God that made him what he was. My prayer, for myself and for all who follow Christ, is that, as we look to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, we remember that our ability to do so comes from God and that it is by His grace that we are what we are – sinners saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8) and ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Eyewitness

On August 10, 1977, serial killer David Berkowitz, infamously known as the Son of Sam, was arrested on suspicion of committing a string of murders in New York City that began in 1976. The Son of Sam had eluded police for over a year, creating an atmosphere of terror in the city. One reason that the Son of Sam proved so elusive was that the NYPD and the public were looking for a person who bore no resemblance to the actual killer. This was because a sketch that had been circulated was based on descriptions provided by witnesses who were unreliable. But, on August 4, 1977, four days after the Son of Sam killed a young couple in Brooklyn, a witness came forward who provided information that was not only reliable but also led police to David Berkowitz.

Cacilia Davis, an Austrian-born woman who came to the United States in 1955, was walking her dog near her Brooklyn apartment on the night of July 31, 1977 when a man came walking toward her. The man, who Davis recalled seemed to be holding something dark partly up his sleeve, looked her squarely in the face and then walked away. Unsettled by this, Davis ran back to her apartment where, just five minutes later, she heard the sound of gunshots. Frightened, she stayed silent until four days later, when she went to the police. In her statement, she also related seeing a police officer ticketing a car that was parked at a fire hydrant. When police investigated, they found that the car belonged to David Berkowitz, who lived in Yonkers. Davis’ description of the man she saw and her information concerning the car led to the Son of Sam’s capture. Cacilia Davis was a reliable eyewitness.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines an “eyewitness” as a “person who has seen someone or something and can bear witness to the fact.” In 1 John 1:1-3, the apostle John speaks of exactly such a person. In fact, he speaks of several people who fit that definition:

We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. (1 John 1:1-3, NLT)

John and the other apostles were eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ, witnesses who heard and saw the One who existed from the beginning, the Word of Life, the Word through whom God created everything that exists (John 1:1-3). And because they had seen Jesus with their own eyes, had heard His teaching with their own ears, and had touched Him with their own hands, they were the perfect eyewitnesses to proclaim to a world in need of a Savior that Jesus was that Savior, the One who is eternal life.

The testimony of Cacilia Davis enabled the NYPD to find and capture the Son of Sam, something that brought great relief to the terrified city. But the testimony of John and the other apostles concerning Jesus Christ resulted in bringing great relief and great joy to all of mankind. Why? Because their testimony enables us to learn about the wonderful gift of salvation that comes from Jesus, who came to earth to pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind. And because, when we accept this gracious gift of God by making Jesus Lord and Savior of our lives and turn from our sins to follow Him, we are able to have fellowship with the apostles, whose fellowship is with the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Because of their testimony, we are able to share in that fellowship and in the joy that these witnesses to Jesus felt.

“eyewitness.” American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company 21 Jan. 2019 https://www.thefreedictionary.com/eyewitness

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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