Psalm 78

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I love to talk (and write) about trusting the Lord, worshipping him, honoring him. Today, though, my Bible reading covered the other side of the coin, the dark side, so to speak. The verses below, beginning with Psalm 78:40, point out what happens when we ignore the Lord our God:

“How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the wasteland! Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel.”

I could try to pass these verses off as ancient history, a simple description of the Israelites as they wandered the wilderness, with no implications for my own life. I don’t believe that’s the only reason they are recorded in the book of Joshua, though. I can rebel. I can grieve him. I can vex the Holy One of Israel. How? I suppose there’s more than one way, but look at the very next verse. It’s the one that struck me this morning as an important reminder of what it means to serve the Lord.

“They did not remember his power—the day he redeemed them from the oppressor, the day he displayed his signs in Egypt, his wonders in the region of Zoan…”

The Israelites lost sight of the power of God. Despite all he had done, all the ways he had revealed himself, they abandoned their faith in him. They fell into fear and a frenzy of complaints whenever the going got rough.

God makes it clear throughout the Bible that he does not ever want to be forgotten or ignored. He is to be the center of our lives and of our thoughts every single day. Do we benefit from that kind of faith and trust? Of course, but that’s not the reason we are to keep him as our focus. We are to remember his power because that is what he demands, what he commands us to do. And when we don’t, we have rebelled. We grieve and vex him. We walk in disobedience.

These are hard words, but only if we choose to ignore them. The brighter side of this coin is that the One who created us, who created all things, wants us to be in close, continuous relationship with him. Joshua had that, and so can we.

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Halfway There

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‘Covering three more House Rules today:

OFT

OFT stands for Obey the First Time. Obedience is big in the Bible. In Hosea, God said he wanted obedience more than sacrifices. Joshua 1:9 says, “This word of the Lord shall not depart from your mouth, but you will meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do all that it says. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Obedience is something God wants from us. We need to obey him as soon as we know what he wants us to do. As for our kids, when we require them to obey us the first time we give them instructions, isn’t life better for all concerned? Furthermore, I think the more we help our kids learn to obey us first off, the more easily they learn to obey God without question.

Do to Others as You Want Them to Do to You

We’ve all been taught the Golden Rule, but do we think of it as a scriptural mandate? It comes straight from Luke 6:31. We know the drill; we just need to put it into practice.

  • Be kind.
  • Don’t yell at our kids, or anyone else, for that matter (since, obviously, we don’t want them to yell at us).
  • Smile at grumpy people.
  • Lend a helping hand.
  • Show some grace when people goof.
  • And so on…

Don’t Say Things to Others That Make Them Feel Bad.

James 3 says, “Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” ‘Hard to add much to that. We need to control what we say, because we can never be sure who is listening, or what effect our words might have.

That’s enough to work on this week, don’t you think?

Dress for Success

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Dress for Success

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8 NIV).

Is it selfish or sinful to want to be successful? Evidently God didn’t think so when he commissioned Joshua to take Moses’ place as the leader of the Israelites! He gave Joshua promises of prosperity and success and a blueprint to follow in order to achieve them. The Bible holds that blueprint. It also holds a very specific description of success.

Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua was to take the place of Moses, a tough act to follow! He would lead the Israelites through bloody military campaigns, deal with insurrection in the troops, and tackle the monumental task of assigning parcels of the Promised Land to the various tribes of Israel. These tasks were far too difficult to be tackled alone, but Joshua had God’s assurance, “I will be with you wherever you go. I will prosper you. You will be successful.” We have those same promises, but we have to remember that God is promising provision and success as we fulfill his purpose for our lives. He did not promise Joshua 1000 camels and years of leisure. He promised a different sort of success, almost as if to say, “Here’s the game plan. Here is my will for your life. Head on out. I’ll see to it that you are victorious.” And God delivered success: the Jordan River parted, the walls of Jericho fell, the sun stood still, and the temple treasury filled with silver and gold.

Joshua reiterated God’s blueprint for success in his farewell address, “Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left” (Joshua 23:6 NIV). The Bible is packed with instructions from our loving Lord. While those rules will never earn us salvation, we would be wise to heed God’s direction as we ask him for success.

When have you followed Biblical instruction and seen it make a difference in your day to day life?

Live Long and Prosper

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Even non-trekkies are familiar with Spock’s famous line. Don’t we all want to live long and prosper? Before we jump on the Vulcan bandwagon, though, let’s give some thought to what constitutes prosperity. Because of Christ’s death on the cross, we have an afterlife awaiting us that is, well, heavenly. But what about right now? In our culture, it’s awfully easy to have a skewed idea of what prosperity really means. If you are reading this, chances are most of the world thinks you’re wealthy. More importantly, real prosperity and success have nothing to do with bank accounts, wardrobes, and well stocked larders. My next post will delve into a deeper meaning of success. But first, consider these verses:

  • The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).
  • “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8 NIV).

The Bible and my own experience have convinced me that:

  • God loves us,
  • He has given us an instruction manual, and
  • Life works better when we do things his way. When we learn what the Bible says and apply it to our lives, we are better off.

That is what Smoother Sailing is about. That’s what you will get every time you read a post here.

  • What does the Bible say?
  • How can I apply those words?
  • Can they make life work better?

I welcome your comments. Let me know about the times you’ve followed instructions and seen the benefits.

May the Lord (not “the Force”) be with you!