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Never ForgetJoshua also set up another pile of twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, at the place where the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant were standing. And they are there to this day. Joshua 4:9

I have an infatuation for old abandoned houses and buildings. When I drive through our beautiful countryside you’ll see them. Tucked away among trees and brush you’ll see them. Broken or non-existent windows. Trees growing out of what used to be a living room or bedroom. Holes in the walls or roof completely expose some of these buildings to wildlife and the elements.

Some people look at these places as eyesores and I suppose they are. Others see them as safety hazards and I’d have no argument to that either. So why the infatuation? The answer is simple. I don’t see the broken glass or falling walls. I see the stories.

These broken buildings, especially the houses, are full of stories. One day, that house was someone’s new home. Perhaps it was a dream home of some young bride, or the home a farm wife always hoped for. At one time the walls were full of stories of babies being born and grandparents dying. Of young men and women graduating from High School and going off to college or war.  There may have been Christmas celebrations and Memorial Day picnics. There were baptisms and perhaps weddings.

Many people drive by these monuments without a thought of the stories. This past week we celebrated Memorial Day, a day set aside originally to remember those who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. Then it became a day to remember all those who have gone before us. Now, for many of us, it’s become a day to celebrate the beginning of summer and vacations.

When Joshua led the people into the Promised Land they were entering into a whole new lifestyle. He knew that many would soon forget everything they had gone through. They’d forget all too soon the lessons learned from the victories as well as the defeats. The stones set beside the Jordan River were a reminder to never forget what it took to get them from slavery to freedom.

Just as Joshua put stones on the river bank as a reminder, we place stones in cemeteries for much the same reason. Those stones may mean nothing to most people, but if it is the stone of a relative, it means something to you. Hopefully, if it is the stone of a member of our armed forces, you admire them for giving their lives so that you can be free. We should never forget the sacrifice that was paid for our freedom.

There’s one more stone of remembrance we should never forget. That’s the stone of an empty tomb. Just as the members of our armed forces have sacrificed their lives for our political freedom, Jesus sacrificed his life for your spiritual freedom. Religion and all its activities can’t buy your freedom from guilt. Only the sacrifice of Jesus and his resurrection can do that.

PRAYER: Lord of the universe. You have crafted me in your image for your glory. Let the stories of my past and the legacy left by others be a continual reminder of your love and grace. Amen.

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This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NLT)

discouragedA friend of mine is a pastor in a small rural church. While the church has been in existence for over 100 years, it had fallen on some hard times and had even considered closing its doors. My friend was a ‘last hope effort’ to survive.

Chris, as I’ll call him, prayed for months that God would raise up some of the men to become the leaders the church needed to be an effective witness in the community. One day, his prayers seemed to be answered. A man we’ll call Thomas visited the church a couple times and then came up to Chris one Sunday after church and asked if they could have lunch. Later that week as they sat a table in the local café, Thomas shared his testimony of how he’d found Christ. Then he asked Chris the $64,000.00 question: “I have never been disciple and don’t know that much about the Bible. Would you be willing to meet with me to help me learn how to do that?

You can imagine the excitement Chris felt over the next months. Thomas continued to grow in his faith and became more and more involved in ministry both within the church and in the community. Then came the heart attack.

I looked at my friend Pastor Chris as his countenance fell. “It took the wind out of my sails big time”, Chris continued, “the hopes I had for ministry seemed to come to a complete stop. I found myself trying to fill the gaps Thomas had left behind. I told God he could take me out of this ministry anytime. I was finished.”

Chris shared with me how discouraged he had been over the next months. There were some small glimpses of joy in the ministry, but most of it was gone. Looking back he realized he’d built his ministry more on a person than on Jesus.

Discouragement can come to us in many ways, as it did with my friend Pastor Chris. It can sneak up on us completely unaware and knock us off our feet. Many of the things we once hold confidence in lose their allure.

Usually discouragement is completely irrational. For example, you may do a project for school in which 100 kids evaluate you. If you get 99 high grades and 1 low grade it’s easy to focus on the one low grade and not the other 99 high grades. It’s the way we are wired. We tend to see the negative far more easily than we see the positive.

Discouragement happens when we lose confidence in ourselves and our enthusiasm disappears. It can be the result of personal attacks, failures on our part or the death of someone important to us. Whatever the reason, discouragement leaves us disheartened.

Imagine what it must have been like for Joshua. Joshua was a Bible Character and assistant to Moses as Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. As they neared the Promised Land, Moses died and left Joshua in charge.

Imagine how Joshua felt. Moses was the only leader he had ever known. Moses was the one that stood by him, trained him, and encouraged him. Moses made all the difficult decisions. Joshua followed his lead. Now it was his time to lead nearly 1 million people into a land known to be inhabited by fierce and powerful enemies. In the midst of this overwhelming challenge, Joshua receives assurance from God that God would be with him every step of the way.

Discouragement comes when we focus on our own ability and see the solution to our circumstances as being dependent on our own power. When relationships fail we tend to be discouraged because we think we are the only ones at fault when, in fact, relationships can only prosper if all parties are working together.

When we fail because of sin in our lives discouragement sets in because we get the notion that being morally perfect is possible and that God is disappointed in our actions. The fact of the matter is we will never be morally perfect and God is never disappointed or surprised by our actions. He not only knows our weakness, he is ready and willing to forgive us and help us through our weakness and use those weaknesses to make us strong.

We can lose confidence in life situations, or ministry (as Pastor Chris did) or our jobs, or classwork because we’ve neglected to seek God’s help or place too many expectations on ourselves. Confidence is also robbed when we compare ourselves to others rather than reminding ourselves that we are created in God’s image as his masterpiece.

Are you discouraged today? Remember that no matter what you are going through, God knows where you are, how you got there and the best way out.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, right now I find myself in a situation I see no way out of. Please forgive me for not trusting you. Please empower me through your Holy Spirit to see the way you have for my escape. Help me to focus on you rather than my circumstances. In your name I pray, Amen.


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.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT)

We were camping at the resort owned by a family friend. Every night we’d go to the office store for ice cream. We’d order one scoop but the owner would always give us three with a wink and a smile. One night it was busy and an employee dished our ice cream. We ordered a scoop. She gave us a scoop. Fair enough, but we were a bit taken back. We’d become spoiled. We said nothing about it since we’d been given more than we deserved on other occasions. A short time later the owner came by and saw our dishes. She questioned why we had ‘such a small amount’. I explained what happened but emphasized that is was no big deal. She got up from the table and, a few minutes later, returned with new bowls of ice cream. Three scoops. The owner personally took care of the situation for us.

Perhaps a simple example, but it is always better to go to the owner when you want something done. The personal attention you get from the owner far supersedes the attention even the most dedicated employee can give you. Why? Because the owner isn’t answerable to anyone.

Joshua is about to take over the reins of leadership for the nation Israel. Moses is God. He is God’s man, God’s warrior. He was young. He was nervous. And, he already had a reputation among the people for being a renegade of sorts. You remember Joshua. He was one of the twelve spies that went in to investigate the Promised Land. When everyone else said the task was impossible, Joshua said, “Let’s go for it!”

A true leader has many fears. Perhaps the two biggest ones are:

  1. Will I lead in the right direction?
  2. Will the people follow me?

Your heavenly Father promises you that if you rely on him for direction he will not only be with you on the journey, he acts as a scout. He goes ahead of you. He makes sure the way is safe and that every possible danger is known and prepared for.

The second promise the Father makes is that he will never ever abandon you. Others may. Even those we consider trustworthy and loving may turn their backs on you. Not your heavenly Father. He’s prepared to go the distance. He’ll walk with you when no one else will. During those times when you feel inadequate for the task he is there to walk beside you, encourage you to press on, help you to believe in yourself (or his ability to work through you).

Regardless of where you are on the journey remember that you never walk alone and the path you walk has been walked before by a loving, gracious, merciful Father who is passionately in love with you.

PRAYER: Father, I don’t know the future. I feel alone, inadequate for the task and abandoned. Thank you that these are all lies. I’m not alone. I can rise to the occasion with your help. You will never leave me. Amen.

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