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Daily Devotionals

April 28, 2020: Reason to Rejoice: God often tells us very plainly what we should do!

Nehemiah 6:1-2 (NIV) 

 1 When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it–though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates– 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; 

Nehemiah had been having trouble with these guys for several days. Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem were all seeking to derail Nehemiah and the Jews from their task of getting the walls built around Jerusalem. They tried everything they could think of to thwart them, but nothing worked.

Finally, exhausted, they attempted one last time to hinder their work by seeking to get them to meet them at a place so they could talk. No threats of violence, no violent outbursts. They even seemed to be willing to make peace.

Nehemiah was now faced with a decision. He did not want to look unneighborly, but he still wanted to make sure his decisions honored God. What should he do? How often have you found yourself at the same crossroads? You think you know what to do, but you just are not sure.

Consider the prayer time of Nehemiah the next few moments after he received the invitation to meet them at a specific place. Here is how I think it might have gone.

“Hey, God, this is Nehemiah. You know the one you asked to build the wall around your city.”

“Yes.”

“God, I really do not mind all the piles of rubble we have had to clean up and all the refuse that we had to cart out of the city, but I have this one little problem.”

“Yes.”

“You know those three Arabs that have been giving me trouble all this time?”

“Yes.”

“They want me to meet them for a meeting to talk with them. I think they might be ready to end their opposition. I wanted to check it out with you first, though.”

“I am glad you did, Nehemiah. You want to know if you should meet them at this certain place?”

“Yes1”

“Can you tell me the name of the place?”

“Let’s see, they wrote it on this message they gave me. Let’s see. Oh, here it is. They said they wanted to meet me at the place called “Ono.”

“Yes? Can you tell me the name of the place once more, Nehemiah?”

“Ono!”

“Ok, so let me ask you this one question, and you give me the one-word answer I am looking for, ok?”

“Sure, God.”

“You want to know what my answer is to your question about meeting up with these three men?”

“Yes.”

“My answer is the . . . There is a long pause, then God continues, “What is the name of the place where they want you to meet them?”

“Ono!” Nehemiah replies.

God has only one more question for Nehemiah. “Did you hear my answer?”

Now, this bit of humor does not work out in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, but I thought you could use a little of the pastor’s humor today.

The Bible does tell us that a merry heart doeth good like a medicine. Now you have your daily dose of this pastor’s humor, and it did not cost you anything. You are welcome.

Now go out and have a praise party for Jesus.

I have attached a worship song entitled The Blessing for your pleasure.

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Daily Devotionals

April 27, 2020: Reason to Rejoice-God Rules Over All the Affairs of Men!

Ezra 1:1 (NIV) 

“In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:” 

Isaiah prophesied over 140 years previously that a man named Cyrus would become king of the Medes and the Persians. 

Josephus, the Jewish historian, records the event when Cyrus became king over the Medo-Persian empire. 

The prophet Daniel, in his old age, took a copy of the Scroll of Isaiah and presented it to King Cyrus. Isaiah showed him where Isaiah had predicted that a king named Cyrus would become king of the Medes and the Persians. Cyrus read the words of Isaiah 44:24-28 and was moved to fund the return of the Jews to their homeland.

Read the prophecy of Isaiah in the following text carefully, “This is what the LORD says– your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, 25 who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense, 26 who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’ of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be built,’ and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’ 27 who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry, and I will dry up your streams,’ 28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”‘ Isaiah 44:24-28 (NIV) 

Cheer up, dear Saint, God is working, even as I write this devotional, to bring every nation under the Lordship of his Son. No media pundit or political powerhouse can do anything to stop God’s plans. Often, the political rulers who are the most hostile against God are the ones that God does his best work through.

Consider this passage, “The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” (Psalm 33:10-11)

Go ahead and listen to the news, but do not let it lead you to despair for our God is using His bitterest enemies to accomplish his perfect plan for his people.

Only God could pull something like this off, and we belong to the one who will accomplish every promise he has made for his children and those who trust in Him.

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Weekly Messages

God is Not Done with Jerusalem!

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Daily Devotionals

April 25, 2020: Reason to Rejoice—The Case Against God has Been Dismissed!

2 Chronicles 5:11-14 (NIV) 

 11 The priests then withdrew from the Holy Place. All the priests who were there had consecrated themselves, regardless of their divisions. 

 12 All the Levites who were musicians–Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives–stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. 

 13 The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, 

 14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God. 

How often do I hear the accusation about God when those who do not know Him accuse Him of not being good?  Most often, they base their thinking from the Old Testament.  The accusation goes something like this,” How can God be good if he orders the entire destruction of villages that include both men and women and little children and even animals?”

They continue to selectively read the Old Testament passages and do their best to come up with more ammunition to accuse God of not being good.  Usually, when their words end, I see a small smile on their faces as if to say, “You surely cannot have an answer to that statement.  It is, after all, true.  We have even quoted from your Old Testament.  How can you even continue to worship a God like this?”

My reply goes something like this, “I am sure you think you have all the evidence you need to pass judgment on God.  Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, let us assume we are in a courtroom today.  The evidence you have presented is only your view of the evidence.  It is very far removed from the actual scene of the crimes you have accused God.  

My question today is, are there any eyewitnesses of these atrocities you speak about?  What do the eyewitnesses of these so-called atrocities testify to?  If we are going to accuse God, we need the best possible evidence by which to do that.

“Your honor,” speaking to those who would accuse God, “I have here a record of several thousand witnesses that were alive at the time in which our most worthy prosecutor was not even a sparkle in his parent’s eye. 

I present to you for evidence the written record of these several thousand witnesses.  I only ask that you hear their testimony since they were the ones who actually witnessed these “so-called” atrocities.”

“Let the record indicate their written testimony from the actual scene of the crime.”

“Listen now to their testimony.”

“He is good, and his love endures forever.”

 Your honor, could you please reread these words in case I have misread them.  We need to be sure of what they said.  

The prosecuting crowd begins to read.  

“God is good, and his love endures forever.”

“Excuse me; I could not hear the words clearly when you were reading them.”  I retort.

‘God is good, and his love endures forever,” the prosecuting attorney reads a little louder now.

“But I want you to note that they did not just tell them, they put these words to music of the most excellent kind.  Cymbals and trumpets, and harps and lyres.  It appears to me that these witnesses were so convinced of the truth of these words they could not help but put to them to music.”

My argument would continue, ‘What evidence do we possess in the present that supports the statement that God is not good?”  I would then look around the room and ask the question a few more times.

“It appears to me that the only evidence we have is that of the accusers who are more than two thousand years removed from the scene of the crime.  And yet we possess the statements of over several thousand who not only say that God is good, but they have written and produced a symphony to state this very point.”

“By the sheer volume of eyewitnesses to the statement that God is good and his love endures forever and that we have no conflicting eye witness testimony to the contrary.  I make a motion that this case, ‘Accusing God of not being good.’ be thrown out due to lack of evidence.”

“Let the record show that God is Good!  His Love does Endure Forever!”

Now hear the words dear Saint, “Case Dismissed!”

It really is true God is good, and his love does endure forever; you have no reason to fear.

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Daily Devotionals

April 24, 2020: Reason To Rejoice-God Will Do in You What He Requires of You

1 Chronicles 28:9-21 (NIV)  9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.  10 Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.” 

 11 Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement.  12 He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the LORD and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things.  13 He gave him instructions for the divisions of the priests and Levites, and for all the work of serving in the temple of the LORD, as well as for all the articles to be used in its service. 

 14 He designated the weight of gold for all the gold articles to be used in various kinds of service, and the weight of silver for all the silver articles to be used in various kinds of service:  15 the weight of gold for the gold lampstands and their lamps, with the weight for each lampstand and its lamps; and the weight of silver for each silver lampstand and its lamps, according to the use of each lampstand; 16 the weight of gold for each table for consecrated bread; the weight of silver for the silver tables;  17 the weight of pure gold for the forks, sprinkling bowls and pitchers; the weight of gold for each gold dish; the weight of silver for each silver dish;  18 and the weight of the refined gold for the altar of incense. He also gave him the plan for the chariot, that is, the cherubim of gold that spread their wings and shelter the ark of the covenant of the LORD. 

 19 “All this,” David said, “I have in writing from the hand of the LORD upon me, and he gave me understanding in all the details of the plan.” 

 20 David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.  21 The divisions of the priests and Levites are ready for all the work on the temple of God, and every willing man skilled in any craft will help you in all the work. The officials and all the people will obey your every command.” 

Are you overwhelmed by the work that God is calling you to do? Do you feel ill-prepared for the task? No experience for the job?

You have no reason to fear because there was a man in the Bible that felt this way. Perhaps you have heard of him. His name was Solomon.

God’s task for Solomon: Build a temple for me to dwell in.

Solomon’s Resume: King’s kid. No knowledge about building or construction.

What did his father, David, say to him that helped him get started and eventually finish the task of building a house for God to dwell in?

The text that is printed right in this devotion. Look carefully at verses 9-10. The first task for Solomon to finish was to know the God of his father, David. 

Everything after this would be a piece of cake compared with this task.

Have you perhaps found it this way in your life? Eating, drinking, dressing, sleeping all seem to be pretty easy tasks. Going about the regular routine of the day not so hard. You do it often without thinking. 

But this task of knowing God and serving Him with a willing heart, this is something that tries our very soul. We start to pursue God, then suddenly, things interrupt our pursuit. Hours, days, or weeks go by, and we discover that we have entirely forgotten our primary calling.

I can do most everything else reasonably well on my own, but tell me I need to know God. I find the simplest thing, praying, talking to Him, and reading His Word is not something I can do on my own. This is when my ADD kicks into high gear. Every possible interruption assails my mind to keep me from the most critical task.

Take special note of the order of King David’s words to Solomon. Before he tells him to build a house for God, he tells him he must know Him and serve God with a whole heart and a willing mind.

Why is this the order of David’s words? Because this is the divine order about everything. Until we know God everything else will not be in its proper place. This is the central teaching of Scripture. Until we know God we will not know anything else as we should.

Consider verses 11-21. 

Do you notice anything unusual about David’s calling Solomon to build a house for God? It is right here in this passage we see the grace of God unfolding. 

God calls Solomon to build him a house. Solomon knows nothing about how to do that. David tells Solomon to work on developing his relationship with God, and then these verses show up.

The essence of these verses is that Solomon will not have to lift a hand to build anything. God has all the workers in place, and all the plans are already written. All Solomon has to do is say, “Yes!” The work will be done by others.

Do you see it yet, saint? God wants you to obey His Word. He will see to it that what He has called you to do will get done.  

As we abide in Him, we learn to see Him perform our calling. The chief task we are called to is to know God. When we get that down, then God’s commands for us, even though they may seem impossible, will be seen as light work, for the Spirit of God is present to perform His work through us.

The Apostle Paul said it best, “Christ in you is the hope of glory.”

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Daily Devotionals

April 21, 2020: Reason to Rejoice: God Answers His people

1 Kings 18:38-39 (NIV) 

 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 

 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD–he is God! The LORD–he is God!” 

For three and a half years, there had been no rain in Israel. The ground was hard as a rock. The plants had all withered and died. There was no grain, so there was no food. The people were hard-pressed to eke out a living on what remnants of food and water they could find. Death was everywhere. The people were staggering from one town to another, trying to find enough food and water to barely survive.

Elijah and had enough. 

False prophets were proliferating in the land, and Israel was being led astray by all the false teaching. He decided to call for a showdown between the true God and all the false gods. The contest was to be held on Mt. Carmel.  

It was early on the day of the battle. Elijah was situated on the mountain top along with the false prophets. He decided to have them go first. (Because as we all know, God always has the last word.)

The false prophets began their attempt to get their false gods to respond. For a few hours, they went about their religious incantations and rituals, but nothing happened.

It was decided that the God who answered by fire would be the true God. They could not even raise a spark. The Word of God says it best. 

“Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.”

 1 Kings 18:29 (NIV) 

Think of these words in our day. Many are frantic because of this virus scare. They are crying out to their gods, which are not gods and finding no answer. 

It seems no one is paying attention to them, no one is answering.

Now comes the show we have all been waiting for. Elijah steps up to the mountain top and does something entirely crazy. The conditions are that the God who answers by fire will be the God that everyone worships.

“Bring on the waterpots!” Elijah commands. “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the altar and the wood.” Those standing by obey.

“Do it again!” he commands. They obey. “Do it a third time!” goes the order. They do it a third time. The water is running down over the sacrifice and the altar and filling the trench around the altar.

How can God show up and cause the fire to catch with all this water around? Remember, it has not rained in three and a half years. The false prophets had been crying out to their false gods since 9 am. It was almost time for the sun to go down. There would not be much time for Elijah to make his petition to His God. His God would have to answer rather quickly.

Elijah steps up to the platform and offers a fifty-nine-word prayer, fire falls from heaven, consumes the animal on the altar, the altar, the wood, and the water in the trenches. The result, all of Israel now know who God is. They even cry out to the one true God.

The fire fell and consumed the sacrifice, and the people now knew who God was.

Question: What made the difference between the false prophets and Elijah’s prayer? The false prophets did not offer anything of significance. Sure, they cut themselves until their blood flowed freely, but God is not interested in being forced to do something by our own efforts.

Elijah instructed the people to offer up large quantities of water. What was the most prized possession in Israel currently? Remember, it had not rained in over three and a half years. 

Water was the most precious commodity. 

Elijah has the people offer what was now their only source of life.  

Here we see a principle that runs throughout the Bible. Whenever God’s people offer what is most precious to them, God shows up in the most unusual ways.

What is God calling you to offer to him today? What act of generosity can you give to God today that will demonstrate to others that you are looking to God as your real source of life and not the things of this world?

Go ahead and offer that to God right now. God tends to reveal himself to his people in times of economic hardships when they fully surrender to him. Go ahead and test Him and see if he won’t pour out a blessing you cannot receive.

We serve a generous God, and he is waiting to show you just how generous.

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Daily Devotionals

April 23, 2020: Reason to rejoice, Fruitful in Old Age

1 Chronicles 1:32 (NIV) 

 32 The sons born to Keturah, Abraham’s concubine: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. The sons of Jokshan: Sheba and Dedan. 

Proverbs 4:18 (NIV)  18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. 

What can we discover about our God from a long list of names and genealogies? Apparently, quite a lot. If you remember the history of Abraham and Sarah, they had been promised a son from their union when they were way past the ages of bearing children. They trusted God when Abraham was 100, and Sarah was 90 years of age; they saw Isaac born into their world.

It would be many years later that Abraham would be tested by God, asking him to offer up his only son whom he loved as a sacrifice. Isaac was probably about 17-18 years of age at this time. It would be a few years later when Sarah would die, and Abraham buried her in the promised land.  

Abraham was now at least 137 years old. We learn in Genesis 25 that he takes another wife named Keturah. From their union, Abraham had six more children. All these he fathered when he was between the ages of 137-175 years old.

We see this pattern often in Scripture that God gives to those who follow him their most productive years at the time when most others are looking for a way to slow down and retire. 

This is not to be for the people of God. We serve Him until he calls us home. Could it be that your best years of ministry for the kingdom are right out in front of you? I think this may just be the reality that God has for those who follow him in these days.

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Daily Devotionals Daily Devotionals

April 22, 2020: Reason to Rejoice: The Lost is Restored by a Piece of Wood.

 1 The company of the prophets said to Elisha, “Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. 2 Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live.” And he said, “Go.”   3 Then one of them said, “Won’t you please come with your servants?” “I will,” Elisha replied. 

 4 And he went with them. They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. 

 5 As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. “Oh, my lord,” he cried out, “it was borrowed!” 

 6 The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. 

 7 “Lift it out,” he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it. 

The church of the prophets was growing. Men were seeking to join the company of the Lord’s men. The days were looking favorable. They now were into a building campaign to rival all others. The men who made up the company of the prophets were not rich men; they were common laborers and they had little means by which to provide for themselves.

We find these prophets down by the Jorden River cutting down trees to make houses for all of them to live in. One of the prophets was busy swinging his ax, and suddenly, the ax head flies off and lands in the river.

The prophet watches in dismay as the ax head sinks to the bottom of the river. To make matters worse, it was borrowed. Ax heads were expensive items at this time. How could a poor prophet ever afford to pay back the one from whom he had borrowed the ax? The only way would be to agree to serve as an indentured servant until the price of the axhead was paid back.

It would mean that this prophet could no longer live among the other prophets. His desire to follow the Lord in this way would have to be curtailed until his debt was paid.

He cries out to Elisha, “Master, the ax was borrowed.” Elisha asks him to show him where the ax head had sunk in the river. Then Elisha does something that is extremely odd. He cuts off a branch of a tree and throws the branch in the river where the axhead sunk.

What happens next defies all laws of physics and science. The ax heads floats to the top of the river and Elisha tells the man to pick it out of the river. He does so.

Question: What is the purpose of this story being included in the infallible text of Scripture? Remember that all of Scripture in some way points us to Christ.

A man who willingly had followed Elisha to join him in being among those who would deliver God’s Word to the nation of Israel. He had grand dreams of being used by God to bring God’s Word to the nation. Now all his dreams were buried underneath the waters of the Jordan.

Enter Elisha, who takes a stick, a piece of wood, and tosses it over the place where the ax head sunk.

Note what happens next, the ax head floats. Why? Because a piece of wood has been applied to the site where the prophet’s hope was lost.

Have you set your heart to follow God, and somewhere after you began to follow Christ, you lost something that caused you to think you could not be used of God again due to what you lost?

Perhaps it was your purity. You were going about your duties of following Christ, and suddenly you found yourself losing your innocence to some careless act or acts. Now you think it is not possible to follow him.

Maybe you frivolously spent your funds on something that caused you to lose the funds you set aside to support your work. Now your debts have made impossible for you to give yourself entirely to the work of the Lord as you intended.

Consider this carefully. Elisha applies a piece of wood to the place where hope was lost. The ax head floats. Is it possible that the place where you lost your hope is also the very place where Jesus restores your hope?

This is precisely the picture of the gospel in the Old Testament. It prefigures for us what the cross of our Lord will do for all who desire to follow him. The cross restores what you have lost and makes it possible for you to follow him again.

It is in the cross we find our hope and our redemption.

Thank God for the piece of wood that was applied to the place of our lostness.

Redeemed by a piece of wood tossed onto my brokenness.

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Daily Devotionals

April 20, 2020: Reason to Rejoice: Strength not in numbers but in God alone.

2 Samuel 24:21-25 (NIV) 

 “Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” “To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped.” 

Araunah said to David, “Let my Lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 

O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the LORD your God accept you.” 

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 

David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.” 

A plague had broken out among the Israelites because of David’s sin in counting the troops of Israel. He had trusted in his strength instead of God. As a result, a plague broke out to remind David that his power was not in numbers but in the Lord his God.

The epidemic had reduced the number in Israel by several thousand. David had to learn that he had no option but to trust in God. When the lesson was learned, he quickly decided to build an altar where the plague had been stopped.

The altar ground was going to be given to him for free, but he refused with these words. “I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing.”

He purchased the ground where he learned to trust in God alone. Little did he know that this place would be the mountain ridge where the temple of the Lord would be built. It would be where the Lamb of God would be slain. This is the place where the plague of sin would be destroyed.

Let us trust in God alone.

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Daily Devotionals

April 19, 2020: Reason to Rejoice: A great Victory won by Clinging to the Sword of Truth.

2 Samuel 23:9-10 (NIV) 

 Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty men, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered [at Pas Dammim] for battle. Then the men of Israel retreated, but he stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The LORD brought about a great victory that day.

The battle was intense. The men of Israel were outnumbered by the Philistines. Most of the warriors of Israel had given up and retreated. There was a piece of land that belonged to Israel that was going to be taken by the Philistines. All the warriors considered it only a small insignificant part of land. There was one soldier in Israel who knew better. To have any of God’s land invaded was not acceptable to this one warrior in Israel.

When others were fleeing, he took his stand in the middle of the land. He refused to surrender it to the enemy. He grabbed his sword and would not let go. He fought with all his strength and then some. When the sun set, there were dead all around. This warrior was still standing in the middle of the land.

Some would ask, how did he win against such odds? There could be only one answer, his hand so grasped his sword; he could not let it go. Dear saints of God, if we are going to stand our ground, we are being called to wage now, it is imperative that we grab on to our swords, the Word of God, and never let go. 

Let us be people of the Sword of the Lord. Let us fight against our enemy with all its power and refuse to surrender to anyone but God.