Archive for August, 2019

It Happened… (Joshua 21-22)

August 30, 2019

45 Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. Joshua 21:45

One of my all-time favorite comedians used to always build his stories to a climax and then he would say, “About that time.”  This was his way of keeping his audiences engaged in the story.

As a child I loved to hear my grandmothers many wild tales she called fairy tales.  She had a way of spinning a story.  She would also build the story to the point that she would say, “and then it happened.”

For me the book of Joshua sounds like “an it happened.”  All that God had promised Israel in past generations came to be in the book of Joshua. Brothers and sisters, what encouragement we find in this book.  In the New Testament Paul writes:

2 Corinthians 1:20 

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
This is deep water stuff.  God calls people to leave where they are and follow Him.  One
must have faith to follow the Lord.  This is the front side of a promise.
The other side is the joy of receiving the promise.
We see this when the Eastern Tribes of Israel come to the joy of the promise.  The faith
side began back in Numbers (32:20-22) when they left their families to obey God and
fight along-side of their brothers and sisters.
Now the battles are over and Joshua says, God kept His promise and you have done your
part.  It’s time to receive the prize.  Oh my friend what a blessing this is to us!!!
Question:  Where are you in the process of and it happened?
1. If you are in the Faith moment.  Step out in faith,  II Cor. 5:7 “walk by faith and not by sight.”
2. If you are deep in the fight.  Do not give up, victory is coming,  Gal. 6:9.
3. If you are close to the finish life.  Press forward, II Tim. 4:6-7.  Victory is in sight.
Today I rejoice for what has happened, what is happening, and what is about to happen in Jesus name, Phil. 1:6.

A Place of Refuge (Joshua 20)

August 29, 2019

“Say to the people of Israel, ‘Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses.”  Joshua 20:2

Have you ever just needed to get away from it all?  Have you ever just longed for a quiet place in the day where you could just rest, refocus, release, and refuel?  I suspect every person reading this blog will say yes in response.  I know I am saying it even as I write this.

The Bible has much to say about such things.  In our focal text, Joshua is dividing the Promised Land between the 12 tribes.  As he does, God reminds Joshua of His command to Moses (Ex. 21:12-14) to set aside cities of refuge.  These six cities were to be places of justice and protection for God’s people when they got into trouble.

In particular the trouble was when a person unintentionally killed someone else.  The law of Israel was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  If a person killed another person, this person’s next of kin was supposed to avenge the death of their family member, unless it was judged that the killing was not intentional.

But because the avenger of blood could be blind to the truth because of grief and anger, God set aside cities where the person who sinned could go to be protected and judged justly.  These cities of refuge were crucial to Israel’s continued commitment to justice.

Question, is there a place where you can go when you mess up?  Is there a place where you can be forgiven, refreshed, and refueled to again face life?

Here is God’s answer.  You and I are not looking for a place, we are looking to a person.  Our place of refuge is in a person:  Jesus Christ.”  Psalm 46:1-3

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present[b] help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 

The place where I run is Jesus.  This is amazing to me.  The truth is I sometimes have to stay where I am during the day.  The truth is there are times when I can’t hit the pause button in an intense time in life.  In such times I have a person who is right beside me.  The Holy Spirit is inside of me.  I can call to Him in my trials, in my tribulations, and in my moments when all strength is gone.

Dear friend, tap into Jesus today.  He has what you need.  He is my city of refuge!!! Check out Matt. 11:28-30

Why are you waiting? (Joshua 15-19)

August 28, 2019

 So Joshua said to the people of Israel, “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you.  Joshua 18:3

One of the principles I attempt to live by is the following: do not judge someone’s motives.  Paul wrote about this in Romans 14.  I think about the wisdom of the sage who said: “Never judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes.”

As I took time to read through our focal text, I tried to picture the division of the land of promise. I imagined as the different tribes heard their names called and then their allotment of land was given.  It must have been amazing times.  But I also get the feeling that maybe some of the tribes (7) wanted everything handed to them.  Joshua says, “Why are you waiting?”  The KJV says, “How long will you be slack?”

Brothers and sisters there are some things God has assigned to each of us.  In these things we are called to do them with all of our might for the glory of the Lord, I Cor. 15:31; Col. 3:17,21.

I picture the 7 tribes sitting around camp fires talking about the recent military accomplishments of Caleb (15:13-20).   I hear their debates about which would be the best option for the tribe of Joseph to defeat her enemies (17:14-15). But did anyone talk about their own assignments?

Many of us are good at solving other people’s problems and giving others direction while at the same time doing nothing about our own assignments.  Joshua says, get to work!

Brothers and sisters, can I speak to the slacker, the scared, the fearful, the skeptic, and the ones who feel small in strength: Look no longer to your obstacles, it is time to look to your opportunities.

If the slacker keeps slacking, the enemy will hold onto the high ground and will continue to harass and hold you back (Judges 2:3).  It is time to step in faith and get busy doing what you were called to do.

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

Don’t Stop Now (Joshua 13-14)

August 27, 2019

13 Now Joshua was old and advanced in years, and the Lord said to him, “You are old and advanced in years, and there remains yet very much land to possess. Joshua 13:1

If God’s Word to Joshua in 13:1 was intended for his encouragement, could He not have started somewhere else other than with the facts of his (Joshua’s) advanced age?  But it is here where God began and there is amazing encouragement here. Let me get you where you can see the encouragement.

At this point in Israel’s journey she is resting from the warfare (18:1).  God has given the nation victory over their enemies.  In Chapter 18 the Bible says, “The land lay subdued before them.”

Brothers and sisters, what a picture we see of our journey of faith.  Our journey began the day the Lord head our cries of repentance.  Jesus had won the battle at the cross and now you and I came to peace with God (Rom. 5:1) on the day we received Jesus as Lord and Savior.  You and I could rest in the reality that we were victories over Satan (I John 5:4-5).

Now here is where we can really identify with Joshua.  He was at rest, but there was still so much more to do. For Joshua God said:

  • There is more land to possess.
  • Don’t sweat it, I myself will drive out the enemy.
  • You will divide the land and drive out its inhabitants.

Now here is where the disconnect comes.  The people decide to quit or retire.  13:13 “Yet the people did not drive out…”

What would happen if they did not drive out the enemy?

The enemy would survive to fight another day.  The enemy would influence their worship, their way of living, and the wealth of what God intended for Israel to possess.  Eventually the enemy would subdue them.

In chapter 14 a man by the name of Caleb comes back into the narrative of Scripture (14:6-14).  We see three distinct things about this man who does not quit:

  1. His heart wholly followed the Lord.
  2. His strength was totally in the Lord.
  3. His mind was completely set on obeying the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, these are the keys to staying in the race until you cross the finish line.  The Psalmist taught this in Psalm 1:1-3 and so did the writer of Hebrews 5:13-6:1

13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.

Say it with me, “It’s not quitting time!”

A Long War (Joshua 10-11)

August 26, 2019

18 Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. Joshua 10:18

Have you ever listened to someone’s amazing story and wanted to have a story like theirs?  I hear stories and I try to always remember there is more to the story than the person is given time to share in the one setting.

Often people hear others testimonies and afterward many people make decisions to jump in the deep end of the pool with Jesus.  But how many of us fail to count the cost before we jump in?  Joshua’s war was a long war.  You and I want a quick and easy journey to the amazing testimony for God.

Brothers and sisters, there are no short-cuts to victory in life.  The path is a distinct path that requires no less than 3 “d’s” along the path:

  • Dedication is required along the path.  “Joshua did just as the Lord said.”  We must dedicate ourselves to where He calls us and to what assignments He calls us too.  II Tim. 2:2-5.

 

  • Discipline is required along the path.  We cannot win the battle alone.  There will be no grandstanding along the journey. There will be no missions with in-and-out assignments.  We have to be in it for the long haul.

 

  • Death is required along the journey.  You and I have to die to self every day, I Cor. 15:31; Phil. 3:8-15.

 

As we live out the 3 “D’s” along the path, the Lord gives us the victory.  But here is more good news,  there will be moments along the journey when the Lord will say, rest, this battle is over.  “And the land had rest from war.”

Pay close attention to Hebrews 4:8-11

For if Joshua had given them rest, God[b] would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

Fighting our Battles (Joshua 10)

August 23, 2019

42 And Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel.  Joshua 10:42

It’s true, life is a battle and we die.  But it is not true that we have to face life with a defeated view or a distasteful view.  God intends for our lives to be lived with joy in the midst of the battle.

Think back in your life to previous battles.  Did you or did you not experience joy in the midst of your battles?

At this point in our studies, in Joshua, the people of God were in the midst of their battles. We see one illustration of a battle in the first part of chapter 10.  Here is an overview:

  • The enemy formed a coalition of 5 kings.
  • The enemy thought there must be safety and power in numbers.
  • The eternal God said to Joshua, do not fear, I got this!

Now look closely at the battle.  For a person without Christ there is the stress of the battle and there is the strategy of the battle.  However for the Child of God there is a measurable difference in the way you fight:

  1. Joshua walked in obedience.  He marches all night and engages the enemy.  God gives support to the fight by pouring down hailstones from Heaven.

 

2. Joshua prays in obedience.  Joshua asks for the impossible. Where did he get such a thought?  I believe He prayed as God led him to pray.  The Bible is clear, nothing is impossible with God, Gen. 18:14.  Nothing is too hard for God!!!

 

3. Joshua stands in obedience.  The victory was decisive on that day.  But the decisive victory would demand many more battles to complete the work that began that day.  The last half of the chapter,Vs:29-43 is dedicated to the mop up operation.

Is it really as simply as walking, praying, and standing in obedience?  Ephesians 6:13 teaches us “having done all, then stand.”

Here is our footnote:  Victory is not always measured by the immediate outcome of a battle.  Steven won the victory, but it was measured as defeat as he was martyred in Acts 7.  It was the same way with the Apostle Paul in II Tim. 4.  But be assured these men won the victory.

God does fight our battles, however our part is to walk, pray, and stand in obedience to Him!!!  I Peter 1:5-9.

Coming to the wrong conclusion (Joshua 9)

August 22, 2019

 14 So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord.  Joshua 9:14

It is obvious how the elders of Israel came to the wrong conclusion in Joshua chapter 9.  The Bible clearly tells us, the Gibeonites came to deceive them and the elders did not ask counsel from God.

It is always true: a deadly combination of deceit and failure to seek God’s counsel will also lead one to coming to the wrong conclusion.

One must ask: why did Satan seek to deceive Israel in what seems as an insignificant way?  Satan knew God’s plan for Israel.  Israel was to totally remove her enemies from the land.  Satan knew if he could keep a foothold in the land, he could still pollute the nation of Israel with false gods.

Be assured, the Devil never stops trying to stop the plan of God.  His number one weapon is deceit.  His second is discouragement.  I can’t imagine how discouraged the elders of Israel must have been when they heard the news, you blew it, these people lived in the Promised Land.

How can a believer arrive at the place where he or she comes to the correct conclusions?  He or she must take everything before the Lord seeking not only His counsel but also His power to accomplish His will.

The Bible teaches us to take everything to the Lord in prayer.  Phil. 4:6-7.

Now we must be honest:  Prayer is Hard work!!!

  • It takes time to pray.  It’s an unceasing task, James 5:16.
  • It takes effort to pray.  We have to place everything before the Lord, Phil. 4:6-7.
  • It takes patience to pray.  God’s answers sometimes do not come when we want them too. His time table is different than ours, I Peter 5:6-7; Hab. 2:2-4.
  • It takes faith to pray.  We must believe His will is the best for us, Prov. 3:5-6.
  • It takes discipline to pray. I Thess. 5:17 “Pray without ceasing.”

Question: Are you willing to put in the hard work so that you can come to the correct conclusions?  Joshua 9 reminds us of what happens when we fail to put in the hard work.

Here are some words of great encouragement to be constantly in prayer:

Isaiah 26:3-4 English Standard Version (ESV)

You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

When You need a different plan? (Joshua 8)

August 21, 2019

8 :1 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear and do not be dismayed. Take all the fighting men with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, his city, and his land, Joshua 8:1

Have you every been convinced, what you were attempting was God’s plan, but for some reason you could not make it work.  It was that way with Corneral Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Friend Chicken. For much of his life, he was a failure in his attempts at owning a business.  At least 4 times he lost everything, but he would not give up on his vision.  Finally as an older man, he found it and today, when I go to Malawi Africa, I eat at a KFC.

You ask, why did you tell this story?  Here is why, often God gives us plans, but what we fail to realize is this: His plans include hold-ups, hold-outs, and sometimes even holes in the road.  Part of God’s building program for your life and my life is to strengthen our faith and dependance on Him.

God was going to give Ai into Israel’s hand.  It was his plan.  But it was also in God’s sovereign plan to let the people fell the weight of their hang-up in Israel running out in front of His plan (Joshua 7).  It is always costly when we take detours or liberties with God’s plan.

In Joshua 8 we see God’s plan revealed and God’s plan realized.  But we must not forget, there had to be repentance in chapter 7 before God revealed the rest of the plan.

Brothers and sisters, God has a plan for your journey.  He will complete what He starts, Phil. 1:6. Our part of the plan is simple:

  1.  Do not fear-trust His plan.
  2. Do not be dismayed-His hold-outs are there to strengthen us and to get ride of our hang-ups.
  3. Walk in obedience-follow every step according to His Word.
  4. Plan for the victory-yes, every day build your barns and sharpen your tools for the harvest.

Here are three verses from Proverbs 16 that teach these same truths.

The plans of the heart belong to man,
    but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
    but the Lord weighs the spirit.[a]
Commit your work to the Lord,
    and your plans will be established.

The High Price for Low Living (Joshua 7)

August 20, 2019

20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: Joshua 7:20

“Leave me alone, don’t sweat it, I am only hurting myself.”  Oh how I wish this person’s words were true, but you and I know they are not.  Consider the truth with me.  The person who made the false statement just lost their job a few weeks ago.  Already the family lives in terror of when their dad takes another drink which leads to another drink and then the violent behavior.  Now, his actions would lead to the family losing their home, not to mention the scars the children would now carry for years.

I wonder, do you think your habits, hurts, and hang-ups only affect your life?  If you ever considered this to be true, I offer you the story of Achan.

Here is a guy who along with his entire family followed the God of Israel. He along with everyone else in their nation fought the battle of Jericho.  He along with everyone else had heard the Lord say, “Do not take anything of value from the city for yourself,” (6:18), but he did not listen.

I wonder if anyone saw him take the forbidden items? I wonder if his wife confronted him?  We don’t know.  However we do know what happened in chapter 7.  His sin cost people their lives.  Now, you may consider God too severe in His judgment?  Consider the following:

  • God had clearly told the camp His expectations.  This was open rebellion.
  • If God allowed this rebellion to go unpunished, the rest of the people would take God lightly from this point forward.
  • God cannot bless rebellion. It was impossible for God to go with them into battle.
  • God was teaching the people a valuable lesson about the price of sin.

I wonder, if Achan came to realize his sin was hurting others? If he did, he never said so, and he did not confess until he was confronted with his sin.

Listen to me, low living always costs not only you, but all who are connected to you.

Think about this deeply.  Here is Achan’s retelling of his sin:

when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels,[c] then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

Look closely at the underlined words.  Are they familiar to you?  This is the same path Adam and Eve took on the day they rebelled against God and plunged humanity into the curse!  So is the high price of our sins.

Today I want to challenge you to stay far away from sin and I want to challenge you to speak lovingly and boldly to those around you who are seeing, coveting, and taking poison into their soul.

The one true remedy for our sin is Jesus.  I Peter 3:18

18 For Christ also suffered[a] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

 

Go Forward (Joshua 6)

August 19, 2019

 And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.” Joshua 6:7

It’s easy to walk down a familiar path.  Each step of the path is familiar and we walk with confidence knowing the path beneath us can hold our weight. But what about those paths that you have not tried?  Maybe this is where you find yourself.  Maybe for a long time you have been walking on familiar paths but suddenly you have come to a sign that seems to say, detour.  Maybe you have been on the detour for a while and you are getting weary of waiting on the Lord to return you to a familiar path.

What would your response be, if God said, it’s not a detour but a new path I have you on?  In other words, I am taking you farther than you have ever been before.

Brothers and sisters, this is the nation of Israel.  She has looked at the Jordon at least on two other occasions but now she has crossed over.  She has looked across at Jericho twice before, but now she comes to the city.  God says, it’s time to go forward.

Two words describe their response to this new path.  The words faith and obedience.

God says, have faith in me. This is my plan.

God says, walk in obedience.  I will make you stronger.

These two words are key to our going forward. If I come to my familiar path and find an extension, I must decide, has God placed the path here or has the enemy?  I test the spirits, I John 4:1. If it is God’s path I move forward knowing He is faithful, Rom. 8:28.  Yes, I am often afraid of the extension and yes, I sometimes get discouraged and want to go back, but I can’t, Lk. 9:62. I am on the path of obedience.  I also know others will walk this path behind me, Ps. 84:6.  I know God is true and I know God can be tested, so I go forward knowing at some point the walls will fall and my new path will make the old path seen insignificant.

Father, help all who are on a new path trust in You!!!,  I Peter 5:6-7