Friday, August 29, 2008


Judges 3:31 After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.

I guess this is going to be a recurring theme in Judges. The Israelites bask in the peace and slip back into sin…God sends someone to ‘save them’…they have peace again until…..again they slip back into sin. I can relate.

I was struck at the obscure verse at the end of Judges 3. Shagmar, it would seem was a simple man….possibly a farmer or herdsman. He was a country-boy…probably not much education, not a ‘noble’ birth (because of his job), and probably not much in terms of possessions, because he apparently didn’t have a sword.

Shagmar slayed 600 Philistines…(remember Goliath?) with an oxgoad. An ox-goad is like a modern day cattle prod. Its used for herding, poking and guiding an ox, as he is pulling a plow or cart.

It says Shagmar saved Israel too. So, I am inspired today.

God uses unlikely men, with unlikely weapon….basically God uses what we have, to conquer obstacles that seem too big…..all for his glory.

Shagmar gets lost in annals of Biblical History. I have never heard of him, yet I find myself connected to him in a weird way. I’m not saving Israel, but I am willing to use what little I have, today……for God’s glory.

God, make me a SHAGMAR!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Trust and Obey

Judges 1:19 The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.

I was struck at the apparent duplicity of this verse. The Lord was with them….yet they were unable to conquer.

I was thinking about what the difference between this verse and countless other accounts of insurmountable odds…in previous books. Crossing the Red Sea, Crossing the Jordan, Countless Cities with thousands of fighting men….and the Lord crossed them on dry land and delivered them into the hands of the Israelites.

The commentaries talk about God withdrawing his help. The “not trusting” which results in fear and laziness leads to our own rationalization of well….”they had chariots…you know. Nothing we could do about it.”

At what point does one go from trusting….to not trusting, especially in light of the fact that God had never failed them. I believe we start to see that unfold in the first few verses.
Judges 1:1-3 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, "Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?"
The LORD answered, "Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands."
Then the men of Judah said to the Simeonites their brothers, "Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours." So the Simeonites went with them.

God didn’t tell Judah to ask the Simeonites to go fight with them. As a matter of fact, God said that Judah is to go…..and that He (God) had already delivered the land into their hands. Judah placed its trust in bringing more fire-power than the word of the Lord.

Proverbs says…Trust in the Lord with all our heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.

And like the old Hymn says:
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Remember Who Saved You!

Occasionally I ask Benton to share with me his story. I want to know about the time that he trusted Christ for Salvation. He we tell me when he was 6 years old, about the time on the way home from Snoopy’s (Seafood Restaurant) with the Hatmakers, that he quietly told his mom, “I feel dirty.” Jenny told him…when we get home, you can take a bath. And he said, “No, in my heart, and I need Jesus to clean it”. Jenny relayed the conversation to me…and in the Hatmakers bedroom, with Jenny and me, kneeling by the bed, my son asked Jesus to be his Lord and Savior.
I ask him this for two reasons. One is that I believe your testimony is a powerful thing in your Christian walk….and two Lordship is a process and we must, continually be brought back to where our journey began, remember how it was to be saved, to continue to put our trust in the one who saved us.
Joshua is taking the Israelites back, reminding the people of their journey, reminding them of what it was like to be saved. What it was like to like to walk with the Lord and remember what it was like when they didn’t. I know Joshua realized, he wasn’t going to be around much longer. He made a covenant with the all the people of Israel, and challenged the people with, Joshua 24: 15 “choose this day who you will serve” and continued with maybe the second most quoted verse in scripture, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Who will we serve? Who do we serve?
Do we have any hidden gods? Any foreign gods?
I have a testimony…but mine in different than my son's. I want him to see, that he is unique, that he wasn’t persuaded, it didn’t happen in church, or at camp, or with a pastor (at the time). His conversation, literally came out of the blue. God can start the process, and even a child, can recognize sin and the need for a savior. Other friends of mine, trusted Christ in their bedroom with no one around, others at camp with hundreds of kids, others at 'revivals' and others with a is still good to remember.

Monday, August 25, 2008

not just any god

Joshua 23:7b do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them.

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols.
The LORD is a jealous and avenging God
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'
He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' "

I was just reminded of what we read in Exodus and other scriptures of Deuteronomy and the Gospels. Joshua is making the point that the same God who cleared the path and was victorious over the enemies of Israel….. did so, when Israel was faithful to only God. He was reminding them to NEVER allow ‘other gods’ to weasel their way into the tribe. I though about the picture of the unleavened bread….where even a little yeast infects the entire batch. He warned the Israelites that God’s anger could be directed at them and that “the LORD's anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you."

I had the opportunity to have a Jehovah’s Witness, a guy named Jim, come in and talk to me Saturday. Nice guy, but he would have me believe that Jesus and God weren’t the same….that I was a “Trinitarian” for believing that they were…and he set out to disprove this fact to me. But I directed him to scripture where God exalted Jesus, where Jesus claimed to be God. His argument was that Greek articles aren’t ‘direct’ and therefore what we read in John 1:1 should read “and the word was with God and the word was
a god”. Apparently although the JWs claim to be monotheistic….God is somehow okay with a god…sharing top billing. Not consistent, even for JWs or us, nor was it consistent for the Israelites. God will not share his glory.

Just so you know…Jim has promised to return, so be praying for him and me.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Communication, Communication, Communication

Joshua 22: 10 When they came to Geliloth near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar there by the Jordan.
11 And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, 12 the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them.
20 When Achan son of Zerah acted unfaithfully regarding the devoted things, did not wrath come upon the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.' "

One of the great testimonies of the Old Testament is the seriousness that the Israelites deemed sin. They knew that God dealt harshly with sin. It was still fresh in their minds how God dealt with Achan, and not only Achan….but 36 men died in battle as a result of his sin.
The 9 ½ remaining tribes of the Israelites had just commissioned the Ruebenites, the Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh to head back east.
The 9 ½ tribes assumed that group they had dispatched was building a sacrificial alter in defiance to the one at Shiloh. Therefore, they set out to make war against them, to bring them back in line, or to eradicate the problem…the wayward brothers themselves. This slight misunderstanding could have led to a major civil war between tribes…. between brothers.
I think about churches today and the problems they have, and more times than not….it boils down to communication. Now I’m not sure if the 2 ½ had planned to build this altar before they left, but if they had…a good idea would have been to explain their intentions, before they left. But then also, the 9 ½ were sure quick to jump the gun on condemning, without knowing the ‘real story’.
The 2 ½ were very gracious to the 9 ½ , without becoming indignant, like would be human nature. How dare you question our motives…If you have ever been wrongly accused…this is our first inclination.
I just think that Satan does this type of scenario all the time in churches today. I pray today that we use this as an example to not just too quickly to conclusions, but also to be prepared to listen and explain without becoming defensive.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Your love will never fail, your love will never fail.

Joshua 21:44 The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. 45 Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

After coming into God’s Promised Land, it was divided up, the Priests were given their land, and everyone was at rest. After 400 years in captivity, 40 years in the desert, several months (probably) of battles…it was over. They had arrived.

I think about my own journey, my walk in the desert, my battles…and look forward to the day that the Lord gives me ‘rest on every side’. I know that He has prepared a place for me….a promised land, because not one of the Lord’s good promises will ever fail.

This morning, I’m reminded of the worship song we sing:

The precious blood of Jesus Christ redeems,
Forgiven I´m alive, restored. Set free.
Your Majesty resides inside of me,
Forever I believe, forever I believe.
Arrested by your truth and righteousness,
Your grace has overwhelmed my brokenness.
Convicted by your spirit, led by your word,
Your love will never fail, your love will never fail.
I know you gave the world
Your only son for us
To know Your name
To live within the Saviour’s love
And He took my place
Knowing He´d be crucified
And You loved, You loved
A people undeserving!

-Hillsong, To know Your name

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Avenger of Blood?

Joshua 20:1-3 Then the LORD said to Joshua: "Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood.

At first glance, cities if refuge seemed a bit unfair. Had I lost a wife or child, I would want immediate justice. It seems that the person guilty of the death, would escape judgment.
But justice and judgment are two separate things. Basically the offending party imposes justice on himself in the form of ‘house arrest’ until the death of the high priest of the city of refuge. At which point he is returned to the city of the victim to stand trial. So basically, it is delayed judgment.
So many times we see wrongs go unpunished….because there is no fair form of imposing justice. But there will be judgment.
Cities of Refuge were positioned within a half days journey from anywhere. They were always accessible. The roads to them were in excellent condition and they were well marked. Once inside the ‘avenger of blood’ could not harm the accused.

I know I am glad Jesus has become our ‘City of Refuge’. Question is, who is the avenger of blood? My stab at it….is God. God is the one that requires shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sin. What say you?
Psalm 142 4 Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.
5 I cry to you, O LORD; I say, "You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living."
6 Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; 
 rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Yehoshu'a points to Yeshu'a

I was always a map guy. You may have seen this in the commentary too. This just helps me put in perspective who got what, and where it actually is.

Piggy-backing on what Alex said, I noticed that Joshua allowed the Isrealites to give him his inheritance. The very man responsible for doling out the land….allowed himself to become the least. Remind you of Jesus? Joshua or (Yehoshu'a) means "YAHWEH is salvation" pointed to (Yeshu'a) or Jesus.
Also, the Israelites occupied cities and homes they hadn’t built. They existed before. Joshua on the other hand had to build his home. Also, reminds me of Jesus…. "Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest."
Timnath Serah was thought to be barren, not the choicest land. And you must know, that Joshua not only asked for this land for himself…but for his entire clan. He wasn’t looking for the best neighborhood, the best schools or amenity center.
And we find out in a few chapters…this is where Joshua was buried.

Monday, August 18, 2008

More than enough

Joshua 18:7 The Levites, however, do not get a portion among you, because the priestly service of the LORD is their inheritance.
This verse jumped out to me as well. And like Brandon, I thought this was clearly unfair. But think about it…With land comes responsibilities, comes possible distractions, biases…and Levitical priests needs were met from the animal sacrifices, the tithes and the plunder from different wars.
I was reminded of the Psalmist writing…. Psalm 73: 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. 28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
We say we are dependent on God….but are we truly willing to be. Why do we think that God wasn’t enough? Why was my original thought about the portion of only God….not fair?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Casa Hogar de Nueva Esperanza

What a great mission trip!

I had the opportunity to lead a small group of 12 people from our church down to a small town in Mexico to work at an orphanage. Mier is just across the Rio Grande from Roma, Texas and has a population of 6000. The orphanage sits on the south side of town maybe a mile from the river.
Two beautiful servants of the Lord, Isai and Maria, pastor and director respectively.....take care of approximately 30 kids at any given time.
This week, they had 31.
We had so many great stories and great people who sacrificially gave to the cause...and I find it really amazing how God's work....can be joined by people who don't know ANC or the Casa Hogar. A man named Richard, a brother in Christ, who's wife volunteers for ANC, I met maybe a month or so ago (and he doens't go to our church)...stepped up and bought all the doors and hardware that we needed. Curtis, a commercial paint contractor in Austin, goes to our church, he ageed to give all the paint and supplies...then unexpectedly...his supplier (Pittsburgh Paints) gave him the paint. My good friend Cody (an industrial roofer from Corpus Christi) along with his sister Lindsay (who is at the sister company in Austin), who does attend our church...gave all the roofing supplies. My good friend Brandon's boss John, who attends another fellowship here in town, bought an A/C unit for the office at the orphanage. The pastor took 'special interest' in making sure that was installed ASAP
We carried 12 people with us..and Brandon Hatmaker showed up Thursday, with the kids, to help. But despite our relatively small numbers...we were able to accomplish a lot. Roger, who took all the pics, got to get their computer lab in shape and doubled the number of working computers. Even though we seemed to focus on the work...Molly got to really know most of the kids as they did Crafts...and Mitch hung out with and did stuff with the guys.
I am so proud of the entire ANC body, who stepped up big and supported the entire orphanage's uniform needs, as well as providing loads of great gifts for the kids. Special thanks to Lara who made all that happen.
I told our crew, my prayer had been, that although we were going to do work, and bring gifts and provide for needs.....that the orphans see Christ in us. That they feel love from us for the few days we were there. From the fajitas, to the crafts, to the USA/Mexico Soccer Matches, and from play time to the ice cream & watermelon....I feel we were the "Hands and Feet of Christ".

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

No Doubt

Numbers 13:30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."
Numbers 14 24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will
inherit it.
30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.
Numbers 26:65 For the LORD had told those Israelites they would surely die in the desert, and not one of them was left except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.
Numbers 32:12 not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the LORD wholeheartedly.'
Deuteronomy 1:36 except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the LORD wholeheartedly."

Joshua 14 12 Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said."
13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance.
Psalm 121
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD, 
 the Maker of heaven and earth.

Joshua knew where his help would come from…and the Lord rewarded him for his obedience and humbleness. Joshua was the ONLY one to see and take possession of the promised land. God was faithful to deliver….

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Who Am I? (think i've used this title before)

Joshua 11:20 For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Then the land had rest from war.
I have struggled in the past with passages like this, and the ones where God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. As I am reading through Joshua, it just doesn’t make any sense that these kings continued to attack the Israelites. Joshua and his armies we annihilating armies, kings and entire cities and villages. It only makes sense if God is at the helm doing what it takes to uphold a promise, deliver on a prophecy, and ultimately bringing glory to himself.
Romans 9:20-22But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?
2 Timothy 2:20-21 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Educated Beyond Our Capacity

Joshua 10:12 Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel:"O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon."
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!
the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.
42 All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.

Our very God, who created the heavens and the earth…isn’t powerless in the world He created. I think we have a myopic view of God. This God isn’t only the creator of heaven and earth…he holds it in his hand, controls it, has dominion over it.
Stopping the sun, stopping the moon, sending hailstones to destroy the enemy of Isreal, surely God was fighting for Israel.
I wonder if today…..there was a revival or a battle and the Lord caused the sun or moon to stand still (to glorify himself) what we would do? I would bet scientist would work like crazy to disprove the fact that it actually happened, there would have to be a ‘logical’ explanation.
I wonder if the reason we don’t see miracles anymore in the US is that faith is dying, faith in everything. We (as a people) don’t have faith in each other, in our government, education, God… general we have become so skeptical that something as simple as faith is cute and passe’. Logic has replaced faith. We have become a people educated beyond our intelligence….or maybe beyond our capacity to know what to do with it.
It’’s hard for an educated person to admit, much less put faith in something they can’t wrap their minds around.
What is it going to take to restore faith? How can we ask people to have faith in our God if they can’t have faith in us? How can people have faith in us, if we remain skeptical of everything around us?
I pray God reveals himself to this generation in a new, maybe even an old way, so that faith is restored.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Better is One Day

Joshua 9 14 The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.

Joshua and his men were clearly deceived, because they trusted the word….and believed the ruse, of neighbors (Gibeonites) who would have surely suffered at the sword of the Israelites.
This story can teach many things…but where I landed, on this story, was the Gibeonites recognizing the God of the Israelites as superior to their gods…and believing like it says in Psalm 84:10, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

Lord…better is one day in your house than 1000 elsewhere.
Psalm 84:11-12For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Twin Peaks

When reading Joshua 8 this morning….I read about taking Ai…how God delivered the city Joshua once hidden sin was rooted out. How God was faithful once again and how he had forgiven the Isrealites. But the thing I looked at all day…and came back to, was the mountain. Mount Ebal.
After crossing the river…Joshua built an altar as God had commanded Moses on Mount Ebal. The two mountains overlook the Shomron Valley…amazingly, though right next to each other…the mountains are more a contrast than twins.
Ebal is the taller of the two…rocky terrain and desolate. Gerizim has less height and is densely covered in lush green trees and vegetation. Ebal was know as the mountain of curses, while Gerizim was the mountain of Blessing. According to Deuteronomy, when passing between the mountains, the Isrealites would receive either a blessing or a curse depending on whether they had followed the commandments. The curses of God’s wrath over violations of his commands were delivered here, therefore in God’s economy…it makes sense to build and altar on the Mount of Ebal, so that those cursed could atone for their sins through a sacrifice.
I guess we should never be amazed at God consistency…because it just makes sense. And God made sure this altar was built as soon as they crossed the Jordan. Like any loving parent, God never wants to be angry with his child. But the sin that separates us from the Holy Heavenly Father, must be atoned for.
God thank you for your Son, for your loving us enough to having him come down from heaven, walk this earth for 33 years….sinless…not deserving the death he endured, yet he went….and died for us. God, may we be totally crushed and heartbroken when we forget or take for granted this amazing love.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Favor and Protection

Joshua 7:12-13 I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction……That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.

These are weighty verses. As I read through the chapter…. I saw the severity of consequences facing the Israelites…when God removed his hand of protection and favor, I was struck with how seriously we need to consider sin.
Toward the end of the chapter, when Achan came forward…confessed his sin, and repented by telling about the plunder and where it could be found, I found myself hurting for him, wanting him to be forgiven, and everyone just go back to normal. But in God’s economy…The wages of sin is death…always has been…always will be..and on this side of the cross, we have mercy and compassion. But God still, to this day, deals with sin in the same manner… just is heaped on Jesus at the Cross of Calvary.
The God who spoke and it was…..who isn’t limited by time or space….takes every sin we commit, that we are forgiven for…and puts them all on Jesus.
It is one thing to be forgiven….it is still another to be under the ‘favor of God’. God promises us, never to leave us or forsake us (forgiveness)…but he does say if we go on sinning….he will remove our lampstand from its place (favor and protection).