Friday, July 31, 2015

Joshua 24 - Everyone Serves

No matter who we are, we serve under a leader. Some may choose to serve self, some serve materialism, some serve fame and some serve other gods with a variety of names. We are all driven to serve the God of our choosing. Joshua challenges Israel to "choose this day who you will serve". 

Israel had not always been faithful to God, but Joshua outlines the many ways God has been faithful to His people from the time He called Abraham out of the land of his fathers.  Joshua calls Israel to remember their history. God watches over Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

When they were in Egypt, God saw the oppression and delivered them by afflicting the Egyptians and protecting them by miraculous interventions. When they arrived East of the Jordan, God himself fought on their behalf and overcame the Amorites.  

God has demonstrated His faithfulness through the ages. As I think back one own life I know that to be true. Like the Israelites I have not always been faithful. Each day I am challenged as I open my Bible  to choose this day who I will serve. I am challenged to make a memorial of my commitment to remind me to whom I belong. 

God longs for his people to did contentment in Him. Will we be headstrong and defiantly go our own way or will we choose to make our life count and live in faithful service?  Josh 24:14 should be the challenge we all take. "Fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods you used to worship and serve the Lord". A good word for us all. 

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Joshua 23 - Last Words

Words are powerful. They can break a person or build them up. They can chastise or encourage. But final words have a special significance. They reveal what is important to the speaker knowing they may never have an opportunity to communicate this way again. 

Joshua, being advanced in years and having accomplished his mission to bring the Israelites into the promised land and settle them realizes his time has come. He passes on to the nation a challenge that could be passed down to every generation... "Be careful to love the Lord your God" Josh 23:11. 

Joshua reminds the people of how the Lord has fought for the people allowing them to take possession of the land, but he also reminds them of God's promise to punish them and remove them from the land of they were not faithful. Joshua reminds the people that the Lord will bring evil upon the people if they do not honor their covenant with God. (Josh 23:15). God has the ability and discretion to bless or to curse. Joshua encourages his brethren to choose the way of blessing. 

You and I could read ourselves into this story. I know the pull the world and sin have in my life and that daily I make a choice to trust God or to follow another way. I know that taking a stand for the Lord in our generation leaves a person exposed to all kinds of mockery and criticism. But we are called to be Gods children and stand strong in our faith even when the world is not hospitable.  We are to witness of God's greatness even among those who scoff. 

We who belong to the Lord know our eternal position is secure, but God will judge our witness among the world and may even bring disaster here to bring us back to dependence on Him alone. 

He also pours out blessing to the faithful. For those who are rich in the Lord know that God provides all our needs according to His riches in glory. The riches may not be temporal but they are greater than anything we could think to ask for. 

So, today we are challenged to be careful to love the Lord our God. Let's make our love known to the world around us today. 

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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Joshua 22 - Getting it Right

The nation of Israel is not known for getting a lot of "Atta-boys". For years they struggled with obedience and their fickle hearts left them wandering for forty years in the desert. But here in this chapter, we have a great story about getting things right. 

If you remember for earlier chapters (see Num 32), at the first battle where land was conquered the Reubenites and Gadites saw all the rich pastureland on the east bank of the Jordan and asked Moses for their inheritance right there. Moses commanded them to go across and continue the claim of land for their brother tribes and they would not rest in their land until all the tribes had their portion. Now many years later, Joshua is commending them for their service and releasing them to return to their land. They received their portion of the spoils of war including livestock, gold, bronze and iron they could take to enrich their people. 

When the Reubenites, Gadites and the 1/2 tribe of Manasseh built a large altar on the bank of the Jordan (Josh 22:10) their brother tribes were alarmed and fearful that the tribes easy of the Jordan had given into idol worship and rightly sent the priests to confront them. As Christians we have a responsibility to our fellow believers to encourage them in holy living and to redirect when they have gone astray (in love). 

The priests noted (Josh 22:18) that the entire nation might suffer as a result of their sin. We do not sin in isolation.  Just as Adam's one sin has been passed down through the ages, so our sin impacts others. When I consider our own nation and the way we have treated God, I am fearful like the western nations at this time were. God must judge sin; He won't continue to allow His name to be defamed. 

The Reubenites, the Gadites and the 1/2 tribe of Manasseh clarified the purpose of the altar was a holy one to assure the tribes on both sides of the Jordan that there was one God who united them and who is Sovreign over the affairs of the nations. They saw the how the boundary of the Jordan might one day be seen as a divider of the nation and they wanted to be sure that their descendants had a reference point they could look to and be reminded of who they were. Not only had they done well they had taken a proactive effort to preserve the unity they had as God's people. 

There is so much for us to take from this passage.  

1.  Like the Eastern tribes we should faithfully serve for the benefit of all. As Christians we are called to look out for the welfare of our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

2.  Like the western tribes and the priests we should be ready to quickly address sin in our midst and confront it in love when we see a brother or sister straying from their walk with the Lord. We are not independent believers, but the body of Christ. Note: when confronting sin we should use the utmost care and humility to ensure we do not allow this sin to divide us but to use our common faith to unite us and direct us. 

3.  We should proactively establish guards in our lives that will keep us from straying from the faith. If we evaluate our lives we can see the places we have strayed and anticipate ways we might be tempted in the future and establish guards for ourselves and our family. We should make every effort to protect the faith. When we are in good spaces - in right relationship to God - we are in the best place to establish protections for the future. 

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

Monday, July 20, 2015

Joshua 21 - Final Inheritance

God is faithful in all his dealings with his people.  Just as he promised Moses, the Levites would not have a land of their own, but they would be interspersed throughout the territories of Israel. 

They were selected for special service to the Lord so they were not first in receiving their portion, but last. They would be among the people and they would take command of the sanctuary cities mentioned in the last chapter. 

As Christians, God has placed us throughout the world without a permanent possession, but our full inheritance is in Heaven and we are placed here for the Lord's service. God places people in every station of life that there would be no one who would not have access to a Christian and benefit fro the gospel we share. We are specially chosen by God and placed in his service. 

Just as the Levites were given charge of the sanctuary cities, we too are charged with caring for the needs of the vulnerable. We have been blessed to be a blessing. Our inheritance is not here so there is nothing that we need to greedily guard.  But God protects his children nonetheless. Look to Joshua 21:44; "the Lord gave them rest on every side". There were no enemies who could overtake them; they were secure in the place where God provides.  There is evil in the world and Satan dominates the wills of those who are lost, but God protects his own and they are secure. 

Joshua 21:45 is such a beautiful verse that each of us should keep close to us. Not one of God's promises failed. Everyone fulfilled. Dear Christian, like the Israelites, we have been delivered from the land of slavery (sin) where we are oppressed from within, but we have not arrived at our promised land. We are placed in the middle of conflict and corruption to influence the world and to stand firm in our faith. The One who is Faithful and True will see us through and will lavish our inheritance upon us that includes peace and absolute security. 

We need to remember that God keeps his promises. We have the hope of his return for us and we can know that every promise God made will be fulfilled. Don't give up when the circumstances seem dark. God is not hindered in honoring his promise.  He will deliver right on time and his fulfillment could be any day. Look up dear Christian. God is on his throne and we have a great inheritance in store!

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

Friday, July 10, 2015

Joshua 20 - Help in Time of Trouble

In the days of Joshua, there was an established practice that if someone is killed, a representative from that person's family is to avenge the victim by bringing the killer to the authorities to be executed. The avenger would help to organize the witnesses so that their loved one would have vindication. God had established capital punishment as early as the time of Noah (Gen 9:6). 

If the death was accidental, a person could fall prey to the avenger and not have protection. God overcame that by establishing cities of refuge interspersed throughout the land so that there was safety nearby any area of Israel. As long as the person stayed within the walls of the city and the high priest was living, they would be safe from the avenger. 

This is a wonderful picture of the security we have in Christ. Anyone, Jew or Gentile is welcome to find sanctuary. He is called our Refuge. There are a number of Psalms that mention this but Psalm 9:o says, "The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble."  What an encouragement for us who live in a world filled with anger and wickedness. We can find refuge in the arms of our Lord. 

Like the sanctuary cities, the Lord is never far off. He welcomes all who come and offers security to those who remain inside his walls of protection. The distinction between the cities and our Lord is that the cities were offered to those who were not guilty, but we know that our sin makes us overwhelmingly guilty; yet our Lord paid out debt and allows us freedom even though we are worthy of judgement. 

Our penalty like that of the murderer was death. Eternal damnation with the demons, yet we can flee to Jesus and find security. He gives us a new life and new hope within His protection. 

Our reward is greater than anything we could purchase with money here. We get the promise of eternal life and even more, God's Spirit comes to reside in our hearts to guide us and to comfort us, but also to give us the measure of love and grace to be applied to others.  The same grace we received when we found sanctuary. 

I hope you know that security we have in Christ. If you don't, it isn't too late to find it. Confess that you know that God has every right to execute justice over your sin. Confess your sins and ask His forgiveness. Accept the offer of eternal life provided through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and find life in Him. 

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

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Joshua 19 - Land of Promise

Chapters 14 - 19 are difficult to read for us. The distribution of land and establishment of borders just seem like endless names to us who are not familiar with the land. I had to take out some Bible maps just to get a sense of where the boundaries were. But for the people of Israel this distribution was great celebration. They had never known a place of their own and now by God's power they were settling into that land of promise. The land that Abraham and Isaac had once called home was now theirs to inhabit. 

There is something so satisfying about having a place of your own to call home. No more would they travel about in tents, but they could now build permanent houses and farm the land. They could establish businesses and trade. They finally had a place of rest. They would pass their portion down to their children and they would continue this legacy that God established in his promise to Abraham. 

There would be future events that would take place in this promised land. Some hard; like the destruction of the temple and the occupation of Assyria and Babylon. There would also be some monumentous occasions like the birth of our Lord Jesus and His glorious resurrection. The first Christian church would meet here and the Jewish people would forever see this land as their true home. 

The Israelites were smack dab in the middle of their story. So much had transpired, but so much was yet to come. We too look forward to our inheritance as saints of God. Our home is not here. We like the Isrealites for so many years wander about in a foreign land where we really don't fit. We look forward to the time when our Lord returns and gives to us our inheritance. 

Our story, God's story, is in the middle of being told. So much has transpired, yet there is so much yet to come. I am sure that the Israelites had lost hope wandering in the wilderness and waiting for something that seemed so remote, so unattainable. We too wait in our own desert of God's making. Looking forward to the return of our Lord to take us to be with Him, but in the meantime we are being molded and shaped into the bride of Christ showing His character and His beauty. We are getting ready for that inheritance though it seems we have been waiting all our lives. Our promised land will one day fill us with gladness and joy but we can anticipate it now as we look forward to the greates celebration man has ever known. That is when we will receive the good and lasting inheritance being stored up for us as we serve the Lord here in waiting. 

Be faithful in service and look upward as you anticipate your rich reward. 

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