Author Archives: cazehner

About cazehner

I'm a woman who loves God's Word, the Bible. And I love sharing what it is God reveals to me through his Word. I pray that everything I write is consistent with Scripture, and that everyone who reads this blog will be drawn closer to the Savior. I am praying for you.

Joshua 8-10; Wax or Clay?

The Israelites had a reputation in Canaan. Or rather, the God of Israel had a reputation. The people inhabiting the Promised Land had heard the stories. Plagues in Egypt. Impressive victories in war. The Jordan River crossing. City walls collapsing.

Not only that, but the Canaanites knew the amazing God of the Jews had promised His children their land. If that happened, the Canaanites knew they would lose everything, including their freedom, maybe their lives. What to do?

The Gibeonites decided to go to the Jews and form a treaty. Five other kings decided to join forces to fight the Jews. One king heard the truth and chose surrender. Five kings heard the truth and chose to defy God.

Matthew Henry reminds us the same sun melts wax, and hardens clay.

It’s the same with truth today. I don’t need to give examples. You see it every day on a work-wide level, in our nation, our schools, in some churches, and in hearts of people close to us. We saw it when they hung Jesus on the cross.

Truth: There is ONE GOD, the creator and supreme ruler over all creation. Jesus is GOD’S SON, eternal God in human form. God is HOLY. He demands holiness of anyone who will come to Him. But we have sinned against Him. ALL OF US have sinned against Him. So in and of ourselves, there is NO HOPE, because the penalty for every sin is DEATH, eternal separation from God. But Jesus went to the cross to die, to pay the debt of our sin, of my sin, of your’s. And whether you want to believe it or not, Jesus is THE ONLY WAY to God.

Does that truth melt your heart, or make you angry? Do you want to surrender to God, or deny Him? Do you want to accept the truth, or fight against it?

I hope you’ll read these chapters in Joshua today. Find out for yourself what happens when people surrender, then enjoy God’s protection from the enemy. And find out what happens when people refuse to surrender, when they take up arms against God. They didn’t stand a chance.

Holy God, I surrender. I am a sinner who deserves your wrath. I deserve to die for the sins I’ve committed. But I’ve heard about You, how powerful and awesome You are. And when I hear You say there is only one hope of salvation, I believe it. So, God, I accept Jesus. I repent of sin, I turn my life over to You. Because the truth is, when I stand before You on that day, I don’t want You looking at me, seeing my sin. I want You to look at me and see Jesus. He is my Savior. And He is the Savior of anyone who surrenders to the truth.

Joshua 6-7; Quit Crying

When you were a kid, did you ever hear the words, “Quit crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about?” I have to admit I heard it more than once from my dad, the father of five girls. ‘Nuff said.

I have a great nephew who I adore. When he was younger, and didn’t get his way, or was disappointed about something, his voice would go up about two octaves, he’d scrunch up his face, and he’d whine. One time, during one of these delightful episodes, I asked him if he ever got his way when he whined like that.

“No,” he whined. (good on you, parents) I smile.

You do know we have raised a generation of whiners, don’t you? You can’t watch the news without seeing some millennial whining about something. It’s embarrassing.

The Israelites had just watched Jericho crumble. God had given them such an amazing victory, they seem to have felt invincible. “Let’s get Ai,” they decided.

So Joshua sent some men into Ai to check out the lay of the land. They came back with a glowing report. “Piece of cake. Send a few soldiers and we’ll take that city with no problem.” Hoo-rah.

Well, Joshua did send only about 3,000 soldiers. And they were soundly defeated. Routed. Crushed. They went running for their lives like cockroaches when the lights turn on.

When Joshua heard they had lost the battle, he tore his clothes and fell face down on the ground before the ark. He stayed there all day like that. The elders followed suit.

Then Joshua prayed something like this: Why God? We should have never crossed the Jordan. The Canaanites think we’re a joke now. They’ll attack and defeat us. They’ll wipe us out. It’s not fair. (I can imagine his voice was a couple octaves higher, too)

I love how God answered that prayer, and I can almost hear my dad’s unsympathetic voice as God says, “Get up. Quit whining.”

God goes on: “Israel has sinned. Do you honestly expect me to give you victory when you treat me like that? You know better. A deal’s a deal, and you’ve broken your end of the bargain by your disobedience. Don’t come crying to me. This is on you.”

That’s rough. Where is compassion? Where is tolerance: Where is this love that everyone is talking about?

God’s compassion and love are never directed toward sin. God never looks at a sin and weakens because of a tear in our eye. He cannot and will not tolerate sin. His holiness demands that.

I think God would have us take Him very seriously concerning this sin thing. In God’s eyes, sin is sin. No grey areas there. Not only will God not tolerate sin, He cannot bless sin, either. The consequences for sin are serious. Deadly. I hope you read all of chapter 7 today. It’s not pretty.

It is futile to whine about God’s view of sin. You might think He’s unfair. In reality, He is absolutely fair. He hates your sin as much as He hates mine. And what is sin for you, is also sin for me. We don’t have to guess. He’s absolutely clear about that.

I can’t help but think of the movie, League Of Their Own. I’ve never watched the whole movie, but I’ve often seen the part where the frustrated coach of a girls’ baseball team tells a weepy player, “There’s no crying in baseball.” In life, as in baseball, there are rules. Three strikes and you’re out. Beat the ball to the base and you’re safe. Obey God and you are blessed. You can whine about the “unfairness.” But it doesn’t change the game.

Get over yourself, dear one. If you are holding on to a sin, and think God ought to bless you in spite of it, think again. If you want God’s blessing, repent, get rid of the sin, obey Him according to Scripture.

Quit crying. You just might find yourself with something to really cry about.

Joshua 3-5; 1,000 Yards Away

The Jews reached the Jordan River, but Canaan was on the other side. Plus, the river was at flood stage so that took wading across out of the mix. They could see the Promised Land. But there was a watery barrier between them and the blessing.

Then Joshua told them God’s plan: Have the Levites pick up the ark, and step into the Jordan. That in itself was an act of faith. And their obedience always speaks to me every time I read this Scripture. But something else jumped out at me today.

We know the Ark of The Covenant wasn’t just a fancy trunk containing valuable Jewish memorabilia. It was the place God sat on earth. It not only represented His Presence. It was His Presence. And no one could touch the ark and live.

The Levites took the ark into the river, the river stopped flowing, the Levites walked on dry ground and stood in the middle of the Jordan. The people were told to follow the ark, and they did.

Now here’s what I’ve been overlooking all these years: Joshua told the Israelites to stay 1,000 yards away from the ark. That’s ten football fields, over a half mile.

We’ve all seen the pictures in our Bibles, or on the walls of our Sunday School rooms. A wall of water looming over them on one side, dry ground on the other, priests standing there holding the ark, and Jews scurrying along to get to the other side. That’s not how it happened.

The ark stood there, all alone with only the Levites holding on to the poles. The wall of water was more than a half mile away, and the dry ground reached all the way to the sea.

The commentaries I read this morning pointed out some interesting thoughts about this. One, it tells us God stands alone. He doesn’t need our protection. Two, everyone could see it, and be assured by its presence. If they had crowded around it, only those closest to the ark would be able to see it. Standing back gave everyone the same opportunity to look and be encouraged. Three, no one would be in danger of accidentally bumping into it, which would have meant death to that person. And four, it demonstrates that a Holy God is untouchable.

So I sit here today and wonder what any of that has to do with us in 2017. The ark was meant to be followed. The Presence of the ark parted the waters when the Levites obeyed. But no one could get within a half mile of God. Is that the lesson today? Are we to take this to mean God is far off, working in our lives, but untouchable?

Yes.

God is so holy that no one ought to ever think about approaching Him closer than from 1,000 yards away. He is that holy.

But Jesus!

Makes me love Him all the more. When I take a look at God’s holiness as shown in Old Testament Scripture, I am humbled to know I have access to Him every moment of every day, up close and personal, because Jesus lets me wear His holiness! I deserve to be made to stand back from God. Way back from God.

But Jesus bids me, “Come.” Wow.

God has not changed. He is as holy as we see Him here in Joshua’s book.

But Jesus!

Holy God, I pray that we will never overlook the fact that You are Holy, Holy, Holy. I don’t think we really grasp that reality very well here in 2017. Thank You for sending Jesus to purchase holiness for me, so that I can come to You boldly, without fear of the death I deserve. It’s true that Jesus is the only access to the Father. I pray that everyone reading this blog post will receive Him and allow Him to be that bridge between us and You. You are holy. We are not. But because Jesus died on the cross, we don’t have stand 1,000 yards away from You. We can crawl up into Your lap, whisper in Your ear, and know You welcome us with open arms. I love You.

Joshua 2; BC (Before Canaan)

I am a little surprised Joshua sent a couple of spies into Jericho. Didn’t God just tell him he’d be victorious over all the nations of Canaan? Are we to assume Joshua had a bit of doubt, and sent those spies just in case he’d misinterpreted God’s promise? Is Joshua demonstrating a lack of faith?

My old buddy, Mathew Henry, says this is an example of an effective leader making it a point to look through other people’s eyes. I think Joshua sent those spies across the Jordan to help them see for themselves what they were fighting for. They hadn’t heard God’s voice like Joshua had heard it. Maybe Joshua wanted to give them the vision by giving them a sneak peak.

I see Jesus in Joshua. Jesus lived His life, faced temptation and rejection, got tired and sick and hungry, wept when He was sad, not because He needed to understand how it felt to be human. But so we humans could understand He gets us. It was for us He lived.

And I think it was partly for the Jews’ peace of mind that Joshua sent those spies. Oh, he received some intel from inside the city. But I believe those spies came away with much more than a city map.

Joshua and Jesus both understood the big picture. But they looked through our eyes and saw what we needed to understand, too.

Dear God, thank You for seeing my perspective of things. Thank you for reading my mind, hearing my thoughts, recognizing my hope, dreams, and my fears. Thank You for knowing exactly what I need. And thank You for Your patience those times I’m too focused on myself or the situation to see the big picture. Open my eyes so I can see through Yours.

Joshua 1; Leadership and Changes

I remember sitting in the third pew on the left side of the sanctuary one Sunday morning when my life changed. The church itself was a daughter church, only a couple of years old. Our pastor and his wife were young, vibrant, loving people. And I loved them. Even as a teenager, I learned so much from them both about loving God, studying the Word, about living for Him.

But that morning, our pastor walked to the pulpit, and announced his resignation. He was taking a position at the district level of our denomination.

I was stunned. I felt betrayed. Never in my wildest imagination did I see that coming. I guess I thought they’d be there forever. I went into a period of mourning. And I’m not proud to say I was pretty resistant toward the next man who filled that pulpit.

Most of us have experienced pastoral changes, or changes in leadership at work. Maybe you’ve been the leader who steps into someone else’s shoes. You stand before your new congregation, or look at the faces looking back at you at your first staff meeting, and what comes out of your mouth first might be the difference between acceptance, and rejection, between success, and failure.

Moses had died. Moses, who was loved and respected, known to represent God in a mighty way, would lead Israel no longer. He had been a trusted leader. For most of the Jews living at that time, he had been the only leader they’d ever known. And Deuteronomy tells us that when he died, the nation of Israel went into mourning for thirty days.

Then Joshua, in obedience to God, stepped up to the plate. And I think his example should be a blueprint for all of us facing change in leadership.

The first thing Joshua did was spend time with God. We read that God talked to Joshua in the same way He’d talked with Moses. The Lord gave Joshua clear instructions concerning the direction He wanted the Jews to go. Joshua got instruction as well as encouragement from spending time with God.

The next thing Joshua did was to go to the officers. These men had served under Moses and were loyal to him. Joshua needed their loyalty as well. He gave the officers a commission, and assured them the plan was still to go across the Jordan and take the land God had promised them, just as Moses had said.

Then Joshua went to the people, and told them the agreement they had with Moses was still in effect. The three and a half tribes would stay to the east of Jordan, but only after they fought with the rest of the Jews to defeat the inhabitants of Canaan. Nothing had changed, he promised them.

And the people pledged their loyalty to Joshua.

I believe all three parts of this transition of authority is important. Some congregations are uncomfortable without a pastor. They don’t take time to mourn the loss, to put a bit of distance between the separation, and moving on. They end up taking the first available candidate, and especially if the former pastor was loved, it’s a recipe for disaster. Not many pastors survive a quick transition.

Another mistake some newly hired pastors make is not reaching out to the established leaders. The elders, the Sunday School teachers, the Youth leaders, and the choir are important workers who can make or break a pastor’s ministry. Joshua went to the established leaders first.

I knew a young preacher, right out of seminary, who was a youth pastor with dreams of being the senior pastor of a church as soon as possible. He and I would talk about spiritual things fairly often and I learned a lot from this young man. But he shared with me what his first sermon would be as a senior pastor. It went something like this: Things are going to change around here. There’s no room for dead weight. So if you aren’t going to run with me, walk somewhere else.

I asked him to pray about that. I said the people he would be offending were the prayer warriors and regular givers. They were the older saints who were the glue that held the church together.

Sadly, he did give that sermon one day. The church he pastored went through a really hard time before they healed, and lost a lot of solid followers of Jesus because of it.

One of the worst things a new pastor can do, I believe, is begin their ministry by pointing out everything that is “wrong” in the church. Wouldn’t finding common ground be a better way of starting out?

Change is good. It’s necessary. And it’s hard for most of us. As a pastor, or a person in some other leadership position, I believe the best advice comes from God’s Word. And I think Joshua is a pretty good example of how to make change successfully.

If your church is facing a change, I hope that you will encourage the congregation to be patient, to wait on God, to pray, to read His Word. Take time to find the pastor that will fit best, and whose ideas for the future aligns with yours.

And if you are a pastor who is making those changes yourself, slow down. Relinquish some control, ease into your position of authority with love and kindness. So often you hear a pastor talk about “his” church. A pastor friend of mine always had the attitude that the church was the congregation’s. He was their servant, not the other way around. He deferred to the elder board on every issue I can recall.

We can learn from Joshua to first and foremost spend time with God before making any change. Seek the council of others. Look for ways to connect instead of alienating. Don’t just write off the established way of doing things, but grab hold of what is working. Change for the sake of change is as bad as holding on to tradition for the sake of tradition.

At least that’s what I think Scripture is telling us.

 

 

Deuteronomy 30-34; The Law and Grace

What is your definition of grace? When you think of God’s grace, what comes to mind? Jesus? The cross? Forgiveness? Eternal life? What about, the Law?

I’ve heard religion criticized for being a list of rules, of “don’ts.” And actually, Moses reminds us it is. The Law is a very big part of this thing we call Christianity. Even though we know the Law is powerless to forgive sin.

The Law reveals sin, though. And in doing so, it points us to our Savior.

I guess God could have left us to our own devices, not defined sin for us, then sat back and watched us unknowingly crash and burn. Like a cop who knows the speed limit sign is missing, then pulls over unsuspecting drivers and tickets them for driving too fast.  Sorry, boys, not knowing the speed limit doesn’t change the speed limit.

Not knowing what sin is doesn’t change what sin is.

But God is full of grace. In Romans 7:7, Paul tells us he would not have known what sin even was if it had not been for the Law. I wouldn’t know what light was except for the darkness, what health was if it weren’t for sickness, what joy was but for sorrow. I wouldn’t know what forgiveness was if I didn’t know I needed to be forgiven.

Deuteronomy 33:3 tells us God loved the people, He held them in His hand, they worshiped Him, and God gave them the Law as a possession, an inheritance. God gave them the Law as something precious, not because they deserved it, but because He graciously wanted them to know their boundaries so they wouldn’t cross over them. Then He could bless them, like He longed to do.

The Law is still in effect today. Those boundaries are still in place. Idol worship is still a sin. Adultery, lying, dishonoring parents are still sins. And because the wages of every sin is death, God wanted to spell it all out so we would not be caught unawares.

He wanted to give us life instead of death. A life, as sinners, we don’t deserve. That’s grace. And in a very real way, the Law plays a big role in God’s grace.

Grace greater than all our sin.

God, thank you for letting me see your Law as an act of grace. You want us to know what sin is so that we are quick to repent of it, to accept what Jesus did on our behalf, and to enjoy unbroken fellowship with you. That’s grace. Thank you for grace that is even greater than my sin.

Deuteronomy 26-29; First-fruits

Do you follow a daily routine? For those of you who work outside the home, I imagine that is true of you. Those of us who don’t have the demands of a job might be less inclined to follow a regular pattern every day.

But I noticed in reading chapter 20 today, God didn’t make provisions for different life-styles. All Jews – everyone – were commanded to take the “first-fruits” of their produce, and give it to the Lord. Matthew Henry tells us there are three things we can learn from this:

  1. to acknowledge God is the giver of every good thing. Sometimes we pride ourselves on our accomplishments, or possessions purchased with the fruit of hard work and dedication. “I did it my way…” is applauded in our society. But the reality is, everything we enjoy is a gift from God. Moses is reminding us it’s important to recognize that, and show God that we are grateful.
  2. to deny ourselves. The Jews had labored in the fields over that crop. They planted, weeded, watered, harvested each grape, each sheaf of wheat. But they gave up their “rights” to the food and gave it to God.
  3. to give God the first and best we have. The first of the crop is the choicest, best part of the harvest. That was the produce these Jews brought to the Lord, not the leftovers.

It should be the same in a spiritual sense, too. I like how Matthew Henry put it: “Those that consecrate the days of their youth, and the prime of their time, to the service and honor of God, bring Him their first-fruits.”

So what is the “prime” of your time? Are you at your best first thing in the morning? Or when the kids go down for a nap? Or at lunchtime at your work desk? Or before you go to bed at night?

I knew an elderly pastor who was a firm believer that if you didn’t have your quiet time with the Lord early in the morning, you weren’t giving Him your first-fruits, and therefore were disobedient to Him. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, because I know some people who are NOT morning people. Early in any day is definitely not their prime time.

But if morning is not your best time, when is? That is the time of day I believe God would have you honor him, deny yourself, and give Him the best you have. That’s the time of day you need to be in His Word, praying, communicating with your Savior.

And it’s the time of day you should be setting aside to do that. If we try to “find” time to spend with God, there will be days, perhaps weeks, when we don’t get around to it. That, my friend, is not pleasing to God.

Instead, we need to be making time to spend with God. We make time to do the things that are important to us, right? Plan ahead, set aside, get into a routine and follow it.

When I was working, and going to grad school in the evenings, I remember thinking I was too busy to have daily devotions. I was on a golf league, and a racquetball league, I played the organ at church, and sat on a couple of boards. I was a busy girl. I could barely get up in the morning, and worked late into the night. There was no time to open my Bible. I knew I should. I felt guilty about it. But I couldn’t imagine where I’d find another fifteen minutes of my day.

I made the mistake of saying that to my pastor who immediately said, “If you are too busy to spend time with God, you are too busy.” He talked to me about eliminating some of the demands on my life. But I loved to golf, I loved racquetball, and I couldn’t just quit school or my job just to read my Bible.

He looked at me and said one word, “Priorities.”

Ouch. I realized God wasn’t a priority in my life, and He deserved to be my first priority. “First-fruits” took on a whole new meaning.

I realized then and there that the minutes I spend with God each day are the most important minutes of any day. It’s part of obedience to the God who deserves my full attention. And God blesses obedience.

I pray that you will enjoy quiet time with God every day. Read His love letter to you, listen for His voice, pour out your heart to Him, and let Him bless you, strengthen you, hug you. You need it. And He loves that time with you. That’s why He created you in the first place.

Don’t miss it. Give Him the best you have. You’ll be blown away when He gives you the best He has!