October 19, 2013

Today you should read: Judges 4

Judges 4 tells the story of Deborah and Barak (not to be confused with our current President). Deborah was one of five judges mentioned in the Old Testament who decided cases and made prophecies (hence the name prophetess) in southern Ephraim. She sent out for Barak and challenged him to lead an army of Israelites against the Canaanites. Barak got scared and asked Deborah to go with him to which she replied, “yes” but told him because of his cowardice, the glory of the victory would now go to a woman (4:8, 5:24-27). Six tribes of Israel ended up joining together to fight the Canaanites (the largest coalition of Israelite tribes that we see in this book). God was surely with Israel as they defeated Sisera who had 900 chariots with him for battle showing the strength of Israel’s opponents. Sisera was the only Canaanite who got away, thinking he could find safety at the tent of Jael (since there was peace between his king and the house of Heber, Jael’s husband). When approaching their home, Jael comforted and covered him with a rug. Yes, a rug. She then gave him a drink of milk and drove a peg into his temple while he slept. (As Ron Burgandy would say, “that escalated quickly.”) As the end of v. 21 prophetically proclaims, “so he died.” Later Jael showed Barak the very dead commander and this opened the door for the Israelites to pursue the king of Canaan ever further until they destroyed him.

Interesting little story but what does this have to do with our life? Well, here’s a couple of questions we can ask ourselves that relates to this chapter

  1. When God tells us to do something, do we cower and doubt like Barak or accept and obey His Word instantly?  Notice how the glory that Barak should have received went to someone else because of his cowardice.
  2. Are there areas that we can work together with other Christian denominations for the glory of God and His mission? I mentioned earlier how those six feuding tribes of Israel came together to fight the Canaanites and thought of the many times we feud and poke fun at other churches when we could work together in certain areas where we do agree.. salvation? Abortion issues? etc.)

Posted by: Erik Koliser


October 18, 2013

Today you should read: Judges 3

Do you like roller coasters? I really like them despite the fact that I am not fond of heights. The worst part for me is at the very beginning of the roller coaster ride you take that long, slow climb to its highest point. Then you drop over that first hill that nearly takes your breath away and after that it is just a series of ups and downs that happen so fast all you can do is scream. The book of Judges sort of depicts the life of the people of Israel as a roller coaster. From Exodus through Joshua it is that long slow climb to the top (with a few hiccups along the way). At the end of Joshua, Israel could not have been any higher. They had entered into the Promised Land and God had given them the land and victory. However, due to their disobedience, the book of Judges illustrates that fall from the top and the up and down roller coaster of a ride to the end of the book. Each time Israel repents they never quite make it back to the top and they begin a constant spiral into sin. So what started the drop?

1.      Israel disobeyed.

a. God told them to completely wipe out the land but Israel did not follow through. Therefore, the Philistines, Canaanites, Sidonians and Hivites were left to temp the people of Israel into worshipping other Gods and Idols. (3:1-6)

b. Do we sometimes find ourselves tempted by other gods and idols that we allow to stay around? We can find ourselves worshipping God on Sunday and loving the world Monday through Saturday.

2.      Israel conformed.

a. Not only did they not listen to God’s commands but they willingly gave themselves over to the ways of the world. They even went so far as to marry into their families (v.6)

b. This is the issue that we are faced with when we allow ourselves to flirt with sin. James 1:13-15 states:

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

Israel found themselves spiraling out of control because of their own sinful desires. They wanted to follow after the ways of the other tribes because it appealed to their own sinful desires. The truth is that we all still have a sin nature that, at times, desires to be satisfied. Just like when Israel allowed the other tribes to stay among them and were tempted, we, too, allow sin to dwell in our homes. It comes in the form of things we watch, music we listen to, and things we read. I am not saying we should never watch movies and listen to music that is secular. What I am saying is that we should be intentional with what we put into our minds because that is where sin begins (Romans 12:2, Matthew 6:22-23). God sent judges to save Israel when they got in over their heads but they always ended back up in the same mess. If you and I do not repent at the heart level we will continue to give in to our flesh.

Question to Ponder:

What do you need to cut out of your life? What should you invest your time in?

Posted by: Chad Wiles

October 17, 2013

Today you should read: Judges 2:10-23

My dad really enjoyed hunting and fishing.  I learned a lot about the woods, animals, guns, fishing reels, and boats from him.  I quickly learned to love hunting and fishing also.  My dad passed away three years ago, and the first memory that comes to mind when I think of our time together is when I killed my first tasty tree-rat (squirrel).  I’m going to do my best to teach my little boy, Sawyer, to hunt and fish as well.  At three-years old he’s already really good at playing Temple Run on my iPad and on Becky’s phone, so hopefully I’ll be able to tear him away from video games long enough to get him out in the woods when the time comes.

I really want to be intentional about passing along what I’ve learned about Christ and the Great Commission to Sawyer as well.  That’s something that Joshua’s generation apparently didn’t do very well according to our passage today.  Look at verses 10.  This is a sad verse.

All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.—Judges 2:10

The next generation didn’t know the Lord or the works that He had done?!?!  How is that possible?  Apparently, the previous generation didn’t do well at passing on what they had learned.  What had they learned?  Well, look back at verse 7:

The people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of the LORD which He had done for Israel.—Judges 2:7

They had seen all the great works of the Lord and didn’t do a great job of passing on what they’d seen and learned.  The result?  Look at verses 11-12:

Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger.—Judges 2:11-12

Things went south from there.  The Lord eventually appointed judges to deliver them from the hands of their enemies, but when the judge died, they’d go straight back to their wicked ways.

I’m reminded by this passage of the importance of discipleship and leaving a spiritual legacy.  In order to leave a legacy, I must be intentional.  Regardless of how much I have seen, heard, learned, and experienced, if I am not intentionally investing into Sawyer and other people then I will be the last link on my chain of discipleship.

Who do you need to intentionally pursue to disciple?  How can you grow in your discipleship skills?  If you died today, would you be the last link on your chain of discipleship?

Posted by: Rich Duffield

October 16, 2013

Today you should read: Judges 2:6-10

In 2000, I remember sitting on the back of our Youngstown Baptist Church’s Brazil team bus, ready to head home and unwind from a long 2 weeks of missions work. The trip was the highlight of the summer before my senior year of high school. Our experiences were incredible. We saw dozens of people come to faith in Christ, did a lot of work projects, ministered in a really rough slum, and so on. We worshiped and served with all the power we had in us. The Lord moved in us and through us. As I sat there on the bus, I was already getting back into “home-mode”. I was thinking about everything coming at me when I hit the ground in the USA. My own sinful heart, and Satan’s evil plan, were causing me to forget what God had done and what He wanted to continue to do.

What happened next has forever stayed with me.

Russ Dean, veteran missionary and mentor, stood up and asked our pastor if he could address the team. He then opened His Bible to the passage that we read today: Judges 2. He spoke of the death of Joshua and its significance to the people of Israel. Russ reminded us of just how strong Joshua’s leadership was as he read:

And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110 years. (Judges 2:7-8, ESV)

Joshua inspired leadership and obedience, and the generation he led did a great job of taking on his mantle. But then we find one of the most disappointing verses in the book of Judges:

And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. (Judges 2:10, ESV)

WHAT? One generation later, they didn’t know about God or what He had done? How could this be possible? The most obvious explanation would be that this was a discipleship issue. One generation didn’t pass it down with as much joy and urgency, thus, the next one missed it. Sure, if it came up, that generation could probably say some things about it. But they didn’t really know it.

On the bus that night, I heard a passion and fire in Russ’ voice that I can recall to memory so clearly that it takes me right back to that spot and that moment. What he shared was so simple, yet so important.

“Don’t forget!”

He said those words at least 10 times. He told us that the this was the downfall of the people of Israel in Judges. They kept forgetting. God did so much for them and their ancestors, yet they would leave Him so quickly. Russ challenged us to not forget what God had done in saving us, changing us, and making us new. And he begged us to not forget what He had done in our lives on that trip to Brazil.

Judges is a great learning opportunity for us. It’s as if God is giving us a similar challenge to the one Russ gave us on the bus: “DON’T FORGET. Don’t forget what I’ve done for you. Don’t forget what I have for you. Don’t forget that I am with you.”

I haven’t forgotten. I refuse to. I will pass it on with joy and urgency. The Lord has been too good to me. I will not forget.

Posted by: Todd Thomas