Saturday, February 21, 2015

Joshua 6 - Irrational Faith

Living a life of faith and obedience is easy when the call seems reasonable. We can understand the "golden rule" and how treating others with dignity and respect will lead to greater kindness on the part of others we encounter. But what happens to our faith when we are called to do something so unusual, so contrary to our reasoning, so improbable that only God could see it to success? Can we be obedient even then?  That is exactly what our friends the Israelites were charged to do. 

They have prepared themselves having completed the circumcision and celebrated the Passover remembrance. The awesome show God displayed in Egypt was fresh in their minds, but how would He overcome this great walled city?  

Gods commands were certainly unorthodox; no military strategist would depend on these. They didn't even make sense, they were to march around the city in full display of the inhabitants, one time silently each day for six days. It must have taken great courage to act in these commands. How could they possible lead to a victory over Jericho?  The people of the city must have been amused, confused and perhaps encouraged by the lack of force used. Then the Isarelite haut left and returned to camp. How odd. 

If it wasn't bad enough the first day, they were to repeat the silent parade five more times before their final day. Each day retuning to camp with no visible progress being made. How could God possibly use this?  Every day the Israelites saw the thick walls of the city with no action taken to strengthen their position and none to weaken that of Jericho, or so it would seem. It took great endurance to continue to obey God's commands when it seemed there was no progress; nothing the eye could measure. 

Finally on the final day, the grand silent parade seven times around.  Nothing, nothing, nothing and the. SHOUT!  For God has given them the City!  The faith that must have taken to persist in obedience in activities that made no sense to human reason is astounding. only God could have seen this through to success. The walls fell and the city was theirs for the taking. 

I don't know if you have ever faced such a challenge. Perhaps you have been praying for the salvation of a loved one for years with no perceivable change. Perhaps you have had pain and suffering so hard to endure with no relief in sight. Perhaps you have been faithfully serving in an assignment with no measurable progress and no one to appreciate your work. 

God is still able. His ways are higher than our ways and we don't always understand his hand at work.   But dear Christian, if you belong to Jesus Christ, you are not forgotten. Be courageous in your faithful obedience.  Though the night is all around, the dawn may be just about to break on your circumstances. God does not let our obedience go unnoticed.  God is writing His story in the pages of your life. He gets the victory, because He is the author and perfector of our faith. 

We read the great story of Jericho as a  great story of victory for the nation of Israel, but we don't look at it from the perspective of those going through the test. They did not see the end from the beginning, but they committed themselves to obedience no matter what.  When we commit ourselves to becoming like Christ and exercising faithful obedience, God shows up!

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Joshua 5 - Radical Obedience

What would you be willing to do to obtain God's favor?  Would you be willing to not just repent of disobedience, but adopt a policy of radical obedience following God's commands matter what?  The Israelites in Joshua's time were faced with just such a prospect. It was all encouraging for a while, God allowed the nation to pass through the Jordan on dry land demonstrating His care and provision. Now they were on the shores of enemy territory they were promised for generations. It would seem that all that would be needed was to go in and take the land (with God's help of course). But God stopped the people and commanded radical obedience - circumcision. What bad timing on God's part. Couldn't He see that the enemy was in the neighborhood?  Couldn't He have prepared them before crossing the Jordan?  

The truth is that God had commanded the circumcision in Abraham's day. The circumcision had been honored until the generation leaving Egypt. As the nation wandered the desert for 40 years, they had neglected this practice. God does not change even though his people may lower their standard for holiness. Now they were confronted with their disobedience and challenged to obey at huge costs. They would be completely vulnerable to the enemy and could lose their lives. God surely wouldn't depleat  the little strength they had, but it is at this weakness that God shows Himself all sufficient. 

After their recovery, God met with the people as they celebrated the Passover and stopped the manna as the new land was able to supply their needs. Radical obedience not only is required for the full portion of blessing God has in store, but our fellowship is sweeter when we hold nothing between ourselves and the Almighty. 

Our faith isn't really placed in God until we are willing to be radically obedient. Our Lord purchased us at great cost and we belong to Him. We may see evidences of God's lovingkindness, but we cannot enter into the promised land of deep intimacy with God until we are willing to fully reject that hidden sin in our lives and boldly obey even when obedience is costly. It is at these crossroads of obedience that we see God most clearly at work. We cannot expect God's victory over our enemies if we are living in disobedience. 

Last week, 21 Christian men were beheaded at the hands of terrorists. They were killed for their alliegiances to Jesus Christ. Their faithfulness was despised  here, but today they are rewarded for their faith in Heaven. As anti-Christian and anti-Jewish forces grow, it is conceivable that we might also be faced with standing for our Lord at great cost. We may be faced with the decision of radical obedience. Our faith must be more than intellectual. It has to be acted out in our daily choices to practice our faith. Will we forgive when we have been mistreated?  Will we trust God even when the dearest in life has been taken from us?  Will we boldly claim Jesus Christ when threatened with job loss, economic sanctions or perhaps even our lives?  

No one wants to face mistreatment, but God can be trusted even in the most terrible of conditions. He is faithful and will not leave His us. God has promised us a place with Him. Our home is not here, but to find our victory, we must fully rely on God committed to radical obedience. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Joshua 4 - Commemoration

As we approach Presidents' Day we commemorate the commitment and sacrifices of our great Presidents Washington and Lincoln both born in February and both engaged in the conflicts as a nation comes together as a sovereign unified people. It is important to pause and remember how we got to the place where we are as a nation. 

Likewise in Joshua 4, God charges the people to set up a memorial on the other side of the Jordan River so that the miracle they experienced in crossing over in dry land during flood season would be properly attributed to God as a sign of his care and protection for his people - Israel.  This memorial would be taken from stones in the middle of the river bed of Jordan where they had just passed. One stone for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. 

There are several reasons this memorial was important. It was first a sign to he nation. As they entered to conquer the land, they could look back on this memorial as a remembrance that God moves mightily and supernaturally on behalf of his people. When we engage in conflict or are victims of oppression, it is important that we remember all the ways God has acted in our lives to bring us this far so we can remember our God is able and lovingly cares for His own. We ourselves have biblical record as a testimonial of God's power and love, but if we need more we can look to our own history and fund markers through our own lives where God has moved, protected and ordered our steps to bring us this far. God's plans in our lives are not yet fulfilled so we can trust that what He has started He will finish. 

The second reason was as an object lesson for the generations to come. God said that when your children ask you what these stones are, tell them how I stopped the waters and let you cross over on dry ground. (Josh 4:6-7). Our children need to hear the stories of how God has sustained us and how He has provided for our needs; the greatest of which is salvation from the power of Satan and Sin. The story of Israel has now been intertwined with our own story of the Church. Our children need to know about the heritage they have and the promises God has coming to his people. 

Finally, these markers were to be a testimonial to all the inhabitants that the God of Israel is a great and mighty God so that the nations might turn their worship from false gods to Jehovah God of Israel. (Josh 4:24). We live in a world that has doubts about God and needs to know that they too can have access to a the same mighty God we serve. We shouldn't keep quiet about the hope we have or hide the work of God in our lives. There are people destined for eternity without God if we keep this wonderful news to ourselves. We use our story to rescue the perishing and care for the dying. This world is not all there is. Even while here our existence is without purpose and meaning if we live without the assurance that we are connected to God and our sin has been addressed through Christ's death, burial and resurrection. All the peoples of the earth should know the hand of the Lord is powerful and they should fear God. 

Our challenge today is to erect our own memorials of God's work in our lives so that we can remember well when we are facing our next trial, so our generations can know that there is hope for them and that the world can come to know the same God we serve. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Joshua 3 - Impossible Challenge - No Match for God

The Israelites had heard the reports from the spies sent to Jericho, but still they were considering the prospect of the sheer might possessed by their enemies. They had a new leader, Joshua who was not experienced like Moses and they had to cross the Jordan River at flood stage with not a few spies but with more than a million people. Surely they were facing the impossible. 

Joshua encouraged the people by telling them, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things for you" (Josh 3:5). Joshua knew that the might would not come from the fighting men of Israel, but from God himself. God gives Joshua His plan and Joshua shares with the people. When they crossed the river, the water stopped and people passed on dry ground. 

You and I face difficult challenges.  Some may seem impossible. But there is no circumstance too great for our God. He is able to do the miraculous and stop waters and overcome our enemies without any act of aggression on our parts. He is able to heal, provide, comfort, strengthen and bring wisdom to any conflict we face.  It is in the midst of darkness where God shines brightest. 

Our challenge will be to abandon our doubts and unbelief and step out in faith with God at the lead.  We live in a world that weakens our faith and whispers words of doubt. Our circumstances may be challenging and indeed impossible without God's power, but we have His Holy Spirit wherever we go. We can trust His promises to care for His children.  We have His word for wisdom, as we apply the word to our circumstances we will find God faithful today as he has been in ages past. He can stop that river that stands between you and your goals, but He may choose to build a bridge. Look for His hand at work in your life and follow His lead today. 

May God richly bless you as you seek H and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Joshua 2 - Switching Sides

If you are like most people, you can remember a time or two when you have made choices that could have had devastating consequences. But for the grace of God, we might have endured tragedy.  Unless God intervened and showed us the end of our own self will we would all be bound for eternity apart from Him and under the domination of Satan. In Joshua 2, we see this story played out in the life of Rahab. 

Rahab had so many marks against her. She lived in a pagan land that was against God and His people. She was a woman; not endowed with the same rights and privileges as men. She was a prostitute used for men's pleasure and discarded when they were through. She was a very unlikely candidate to become a prophet of God, seeing the hand of God at work in the nation of Israel (perhaps she saw better than some living  in Israel). She saw that God was working ahead of His people and against the nations that stood against them. God was even working fear into the surrounding nations to weaken their resolve even before any confrontation occurred. Rahab saw she was on the wrong side of the equation and took her opportunity to switch sides and rewrite her own life's story. She negotiated with the spies to secure safety for herself and her family when Israel came against Jericho. 

We too may find ourselves going down a bad path in life. We may be on the wrong side of God's favor. Our choices may have been financial, career, wrong alliegiances or priorities, or a long standing engagement in sin that dishonors God. We have an opportunity, just as Rahab did, to rewrite our story. We can switch sides and choose new alliegiances.   Switching sides may not undo the actions of the past, but it can give you hope for a brand new future. 

It is not only for our daily life that we can redefine success, but Jesus death, burial and resurrection offers us the chance to get off Satan's team and become a member of God's family. The Holy Spirit works in our life to show us the end of our nature. We were born into the family of Adam and this inherited his nature that stands in rebellion against God. We can feel that pull in our lives to do our own thing and to pursue our own way. We are completely blind to our great need of a Savior until the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts and the Word of God shows that our sin is such a great offense to God that He can have no part with us. We are all deserving of hell. The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ offers another way. Christ died so that we could switch sides and trust Him as our King. We can choose to live for eternity in Heaven or live for this life on Earth alone. Each choice has eternal consequences. 

Rahab was adopted into the nation of Israel and honored for her act of courage in saving the spies and for saving her family. The gospel is available to not just the Jews, but even to people living in he lowest stations of life. It is not too late to switch sides. Your life can begin again with a new ending. Rahab went on to be a great-grandmother to David and counted in the lineage of Jesus Christ. 

We may not have the great fame of Rahab, but our lives are forever changed when we are adopted into God's family. We are given the Holy Spirit to lead and teach us in holiness. We can have a deep down joy in knowing we have been spared and security knowing our lives are bound with Jesus for all eternity. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Joshua 1 - Life After Death

When a dear loved one passes, our hearts ache. It may seem that time stands still with no direction and purpose. Moses had led Israel for 40 years and now was gone. For many I am sure that stopping there and giving up would have seemed reasonable. Moses had given the people their marching orders for so long. 

Joshua now is called to stand in the place of Moses as the leader for the nation. HUGE shoes to fill. Yet the Lord comes along side Joshua to remind him their strength and purpose is not found in following a man, but in following the Lord. They had yet to take possession of the Promised  Land, and God was not done yet. God had a plan and purpose for their lives even after the passing of Moses. 

The nation needed a new breath of life and God was there to give it to them. They were to continue the mission and assume control of the lands they were given. It was a new chapter and all new chapters are scary with the unknown staring you right in the face.  The Lord says one phrase over and over through this chapter, "be strong and courageous. I challenge you to underline each time it is stated in your Bible. God reminded Joshua and the people of Israel that He would not leave them. He would go before them as they entered this new chapter and would give their enemies into their hands. 

Even as they were fulfilling God's plans they would honor the legacy of Moses; completing what he could not. They would not be forgetting the man who lead them so far, they would carry on his work by not giving into despair and fear but by girding themselves up in the power the Lord would supply and finishing the mission. 

When we have lost a dear one it may seem that life as we know it has passed and that we too have died a little with that one we loved so much.  They encouraged us and strengthened us, our plans were joined with theirs. I believe God would say the same to us today, "be strong and courageous, I am with you and there is still my plan for your life to complete". Your love for that dear one is not diminished if you carry on; your love is demonstrated in the fulfillment of the plans that were begun. After all, their story is woven into the tapestry of God's love story to mankind, you are the thread now finishing out this work. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.