A very steep section of Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Overcoming fear

Life is full of scary things, and if you focus on all there is to be afraid of, it’s easy (very easy) to be overwhelmed with how little we actually have control over. The key is to recognize that God is in control and trust that He’s going to take care of the details. But that’s easier said than done, especially if you’re a control freak.

I’m convinced that God put certain passages in Scripture just for me. That’s how I feel about today’s passage.

A very steep section of Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

A very steep section of Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Today’s verses are Deuteronomy 31:4-8.

“The Lord will destroy the nations living in the land, just as he destroyed Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites. The Lord will hand over to you the people who live there, and you must deal with them as I have commanded you. So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Then Moses called for Joshua, and as all Israel watched, he said to him, “Be strong and courageous! For you will lead these people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors he would give them. You are the one who will divide it among them as their grants of land. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

I don’t spend an enormous amount of time in the Book of Deuteronomy, but whenever I read it, I remember how much I love it. With a name like Deuteronomy and its location in Scripture, I get it mixed up with Leviticus and Numbers. But Deuteronomy doesn’t have as much law in it, not like Leviticus does. Yes, there are some portions about the Law and dos and don’ts and things like that, but the book as a whole isn’t just the Law. It’s about the Children of Israel, the generation after one that left Egypt. And this passage marks where Moses turns command over to Joshua.

Put yourself in Joshua’s shoes. What a terrifying proposition! This isn’t like a promotion at work that you’ve been waiting for. This isn’t even like a promotion you didn’t see coming. This is like your boss pulling you from an area where you’re comfortable and a job description that you’re confident in and tossing you into the role as CEO of a major company. In a matter of moments, you go from being the one who takes orders to the one who gives orders, and you didn’t see it coming. If you haven’t worked for a big company, that may not sound intimidating, but if you’ve ever worked for a corporation you’ll understand just how frightening that sort of event would be.

I can’t imagine going from my little writing position to suddenly being in command of my company. It’s not something I would even want. And it makes me wonder if that’s how Joshua felt. After all, he saw what Moses had gone through. He saw how the Children of Israel had treated Moses. He witnessed everything first hand as a soldier, and then when he’s given command, he suddenly has to face the fact that he’s the one God wants in charge.

So it’s no wonder God tells him over and over again not to be afraid, not only in this book but also in the Book of Joshua, directly after this one.

But what I find interesting about this passage is how God repeats key phrases. God tells Moses to tell Joshua not to be afraid and that God will go with him. And then Moses tells Joshua that God said not to be afraid and that God will go with Him.

Why repeat it? And it seriously is almost exactly repeated word for word. Couldn’t the Scriptures have just said something like “Moses told Joshua all God had said.” There are other passages like that. Why not here? Why put it down again? And what’s more, if you look ahead to Joshua 1:1-9, you’ll see almost exactly the same thing repeated.

This is what I have learned about the Bible. God doesn’t waste words. If He chooses to repeat something in Scripture, it’s not an accident. It means something, and usually it means we need to pay attention. It means what He’s saying is something He wants us to really understand.

Whether you’re a CEO of a company or at the bottom of the food chain, you face scary things all the time. Life is scary. Living is scary. There’s not a moment that fear can’t take advantage of your life, especially when you grasp just how powerless we are. But what God wants us to know is that He’s not going anywhere. The same God who went ahead of Moses, the same God who went ahead of Joshua, is the same God who is going ahead of us today.

God knows what’s coming. He knows what the future has in store for us, even if we don’t, and He isn’t going to let us face it alone. He’s there. And if He’s there and if you can trust Him, you don’t have to be afraid. Fear isn’t something that you need to give in to because God has given us the power to overcome it.

I don’t normally do this, but I love the song “Overcomer” by Mandisa. And I watched the music video for it last night that features some pretty well known overcomers. The YouTube link for it is below, and if you have a moment, I’d really suggest watching it and remembering that no matter what you’re facing in life right now, God is telling us not to be afraid. You’re going to face challenges and impossible situations, but God isn’t going to let you do it by yourself.

Glen Eyrie Castle - Colorado Springs, CO

God is a God who finishes

If you know anyone who writes or who fancies themselves a writer, you will know that one of the hallmarks of either is that they have a hard time finishing their stories. To write a story is a marvelous thing. To build a universe inside your head, to craft characters who are like real people to you, to weave a complicated plot line–all of that takes time and effort. A lot of time and effort, mixed with concentration, dedication and much gnashing of teeth.

Writing is frustrating. And I’m not even talking about the publishing process. Just the act of writing is difficult, and it takes a lot of sacrifice to finish a manuscript. Even if writer starts a new book, you don’t really know if they’ll finish it.

Fortunately for us, God is the kind of author who always finishes what He starts; it just might not happen when we think it will.

Glen Eyrie Castle - Colorado Springs, CO

Glen Eyrie Castle – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Philippians 1:6.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

I like to finish things. It doesn’t matter what I’m working on; finishing projects makes me feel accomplished. Maybe it’s my performance-based mentality, but that’s just the way I am.

The trouble with finishing is that it takes a lot out of you. And that’s just finishing, not finishing strong. Finishing strong? That’s something else entirely.

Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, including Philippians, was an athlete. He loved sports, or if he didn’t, he just talked about them all the time. But one of the most common sports Paul talks about is racing.

I don’t run. My office puts on a Fun Run every year; I don’t think those two words should ever go opposite each other. The only time I run is when there’s a skunk in my yard, and that has nothing to do with fun.

But many people do like to run. If you’re one of them, good for you. And I’ve watched enough Olympic track sports to know that the quick, fast speed of the sprinters is impressive but what really requires the discipline and endurance of a champion is the long races. The 1,000 meter races. The marathons.

Those little sprinters who can run flat out and set ridiculous records are awesome. But have you seen someone in a 1,000 meter race cross the finish line without difficulty? Have you seen someone running a marathon cross the finish line and not be tired?

Maybe it’s happened. I haven’t seen it. Run for any great distance, and you’re going to get tired. And you’ll be tempted to quit. I mean, why not? It’s only a race. Right?

But that’s not the case at all. Anyone who runs competitively knows that there’s more to racing than just “the race.” It’s the thrill. It’s the challenge. It’s the title and the medal and the recognition. It’s the achievement. Even people who don’t race competitively but who still participate in marathons look at it like something to be accomplished. Even if they don’t win medals or endorsement contracts, they want to finish … because it means they’ve finished.

Finishing matters. Anything else is giving up.

People give up all the time. We drop the ball. We walk away from opportunities. We stall out just in sight of the finish line. That’s people. But God isn’t people. God is God. And He always finishes what He starts.

He has started something awesome in all of us. Each of us is a masterpiece He’s painting, a beautiful symphony He’s composing, a complicated novel He’s weaving, a design He’s engineering. Whatever the metaphor, God is working on us. He’s perfecting us every day.

God wants to finish strong in our lives. On the day He brings us home, whether it be by death or by rapture, can we say that we let Him? Yes, God will do what He wants to do; that’s part of being God. But He never forces anything on any of us. We can choose to let Him work in our lives. But we have to choose it.

Don’t kid yourself, though. Letting God work in your life can hurt. He has to strip away the parts of us that aren’t like Him. He has to put us through difficult circumstances so that we let go of whatever we’re holding on to that is slowing us down. He has to remind us that this life isn’t all there is. But through it all, He’s there. He never leaves us. And even when it doesn’t feel like He’s working, you can trust that He is because God is a God who finishes.

So let Him do His thing. But don’t be surprised if your life blows up. And don’t give up when it does. Just hold on to the promise that He never abandons us and remember that He’s writing a story of His own, and He has some editing to do. And if you can hold on, your life will be beautiful, not only to you but to Him and to everyone you know.

Pretty pink flower - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Don’t Panic!!

I have noticed an influx of those “Keep Calm!” t-shirts. I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed them or not, but they’re pretty random and kind of funny. “Keep Calm and Eat a Cupcake” or “Keep Calm and Don’t Blink” and so on and so forth. I get them mixed up with the “Don’t Panic and Carry a Towel” t-shirts, which references Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Maybe that’s a silly example, but I have also noticed more and more materials out there that are all about trying to stay calm in rough situations. Self-help books and 12-step programs and meditation guides–lots of people smarter than me have all been working on ways to help us stay calm through the dark parts of life.

But do any of those methods work? In Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the one item you needed to help you out of any situation was a towel.

So is there an item we can carry around with us that will help get us out of scrapes and help us to not panic?

Pretty pink flower - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Pretty pink flower – Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Deuteronomy 31:6.

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Well … maybe it’s not an item. But it’s something to remember. This was actually Moses speaking to the Children of Israel just before he handed over leadership to Joshua. He told Joshua something similar, but this message was for the people who would be following Joshua.

Personally, I’m not prone to panic. It’s difficult for me to get to that place. I generally stay fairly calm in just about any circumstance … unless we’re talking about getting up in front of people or talking to someone I don’t know. Then, panic becomes very natural for me. But when you get right down to it, panic doesn’t solve anything. Actually, panic creates more problems than it solves. And it doesn’t even make you feel better. It just makes you more difficult to deal with than normal!

When you’re panicking, you’re not thinking. You’re just feeling. And it’s not that feelings are bad, but when you allow only emotions to dictate your decisions, you’re really just asking for trouble.

Moses knew that the people of Israel had some major challenges they were going to have to face, and he wanted them to be aware of what was coming. He could have told them not to worry and that Joshua was going to take care of everything. He could have told them to be disengaged from what was going on in the world and just chill until the ride was over. But he didn’t. He told them to be strong and courageous. The line where he told them no to panic indicates that he expected them to go out and face their enemies and not panic “before them.”

If the Children of Israel didn’t go out to fight, they would have been stuck wandering around the wilderness for another 40 years. That’s what got their ancestors in trouble. These people were the descendants of the original Israelites who God rescued out of Egypt, the ones who choked when they had the chance to stand up. Moses wanted their children to do better.

We will all face challenges every day. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we’re doing or where we’re going, everyone will be challenged. Maybe it will be a faith issue. Maybe it will be a physical task. Maybe it will be a health problem. The possibilities are as endless as people themselves. And we’ll all have the choice to face the enemy or run away. And once we choose to face the enemy, we’ll have the option to panic.


Why? Because if you belong to God, He has already run ahead of you and prepared a path to victory for you. If you are following God, if you are doing what He has called you to do, He will open doors for you that couldn’t have possibly opened on their own. And when you come to face your enemy, you will find that God has already prepared you for what you’re facing. And if the God of the universe has personally prepared you for battle, there’s no chance you’re going to lose. Maybe it won’t feel like you’ve won right away. Not all victories feel like victories. But if God is on your side, you can’t lose.

So when you’re standing face to face with your enemy, whoever that might be, and you start thinking about how much bigger-stronger-taller-smarter-more-successful he or she might be, remind yourself of who God is and what God has promised you.

Don’t panic and remember Deuteronomy 31:6.