Joshua 1:1-11 Be strong

Originally written 11/18/2015

“I am so inadequate.”  I feel like I say this to myself all of the time.  Four years ago, I took over the Children’s ministry at Stones River.  Yes, I had a degree in youth ministry from Lipscomb, but that was over a decade ago.  Yes, I have two kids of my own, but many times I feel like I can barely get them out the door dressed!  I am shy.  I would much prefer to be hiding in my office or the back of the room than making announcements, teaching class, or go be among strangers.   I have no idea what I am doing, but I am trusting God to do it for me.

This is kind of a theme in the stories we have read lately.  The spies that went into Canaan realized that the job was too big.  There were giants, there were armies.  The Israelite people that were ready to give up after a couple days with Moses up on the mountain.   They weren’t trusting God.  They weren’t believing that God had their back and could take care of everything even without their help.

So, now in this chapter of the Bible, we find that Moses dies, and the natural choice for the leader is Joshua.  Joshua was one of the spies that believed in God, that they could overtake Canaan.  He was the one person that went up on Mt. Sanai with Moses to get the 10 commandments.  He was one who had tea on the mountain with God.  He had the faith.

And yet, in this passage, God tells Joshua 3 times to be “strong and courageous.”  Strong and Courageous.  God doesn’t tell him it will be easy, in fact, God tells Joshua he will need to follow all the commandments and law.

I wonder if Joshua many times asked himself, am I adequate?  Am I able to do this?  God answered him three times, “Be Strong, Joshua.”

This past week, we needed to bring 10 people to help do childcare for another church.  I was the one in charge of getting the people together.  I could only find 8.  But in the last day I had to find them, it was not me- but God -putting it on the people’s heart to volunteer.   I wasn’t the one in charge- it was God.  God worked it out so that there were the right people there for the children that night.  The evening went well, and I think we were all blessed by helping there.

No, I’m not adequate- God is.  All he asks is that I be strong and courageous.

 

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Numbers 22-23 Balaam’s Donkey

Originally written 11/4/2012

This week we are talking about Balaam’s donkey, from Numbers 22 and 23.  There are so many points we can learn from this weird story.  Balaam was a bad wizard, sorcerer or “prophet,” but he still was an Israelite.  A Canaanite king heard about his powers, and wanted to use his services to curse the Israelites.  The King offered lots of money and power.  Balaam might have also had his own reasons to want to get back at the Israelites.  Anyway, he wanted to go and help the king out.  God interviened, and asked him not to go.  Balaam argued with God, and said he would go but tell the king what God wanted him to say.  God knew his heart, and knew he would listen only to the bad king.  God did something drastic to stop Balaam.  On the road to the king, God sent an Angel with a sword to block his path.  Only Balaam didn’t see the warning.  His donkey did, though, and avoided the Angel, first by running off the road, then by squeezing close to the mountain, so close that Balaam’s foot was crushed. Balaam was livid, and beat the donkey.  He wasn’t paying attention to God’s warnings, only to his own desires. Finally, they were at a place in the road where there was nowhere to turn.  Balaam’s donkey lay down in front of the Angel.  But Balaam only got madder.  Here’s where it gets weird… the donkey talked. God opened the mouth– meaning God spoke through the donkey.  We know it was God speaking through the donkey because right after the donkey and Balaam have their conversation, the Angel asks the same questions.  Also, in 2 Peter 2:16  Peter uses Balaam as an example, and calls the donkey “a beast without speech” who “spoke with a man’s voice.”  God used the donkey to serve His purposes.  God did something drastic- talking through an animal- to get Balaam’s attention.   Even though this is the only time in history we see an animal talking and reasoning with a man, it really isn’t as weird as it first sounds.  God spoke through a bush.  God spoke through the wind.  God made a way through the Red Sea.  God can do anything He wants! After Balaam talked with the Angel, and with God, he finally obeyed Him.  He went ahead to the bad King, and only spoke blessings on the Israelites.  Here’s the points we learn:  1. Romans 12:14- “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse”. 2. We need to listen and obey whatever God is commanding us to do.  God wants what is best for us, and we will only hurt ourselves (or our donkeys) to go against his commands.  3. God can use anyone or anything to serve His purposes.  So many times we focus on how God used Peter, a lowly fisherman, or how God used a child’s lunch, we can even consider he uses forces of nature or even animals to get our attention.  Luke 19:39 “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”  40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  If we don’t speak or do what God wants, He will get it done, even if He has to speak through a donkey!   When is a time that God has directly intervened in your life?  Where you have seen God moving you or changing you directly to put you in a position for His purpose?  Think about these things, and be ready to share with the kids this Sunday.  They need to know that God still can speak with us and use us today.     Thank you so much for what you all are doing to change our kids’ lives!  You are being used by God every Sunday for these kids.  Bonnie

 

 

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Moses sends Spies to Canaan Numbers 13:1–14:23

Originally written 11/1/2015

Whenever I sit down to this lesson, the song starts going through my head.  “Twelve men went to spy on Canaan, 10 were bad and 2 were good.  What do you think they saw in Canaan, 10 were bad and 2 were good.”   

This song is catchy, and helps a child remember the story to adulthood.   But it is very simple, saying that the ten were bad.  According to the passage, they weren’t exactly bad.

Moses tells one leader from each tribe to spy out the land that God has promised- has been promising since even before they left Egypt-would be theirs.   He specifically asks for a sample of fruit, and asks their opinions on what the land and people living are like.  So the 12 leaders go off and do exactly what he asks.   Bad? No.  They do what they are supposed to.

When they get back, they bring the samples of fruit.  They all agree the land is fruitful.  It is beautiful.  It is exactly what they were promised.  Are they being bad in telling this? No.

But there is a disagreement when it comes to the people in the land.  Joshua and Caleb remember that God gave them the land.  They trust that if God says they can have the land, they won’t have a problem.  The other ten forget this part.

They are blinded by the giants, the walls, the armies of people already trained and living there.  They forget to trust the God they had seen on the mountain.  The God that provided quail and manna and water from rocks.  The God that stopped the water in the Red sea and let them pass on dry land.   And here, is where they go wrong. It is the same story all over again.  They are relying on what they can do, and not even considering God.  They forget God.  They trust in themselves.  They want to give it all up, not even attempt to go into the land they can actually see, because they don’t trust God.

God gets mad at this, blesses Caleb and Joshua, and with Moses’ pleading, forgives the others.   The people are punished though, and have to wait longer to go into the land.

A couple of weeks ago, Ben and I were headed to boy scouts.   If you know Ben, you know he hates to wear shoes.  He also misplaces them often, and sometimes, it is just easier to go without.  I knew he had to have the shoes since we were going into a building.   He had misplaced his easier shoes, so I grabbed the lace up shoes as we ran out the door.  I told him he needed to just put the shoes on, and I would tie them when we got there.

But he knew they were difficult to put on.  He knew he didn’t know how to tie them.  He didn’t even try, and threw the shoes to the other side of the car.

He didn’t even try.  Even when I had already told him I will tie the shoes for you, all you have to do is get them on.   The 10 leaders of Israel didn’t even try, even when God had told them many many times “I will do the hard stuff for you.”

Just like when Ben (finally) put on the shoes, and I tied them, God asked the men to go into Canaan, and He won the land for them.   God does what he says he is going to do, always.

Has God asked you to put your shoes on so He can tie them later?  Has God asked you to check out what He has already given you?   Has God given you a dream or a passion for something, and is waiting on you to trust Him to make it happen?

Let’s be like Joshua or Caleb and say He can do anything He promises.  Let’s get those shoes on and start walking into Canaan.

 

 

 

 

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The Golden Calf Exodus 32

 Originally written 10/16/2015

I’ve been pondering this week’s lesson all week.   Wondering what all it can bring to us today.

In order to understand more fully what all went down at the mountain,  you really have to start back in Exodus 19, where God calls Moses to come up on the mountain in the first place.  God clearly tells Moses that only he can see God.  He asks Moses to warn the people that they must not come on the mountain, and the people all agree.

Then, God speaks to the people, which is very scary.  Immediately after the 10 commandments, the people all ask Moses to tell them what God is saying so that they do not have to listen.  They are terrified (Ex 20:18-21) But this is just what God wants them to be, to have the fear of the Lord in them, so that they will remember and keep the laws he is giving them.  Remember, the first commandment is “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Then, after Moses deals with the people, and tells them why they need to listen to God directly, God commands Moses to make it clearer to the people, do not make any idols. Verse 22- Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.”

So God has told the people twice not to make idols.  He spends the next few chapters reiterating and making the commandments clearer to Moses.  He then sends Moses back to the people, and has him talk to the people, explaining everything God had said.  The people do have the fear of God in them at this point, and they agree to the commandments.  They recognize God as who he is, and want to do what is right.   Moses goes ahead and writes everything down so they remember.

Then God calls Aaron and the other leaders up the mountain.  This is interesting to me.  I know that very few people in the Bible are allowed to even look at God.  And these people did.   They ate and drank in the presence of God.   Then God calls Moses and Joshua (this also was new to me! 24:13) to the top of the mountain.  Moses tells the leaders to go and wait with the people, to help them while he is gone.    He tells the leaders he will be with God and will be gone for a bit.

So the leaders go down to be with the Israelites, and Moses and Joshua go up.  I think one interesting is: “To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. 18 Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.”  In this verse, I wonder, were the Israelites afraid that God had killed Moses?

Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights up on the mountain talking with God.  During this time, God is giving Moses more clarity into how He wants his people to live.

But 40 days is a long time to the people.  Especially when they believe they saw Moses be killed.  They were terrified of God already, and then saw fire consume the area where they last saw their leader.

Did they think that he was gone?  Did they think they were alone and needed something to protect them?  Everything they knew before (Egyptian gods) had maybe worked.  They started forgetting the instructions God had clearly said.  They didn’t understand that God is on a different time schedule then we are.

So they ask Aaron to make an idol.  He agrees.  I don’t know if he really wanted to do this also, or if maybe he rationalized it in his mind.  I don’t really understand it.

But I do know this.  Many other times in the Bible there are examples of when God gives his people a promise, but the promise is long in coming about.  Look at Abraham and Sarah… They were promised a son, but it took many many years for Isaac to come.  God isn’t on our time schedule.   We have 2 Peter 3:8-9- “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

The people jumped ahead and thought Moses was not coming back.  They wanted to save themselves.  They tried to solve the problem with the things they knew.  So they did the one thing that God clearly, many times, had told them not to do.  Made an idol.

Of course God knows all this, he knew they would do it even before.  Probably the reason why he told them so many times.  God threatens to kill them all.  He tells Moses that he will destroy all the other people, and still carry out his promise through Moses.  But Moses begs God to not do that.  And God listens to Moses.  (This reminds me of when Abraham begged God not to destroy Lot’s people).  God listened to Moses and agreed.  The mercy of God comes clear here.

Moses and Joshua come down the mountain and are furious.  They call Aaron and the people into question about what they did.  Moses brings about his own punishment on the people (has the Levites kill three thousand) and God brings a plague that kills more.

And even then, God will not allow Moses to look at him anymore.  Moses begs God to be with him, but God will only allow his “Presence” to be with him.  (His Holy Spirit).   He will only allow Moses to look at his back.  What changed?  Why was it that God allowed the people to look at him, and eat in his presence, but now even Moses must only look on his back?    They had sinned.

They did not trust God, Didn’t trust in his timing, didn’t trust in his Presence.

Whew.  With all this and even more interesting details, we can pull out a lot of good stuff for us to know today.   I really think trusting in God’s timing is clear.  Even when it looks like God isn’t going to keep his promises.  Even when it looks like Moses isn’t coming back at all.  Even when God seems far away.  When we are no longer able to look on his face.  He is going to keep his promises.  God promised to bring the people to the land and he did.  He promised to bring them back to him, and he did.  It took many many years of wandering and hurting, and questioning.

Has God given you a promise?  Has he asked you to wait on him?  It is hard, but let’s learn what not to do in this situation!

We also clearly learn that God is a jealous God, and won’t tolerate anything taking his place in our lives.  Is there anything that is causing us to not trust in him?  Is there something that is taking our worship or thoughts?

It’s a hard lesson.   Pretty straightforward, but not quite easy to listen to.  We like to hear that God is love.  God is merciful, and we learn that in this lesson, too.  But sometimes need to be reminded that we need to have a healthy fear of the Lord, and follow his commands.  Like keeping him first in our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

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Exodus 19:16–20:21- The Ten Commandments

 

A lot has been said about the Ten Commandments, so I will just put the words of Jesus here:  Matthew 22:34-40 ” Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

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Exodus 17:1-7- Moses’ no good very bad day

 Originally written 9/23/2012

Good Morning all! Who all had a bad day on Monday?  One of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days?  I did.  One baby threw up on me all day, the other screamed for hours at a time.  Then, the preschoolers were fighting the entire day, and pretty much I spent all day sending one or both of them into time out. And when Brandon called and said he locked his keys in the car at work, I wasn’t surprised at all.  Everyone I talked to on Monday seemed to be having the same kind of day I was!  It was just a bad day all around.   This week it just so happens we’re talking about one of those terrible, horrible, no good very bad days.  (It’s amazing how God works!)  The Israelites had moved on in the desert.  They were still getting their quail and manna, so they can’t blame their bad mood on being hungry this time.  They just were camping in the desert where there wasn’t any water near by.  Not exactly the best place to be. The people grumbled again.  You would think, after seeing the amazing plagues, then actually physically walking through the Red Sea, and then being provided with food, they wouldn’t be worried.  But they were.  They had that grumbling, complaining, totally – human nature.  They said to Moses, “Oh, just take us back.  We’re going to die out here!” They weren’t celebrating what God had done only a few days ago.  But this time, even Moses said, “God, they’re going to kill me!”  What a bunch of complainers!  But, God didn’t get mad.  He told Moses to go hit a rock in front of the people.  When he did, water sprang out of the rock, and the people had fresh water there in the desert.  The people asked, “God, are you really still with us?” and God answered.   On those terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days, have you thought, “God are you still with me?”  I have.  And I’m reminded of the verse from Hebrews 12-  ” And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Of all the bad days, I think we can agree Jesus had the worst.  He endured it.  He even scorned it.  Like, He laughed in shame’s face.  Jesus had a bad day too. But he endured it.  And we’re supposed to fix our eyes on Jesus.  Not fixing our eyes on the bad things going on around us.  Not fixing on the baby screaming for hours at a time.  Not fixing on the keys locked in the car.  Not fixing on the fact we have no water in the middle of the desert.  Fixing our eyes on Jesus and the JOY set before us. God will answer us; he loves his people.  He wants to provide for us.  He wants us to have good things, and good days.  But even on those bad days, God wants us to fix our eyes on Him.  To rejoice knowing He will take care of us.  He will provide water from a rock.  He will provide a better day tomorrow.    Let’s focus on that water in the rock!  Let’s hit that rock and come out rejoicing! -Bonnie

 

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Exodus 16:1-26

Originally written 9/16/2012

I want to look back to last week’s lesson for just a minute.  Question: When the Israelites were taking the first step on the dry land where the water was just a minute ago, do you think they were afraid?  Do you think they hesitated before they stepped?  Did they believe they would get to the other side unharmed?  How many reached out and touched the side of the water? Trusting in God is a hard thing to do, when we are honest with ourselves.  We learn from experiences that God is there and will take care of us. But faith without sight is still hard. That’s why Jesus said to Thomas, “…blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) Even though the Israelites had just been brought through that HUGE event of escaping the Egyptians, and walking through the dry middle of the sea,  they were in another predicament.  They had no more food. They were hungry!  I know for me when I get hungry, I get grumpy.  Don’t mess with momma when she’s hungry! And there were hundreds of people who were hungry.  (and tired, and stressed, and not to mention without a home) They forgot quickly how God provided a way out from the Egyptians, forgot the faith they had gained by seeing,  and went to complaining. God knew what they needed.  He is known as “Jehovah Jireh”- God, Eternal, Provider. He gave the people what they needed. He commanded them to take what they needed for each day and no more.  He provided the food at the right time each day, and it was exactly how much they needed.  God does this for us all the time.  I can personally think of several ways God has provided for a need in just the right time in just the right way.  I call it the “bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, home run” way God provides.  In a way that is just plain amazing.  Yes, hitting a home run is awesome, but when it is down to the wire, and the whole game rides on if one batter is going to get his home run or not, how much more exciting, and how much more do people in the stands celebrate it? I think that is why God does it the way he does it-  so people know it was Him, and celebrate Him. Think of how God has provided for you in your life, and how you can share that with the kids this Sunday.  I’m sure they would love to hear your personal stories.  And by doing that, you can share something else with them too-  you care about them and God cares about them too. Thanks for doing what you’re doing! -Bonnie

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