Archive for March, 2016

Wearing The correct clothes (Africa Day # 2, 2016, Judges 6-7)

March 31, 2016

“But the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet…” Judges 6:34

This morning I awakened in my home away from home, Malawi Africa.  I have come back with a team of 8 other Christ followers to once again partner on the field with Hope for the Future.  The Lord has over and over confirmed God’s call upon mine and Sherry’s life the need to get the gospel to this broken place.  We know we are to both mobilize people as well as to walk ourselves down this path with Ovi and Lita to touch a nation with the gospel.

This morning is day two which is actually day one in our mission work.  We are preparing ourselves to go a remote village where First Baptist Church and its partners provided for a church to be built and for the people to survive the hunger season as our church feed them through that dark season.  As we go our team will spend the day in a children’s camp as well as sharing through-out the village. I am going to gather the men as well to share Christ with them.  It will be a major opportunity to share the Love of Jesus!!!

As I write this blog our team is preparing for the day.  Most of the adults are up and getting ready but the young guys are struggling to awaken.  The ladies are also up and ready.  I can sense the tension as they wonder what God is about to do.

It must have been that way for Gideon.  In Judges 6 and 7.  Here was a guy who was at best living in a time when Israel was in great weakness and oppression from the Midianites.  Look at Gideon:

I. Gideon was a man who was in a position of weakness and fear, Vs: 11.

Here were God’s people trying to survive.  It is clear that the people were in the wrong, Vs: 7-10, “you have not obeyed the Lord.”

II.  Gideon was a man who was being challenged to have faith, Vs: 22-33.

The first step Gideon was challenged to do was simply to go and tear down the altars that his father and his village had been worshipping.  Gideon obeys and finds his name being changed to Jerubbal, “Let Baal content against him because he broke down his altar.”

What a step of faith this really was in standing up for the call of God.  This day our team is being called to the same step of faith in calling out the false God’s around us and pointing people to the true God.

We also see a man who was attempting to step in faith as he asked God for a sign to continue his development of trust. Vs: 34-40.

III.  Gideon was a man who came into a place where He listened and where he  would lead. Judges 7.

When He hears of the soldiers dream-He worships knowing the God who had led him here would lead through this hour.  Also this same God would give glorious victory through His mighty men of 300.

God’s greatest desire is two-fold:

  1.  He would deliver men from bondage.
  2. He would be glorified among men.

Today, this is our goal here in Africa and I believe it will be your goal where you are called to minister this day.

Keep in mind, the correct clothes to wear while you are doing this is simply the clothes of the Holy Spirit.  John 16:5-15

My God be glorified in our day here and there!!!

 

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How did we end up here? (Judges 1-2)

March 29, 2016

“Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them.  And they were in terrible distress.” Judges 2:15

In our (USA) present political and spiritual climate one might be led to ask, “How did we end up here?”  As one looks around the world scene in which Christians are being targeted simply because they are Christians, he or she might be led to ask, “How did we end up here?”

The answer to this question is not a new answer nor is it a superficial answer.  It is the same answer that has characterized mankind since of the fall in Genesis 3.  Humanity is living in direct rebellion against God.  This rebellion has led us to have terrible distress throughout our world.

Consider our readings today.  The book of Judges shares the continuing narrative of Israel’s life in the Promised Land.  The narrative is set up by chapters one and two.  Here is what we understand:

  • Chapter one could be entitled, “those who did and those who did not.”

The Tribe of Judah did what God asked, “they went up and drove out their enemies,” Vs: 1-26.

The other tribes except the house of Joseph, “did not do what God asked,” Vs: 27-35.

  • Chapter two could be entitled, “The fallout caused by those who did not.”

The people did not obey the Lord, Vs: 1-5.  The result was both pain and perversion. The people would not obey, Vs: 6-10.  One generation after Joshua we see a total reversal of spiritual direction.  The people turned away from God, Vs: 11-15.

In this moment there is a strange twist of events, Vs: 16-22.  God saw the grieving of the people and he extended mercy.  God raised up leaders to judge the people correctly.  During the days of the judge they obeyed, but when they died they turned backed to their pagan gods.

This story continues throughout the book of Judges.  This is how they ended up in terrible distress.

Question: “How does this apply to our context?”

Each day our world faces the test, 2:22, “will we be those who do (obey God) or will we be those who do not (obey God)? ”

Brothers and sisters, this is crucial to our lives.  Check out Revelation 3:1-4:

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.

You and I cannot force anyone to be a doer of the Word.  But we can be doers of the Word as a light to those who are in the darkness.  I challenge you not to waste your time complaining about how we got here.  We are here.  Ours is the task to be a light to the world.  Time is short, the judge could be standing at the door, James 4:7.  We know, when He comes, he will judge the world, Ephesians 1:20-21.

 

The Facts are enough (Joshua 22-24)

March 28, 2016

“And you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the Lord your God who has fought for you.”  Joshua 23:3

Several years ago I was renewing my drivers licenses when I discovered the following: “Sometimes the facts are not enough.”  As I stood before the nice person who was going to issue me a new drivers license I suddenly realized I did not have enough proof of the fact that I was who I said I was.  Despite all of my efforts, it was not enough.  I simply had to leave and to retrieve the necessary documentation that was required.

Question:  “How much documentation does God have to give us before we will trust Him?”

It seems to me that the nation of Israel would easily trust and obey God for all they had seen in both their journey’s to and in the Promised Land.  Consider the facts in Joshua 23:

  • God had fought for Israel, Vs: 3.  This has always been the case since their first days of existence, Joshua 24:1-7.
  • God would continue to fight for Israel, Vs: 4-5.

However there was given both conditions and a caution. The conditions were simple: “You must daily invest in keeping my Word.  You must avoid the lifestyle of other nations.  You must daily be intimate with the One True God.  The caution was also simple: “If you fail to do these things, you will cease to exist in the land.”

Brothers and sisters, “The facts should have been enough.”  One chapter later, Joshua 24, it seemed to be enough as the people make their commitment to follow the One True God.  However, one generation later (chronicled in the book of Judges) the people turned away from the facts and would eventually cease to live in the land.

What is the significance of this for us?  John 14:23 

23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

You and I must take seriously the facts and we must live out our faith standing on the facts.  I pray this week will be an awesome week as you live out your faith!!!

Tomorrow I will take a great leap of faith in traveling to Malawi Africa with a team to minister with Hope for the Future.  For our team, the facts are enough.  We are going into the entire world to proclaim the gospel.  This is the only way!!!

 

You need a map (Joshua 12-15)

March 25, 2016

“It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever; and rescued us from our foes, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 136:23-24

“Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 136:26

Question: “Why would anyone need a map, when we have GPS?”  Answer, “It is amazing to actually see where you have been, where you are, and what the possibilities are for the future!”

In Joshua 12-15 one needs a map to be able to understand all God has done, all He is doing, and all He is going to do in and through His people.

  • In chapter 12 we see the mighty power of God.
  • In chapter 13 we are reminded of the fact, “there is still more land to conqueror.”
  • In chapter 14 we are reminded of our personal need of looking at the map.”
  • In chapter 15 we are challenged to see what is ahead.”

As I looked at a map in my study Bible.  I was reminded of my own spiritual journey:

  • I praised the Lord for what He has brought me out of.

I Corinthians 6:9-11

Or do you not know that the unrighteous[a] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[b] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

  • I praised the Lord for what He is doing in me now.

Galatians 5:13-16

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

  • I praised the Lord for He will do in me.

Philippians 1:6

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

On this Good Friday we look at the roadmap of our new lives in Christ and we realize, “The roadmap begins in heaven and makes it way to the cross and then to our hearts and it points homeward to heaven.”  We have much to praise Him for!!!

 

A Different Approach (Joshua 9-11)

March 24, 2016

“There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel.”  Joshua 10:14

‘Well, I have tried everything else, I guess I will try ________________.”  If you were asked to fill in the blank in the previous sentence, “what would you write?”

Recently, while visiting a Christian book distributor’s website, I thought, “Wow, there are hundreds of different approaches to the spiritual battles of life.”

Maybe, you are trying one of those approaches without much success this day and are willing to try a different approach?

Consider Israel’s different approaches to her spiritual and physical battles in Joshua 9-11:

  • In Joshua 9 Israel’s approach was simply, “This is the rational decision.”

The backstory was simply.  Israel’s enemy tried a different approach, “she was cunning and deceived God’s people.”   The better approach would have been to seek God’s counsel,” Vs: 14.  Numbers 27:21

  • In Joshua 10 Israel’s approach was simply, “We will obey the Lord.”

The backstory was again simple.  Israel’s enemy tried a different approach, “She would band together 5 cities and push back the armies of the Lord.” The correct approach was to follow God’s direction and to fight in God’s power.  The results were amazing.  

Brothers and sisters, “Here is how I would fill in the blank above.”  I will pray and trust the direction of the Lord.”

  • In Joshua 11 Israel’s approach was simple, “We will do all the will of God.

As the enemies of the Lord stood up, the Lord took them down.  Oh how I pray we understand the approach we must have for everything we face.

Here are the amazing words of Paul that amplify what we have read. Philippians 4:6-7

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It Just Has to be (Joshua 5-8)

March 23, 2016

“At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.” Joshua 5:2

There are moments when I arrive at a settled position on an issue.  When I arrive in this place I will usually say, “It just has to be.”  In those moments I have to decide is this either a matter of faith or is it a matter of the flesh.  This can be a very difficult decision to arrive at because I know how aggressive my flesh really is!!!

As the nation of Israel prepares itself for the first major battle of the war with their enemies (Joshua 6), the Lord makes their final preparations.  I want you to see 4 movements in Joshua 5:

  • The circumcision of all the males in Israel. 5:1-9
  • The celebration of the Passover. 5:10
  • The first meal from the land. 5:11-12
  • God’s coming to the battle. 5:13-15

In these moments we discover the things that just have to be, if we are going to win the victory in life.

If you and I want to be right in our decision we have to have these movements in our lives.

  • God must circumcise our hearts, Ezekiel 36:26-27.
  • The Blood of the Lamb must be applied to our sin debt, John 1:29.
  • We must daily feast at the table of God’s necessities in our lives, Matthew 6:25.
  • The Holy Spirit must be directing our walk, Galatians 5:16-18.

I can honestly say, in faith, “It just has to be this way.”  If we are going to make the right decisions, these things must be in place.

In Joshua six the people make the correct decision in obeying God’s direction.  But one man decides to make a decision in the flesh,  Joshua 7, which is very costly.  Dear Lord, help us to daily experience your movements in our lives!!!

“Are you ready?” (Joshua 1-4)

March 22, 2016

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which so clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  Hebrews 12:1

This morning I began my day with the usual routine.  I got up before Sherry (just a few minutes).  I quietly went to the bathroom and then got ready in the dark.  I walked quietly to the kitchen, closed our bedroom door. Then, as usual, I turned on the Keurig machine.  The first words I saw on the machine were these, “Not ready.”  These words come up every morning as a reminder to wait until the water for the coffee gets hot. I have seen these words a thousand times, but today they took on new meaning as I was anticipating today’s readings.

Today we begin the book of Joshua.  I have been waiting and waiting for God’s people to get here.  Today, Joshua becomes the leader of Israel and today he is given the order to move into the Promised Land.  Today will be the day when Israel goes to where she has never been before.  Here is a simple, easy to follow, outline of the first 4 chapters:

  • In chapter one God gives a clear declaration for His people to arise-go-and conqueror.
  • In chapter two God gives encouragement to His people through the report of the spies.
    • The spies discover the sovereign grace of God in encountering a prostitute who has been given wisdom, understanding, and faith in the one true God.
    • The spies discover the sovereign power of God in hearing of the nations fear of the true and living God.
  • In chapter three God gives a great miracle to prove that the way is open to conqueror the Promised land.
  • In chapter four God directed the people to place a marker as a reminder of what God is doing for the people.

Brothers and sisters, “imagine how the book of Joshua would be so different, if the people had not obeyed God in entering the Promised Land?”  The fact is, we really do not have to imagine, the book of Numbers tells us the story of how their forefathers did not obey and what it cost them.

Question:  “Does your life say, “ready or not ready,” when it comes to God’s direction for your life?”

With all of my heart I want to always be ready to do the will of God.

How can we always be ready?  We must follow the directions of the Lord, given to Joshua:

  1.  You must believe you are never alone,1:5b.
  2. You must trust that God will lead you in triumph, 1:6
  3. You must obey all God’s commands for your life, 1:7-8.

This day, I want to be ready!!!  This is why Hebrews 12:1 is so important for our lives.  This is also why we must proclaim our faith in Hebrews 13:5 “He never leaves us or forsakes us.”

Why Me Lord? (Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 91)

March 21, 2016

“None like him for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants in the land.  For all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.” Deuteronomy 34:11-12

Question: “What was the first thing that came to your mind when you read today’s title of our bog?”  I suspect, that for most people, the answer was, “Something tough is being worked through?”  Actually, just the opposite was what I had in mind.

Yes, it is true, “Israel has gone through some very tough days.”  Moses song in Deuteronomy 32 recounts just a portion of their tough times.  But this is not what I am referring too.  When you look clearly into Deuteronomy 32, you suddenly realize the subject of the chapter is the “the glorious news of the greatness of the Lord.”

As you move to chapter 33 you read again of God’s greatness in his blessing of the 12 Tribes of Israel.

You again see the greatness of God in chapter 34 as Moses is able to view the Land of Promise, which his people are about to be given!!!

I hope you are getting, by now, what I am meaning by the title of our blog.  The question that should occupy us in times of blessing is this, “Why me Lord.”

Consider Moses:

  • God’s powerful provision was given to Moses to the very end of his life, 34:7.

Consider the Nation of Israel:

  • God’s grace flowed until the people turned away.

In times of blessing we need to be reminded even more of His kindness to us and our need to give our love to Him!!!  Be careful lest we mirror Israel, 32:15-19.

Consider your own life:

  • God has provided everything you possible could need for life.

Be mindful of the only thing God requires of you!!! Psalm 91:14“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him.    I will protect him, because he knows my name.

“Father, I give praise to you for loving me in undeserved ways. I lift up your name among the nations as the God who has been my supply and my deliverer since before my beginning.  I do not know why you would bless a person like me. All I can say is simply this, “Thank you for saving a sinner such as I.”  

The first thoughts (Deuteronomy 24-27)

March 18, 2016

“You shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there,” Deuteronomy 26:2

Question: “When something great happens in your life, what is your first response?”  As a kid I would respond, “Yes, I like it.”  As a young man I would respond, “Yes, oh yes.”  As a middle aged man I now respond, “Thank you God.”

The fact is, God has taught me much in this journey of faith.  I now realize everything that happens in my life is God’s gift to grow my faith and to supply my need.

As I was reading through Deuteronomy 24-27 I remembered the following:

  • Moses is clearly identifying laws that will govern the people’s conduct in the Promised Land.
  • Moses knows the heart of His people.  They are prone to be selfish and extremely sinful in every way.
  • Moses over and over leads the people to see the value of people.

One example:  “The people were to leave part of the harvest in the field for the poor in the land.” 24:19-21.  Jesus teaches us to care for the poor around us.  Acts 20:31  “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

  • Moses is teaching the people to alway remember the kindness of God, i.e. law of first-fruits and tithes, Deuteronomy 26.

Brothers and sisters, “How do each of you respond when something good happens to you?”

God’s people would be so distinguished from their neighbors when they praised the Lord and when they gave an offering from the first of their harvest.  This week I have been so burdened to place both an offering of praise and an offering of all I have to God.

I do this out of loving thankfulness for all God has done for me.  Here is what God has done:  Romans 8:32-33

32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

What will be your response to God today?  

Seeing The Good (Deuteronomy 21-23)

March 17, 2016

“And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God.  You shall not defile the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.” Deuteronomy 21:22-23

Sometimes it is hard to see the good with all the bad that hovers over the good.  Consider our readings for March 17.  Moses continues to instruct God’s people concerning various laws that shall govern the people’s lives as they enter this new stage of their walk with God.

Someone asked me a couple of days ago the following question, “How would it be possible for those people to remember all those laws?”  Answer, “The problem was not in remembering but in the doing.”

With each chapter it becomes abundantly clear “the bad news is, we are rotten to the core.”  Paul’s words come to mind here: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

The various laws were in place to govern life for people who’s hearts still needed redemption.  Daily they would have to make atonement for their sin.  Daily they would have to purge the evil from their midst.

Question:  “Where is the good in this?”

The good is in knowing that all of this points us to our need of a substitute (represented in the heifer being killed in the place of the one who committed murder) who makes atonement for us (This is Jesus Christ).  Jesus is the one who becomes the one who is hung on a tree for us!!!

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” Galatians 3:13

In Moses directions I see the good that was coming and I see the good that is coming again (Acts 1:11).

This day, I challenge you to see the good despite the evil that is hovering over our world today!!!  As we approach Easter, we are reminded of how our God can take all the evil of the world and make it pure and new in Christ!!!

“The good news is, no one is beyond the reach of a Holy God who can make all things new.”