Setting up Memorials–Joshua 4

We are fortunate that we have the Bible, it memorializes the amazing things that God has done and provides the context and promises we can cling to as his chosen people.  But, as Joshua led the nation of Israel out of the Jordan River and on to the outskirts of Jericho, there was no Bible, no commentaries.  Then they had the oral history of the life of man and the books written by Moses to assist in the transition to a free people.

 That is why God directed the people to build monuments.  The monuments did not necessarily tell the stories of the Journey, but the serve as reminders to reinforce what God had done.  Such monuments stood by the Red Sea, by Where Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, By where God sent water out of the rock and various other places and significant points in Bible History.  Such memorials (Memory-ials) were and are used so that people will never forget the significance of the place and what occurred there.  As Israel learned, the hard way, when there is no emphasis placed on events, people soon forget.  Look at Egypt-saved by God through the work of Joseph.  Exodus 1 states—“Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; 10 come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens”

 In our lives, we spend a great deal of time and money setting up memorials. Scrapbooks, albums, trophy cases, pennants and posts on various social media all are done so we will not forget the significant events in our lives.   God calls us to also memorialize the significant moments he has caused-salvation, marriage, missions, trials, provisions and miracles we have seen.  All this, as with Joshua and Israel, so we may never forget that he is God and personally invested in our lives.  Whether by oral tradition or by cloud based memorial—I urge you to stack the stones of God’s work in your lives and the lives of your family—so that when time passes, you and your family will never forget what he has done in your life.

 God Bless You

On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. 20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea[b] when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”

God’s Choice Established–Joshua 3 Part 2

Face it, Joshua had big sandals to fill.  Moses was Israel’s leader for over forty years. He had done a host of miracles and spent days alone with God to prepare him to lead the nation of Israel.  Joshua had clearly been with him through the journey. But, now, as the people entered the land—Joshua needed confirmation that God appointed him to lead, to clear out Israel’s enemies and settle the land. 

Interestingly enough, God parts the Jordan River in front of Jericho, and allows the Israelites to cross on dry land—In the history of this free people, no story is more memorable or amazing than Moses parting the Red Sea. I am sure the Israelites and the people in Jericho knew the story and were awe struck to see it repeated. So, God uses Joshua to part the Jordan in the same way.  One path in to freedom—then one path in to their inheritance.  There could be no clearer affirmation of Joshua’s choice as leader.

Once we realize that God does direct our journey; it is incumbent upon us to follow humbly and with a grateful heart.  He will establish his leadership in a host of different ways.  If we are paying attention, he will provide confirmation of his leadership, time and again,  In John 14:21, Jesus reminds the disciples that if we love God and are obedient—he will reveal himself to us.  It is as if he pulls back the curtain and stands transparent–showing us the steps along the way.  The bottom line is this—if we will live a life that honors God, in his time, he will confirm his plan and honor us as his choice.

God Bless You

And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river…’” Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”

14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

God Provides Leadership–Joshua 3 Part 1

After following a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night  for more than 40 years, God was ready to give the chosen people of Israel their inheritance.  As they crossed over to their land, God made a significant change—He told the people to follow the priests and the Ark of the covenant.  This change may seem minor, but, it was as much a doctrinal change as it was physical.

This was a wandering people—they  traveled in a group, camped in a group and lived in a group.  They only needed one leader and one priest. Now, as they were crossing over they would each settle on their own place. Each tribe would have its own land, each family their own home—settled and  defined.  So the role of the Levitical priests changed , they would now be the spiritual leaders of their communities.  God made sure as  the people passed into the land, they would follow his ark and his priests.

Fast forward to today, We live in a culture that has tried to eradicate God from the country.  Yet, each community is filled with men and women called by God to lead his folks.  If the people listen and trust God, and his leaders, as God told Joshua—then  God will do amazing things among them. He will do amazing things  among us.  That  is why  it says–If we trust in the Lord with all our hearts, lean not on our own  understanding, and acknowledge him in all our ways—then he will make our paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

God Bless You

Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits[a] between you and the ark; do not go near it.”

Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.

And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”

God’s Plans are Best and Complete-Joshua 2

Often men’s greatest fears are either unfounded or directed by God himself.  In the land of Canaan, the land teeming with giants…, God had been working for a generation to prepare the Canaanites for their removal from the land.  So, when Joshua sent in the spies to scout Jericho, the spies learned first what Joshua had already known for forty years—God would precede Israel and make their way clear to claim their inheritance. 

 Still, it was quite useful to receive confirmation from Rahab, the prostitute. No other person in Jericho would have been prepared to receive the spies or to protect and prepare them for their entry into Canaan.  What’s more, this particular prostitute was to play an even bigger role in the salvation of Israel.  This prostitute later became David’s (That’s right King David’s) Great, Great Grandmother!

 If we can grasp the detail with which God prepares his plan for the lives of his chosen, it is much easier to trust him with our future and the timing of our future.  It was no accident that the spies ended up at Rahab’s home. It was not an accident for the spies; and it was not an accident for Rahab. More importantly, God used Rahab–despite her choices of the past and despite the uncertainty of her future.  She was uniquely equipped to begin the retaking of Israel.  We cannot fully absorb the mind or plans of God, but, we can learn to trust him and follow his lead—clinging to thousands of years of proof that he knows us and he knows what he is doing. (Romans 8:28)

 God Bless You

 Before the spies lay down for the night, she[Rahab] went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea[a] for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.[b] 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below

The Gospel–I Corinthians 15

On this Easter weekend, it is important to remember why we celebrate.  It is not about the Bunnies, eggs or spring.  No, quite simply, it is because while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) If we would only allow the scope of this amazing sacrifice to grab us, we would not spend our days sad and anxious.  Instead, we would be sharing the message of the gospel to all who need to hear it.

 Calvary crossOur culture would love to eradicate this holiday—much like the attempt to eradicate Thanksgiving. Truth is, we should be celebrating the resurrection with a passion like none other.  The very thought that God became flesh and died.  Then, he rose from the dead breaking death’s chains on himself and all that would believe.  Ladies and gentlemen, that is something to celebrate!!! Join me, this weekend in a rip-roaring festival of humility and thanksgiving—knowing we, his chosen, will spend eternity in God’s presence—covered in his love and devotion!

 Happy Easter, and God Bless You

 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Be Strong and Courageous! Joshua 1 Part 2

Imagine the anxiety and fear associated with leading a group of people that wondered the desert their entire life.  Your mission–take them into a land and run everyone else off–simply become a nation of people that no longer wonders but builds a life and builds a culture. Clearly, God picked the best successor. Joshua knew Moses and God like no one else. Still, God knew that for Joshua to be successful, he would have to draw on two things—daily.

First and foremost, God told Joshua to draw on his courage.  The mighty warrior and  faithful soldier must now dig deep and be strong—never wavering in times of trouble; and courageous. Great leaders must have the strength to be unpopular, to make hard decisions regarding life and death and to stay above the temptation to allow their power to corrupt them or control them. That was no small task—Even Aaron, Moses brother crafted the idols used by the Israelites while Moses was getting the 10 Commandments.

The other source of the great leader was the Word of God. God told Joshua—Keep the word at the forefront of your thoughts and actions.  Learn it, meditate on it day and night and let it be your source and guide to decision making and wisdom. Remember, God more than any person, knew how to be great—He created us and he guided these folks from the start. With God, there was no hidden agenda.  He simply wanted to fulfill his covenant. He knew that His roadmap would make that possible.

For us, the same instruction holds true.  Be strong and courageous. In a culture that is in chaos, God’s people have to stand for what is right. Truth, family, justice and moral absolutes are precious commodities in America and around the world.  We have to stand firm, like Joshua. We have to have the courage to lead our families through the chaos and to the promise of eternity—make no mistake, if we do not, no one else is going to.

Finally, Like Joshua, God calls us to cling to his word as a source of strength, direction and wisdom.  There simply is no other single source of truth in our world.  Learn it, use it and meditate on it daily to guide and strengthen you.  This is instruction from the creator—the one that knows us best and loves us most.  If you will follow, then, you will truly be free.

God Bless You

I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

New Leader, New Life–Joshua 1 Part 1

If there was ever a happy story, the book of Joshua would be it.  God had marched with his covenant people through the desert for 40 years.  He fed them, watered them, led them, taught them.  He protected them from their enemies and corrected them as they periodically slipped away from his lead.  He partnered with Moses to take a bunch of defeated slaves and restore them to His royal family.

Moses was dead and now, it was time to realize their covenant.  Israel was finally home. Joshua had been at Moses side from the time they left Egypt.  He climbed Mount Sinai with Moses to receive the Law from God.  He was one of only 2 spies that saw this land for what it was—a beautiful gift that only God could and would deliver to his people.  Now after the generation that would not be free had died—Joshua would lead a generation of people that understood how to trust and follow God and His leader to their inheritance.

 In our lives, we are often faced with opportunities to realize God’s promise in our lives. Many times, like Israel, we pull away from his lead out of fear or simple skepticism.  As we follow Joshua’s lead, we will see that things CAN be great if we will simply trust and obey God, his word and his leadership.  One can be sure that God’s plan rarely matches ours, however, we can be equally sure His plan is best! Joshua’s story should encourage and empower us to simply follow God and allow Him to do what brings Him the greatest joy—bless us.

 God Bless You

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

Be Watchful and Wise–Romans 16

Sadly, “Men of God” often use their office and influence to meet their personal agenda and personal gain.  Make no mistake, while they are labeled men of God, they are first and foremost MEN. Men are frail and always subject to their personal human nature. Often, they start out well—but, their desire for power or possessions begin to overtake their calling and mission.  Paul had seen many such men in his missionary journeys.  He had warned the flocks in several of the letters to be watchful for such men.

Sadly, many who are influenced by self-ascribed prophets are taken in by their eloquence or their promise of worldly gain for those follow most devoted.  In many cases, the leaders measure the devotion by the amount of treasure expended for the furtherance of the gospel. Their talks all center around the prosperity to be gained by giving more. Very little discussion is centered on knowing Christ or following his leadership—It is always how one can enjoy worldly wealth by faithfully sharing their earthly goods for the great ministry.

In our day little has changed.  There are still several preachers and evangelists who still work a crowd and gladly accept their gifts of faith to build a temple to their ministries.  While several that sacrificially give resemble the widow and her mites, the pastor and evangelists wear custom suits, drive luxury vehicles and travel the world to further the mission.  God tells us to be watchful—do not be taken in by those whom would use your offerings and devotion for their personal power and gain.  We vote with our feet.  If we walk by faith and follow God closely, we will be able to discern the truth and will be able to distinguish the true shepherds from those that are simply wolves in shepherds cloth.  Be courageous—stand with those who stand with him.

God Bless You

 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

21 Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews.

22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.

23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.

Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings. [24] [e]

25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from[f] faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Your Ministry was Built for You–Romans 15 Part 2

There comes a point in every journey that the chosen of God realize they were called to be ministers.  In that journey, they grow in peace knowing that while that ministry may not look like anyone else’s ministry, they have been uniquely called and prepared to carry it out. Such was the case with Paul. 

He was trained by the best, he was as ambitious as any Pharisee could be.  He was then specifically called by Jesus to do the unthinkable—be the missionary to the Gentiles.  What a call! But, looking back at this point, Paul was very pleased that God entrusted him with the people all over Europe and Asia.  He saw the world changing around him and would not have had it any other way. Paul wanted them and us to be content in the ministry they were given.

We need to think like Paul.  Look around—see the ministry you have been given.  Realize that you have been uniquely gifted to carry out the plan God has set before you.  It may or may not be glamorous.  It may or may not be easy—but, if you are doing what he has prepared for you, you can bet it will be fulfilling and impacting on the world around you.  Don’t fear, don’t envy and don’t procrastinate. Simply do what God has set before you.

God Bless You

I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— 19 by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.

Grin and Bear It–Romans 15 Part 1

What a crazy thought…The simple act of biting your lip is an act of worship to our Lord.  Paul was a very outspoken guy, he had trekked on 3 missionary journeys across Europe and Asia.  In each of those journeys, he had opportunities to see the best and the worst of the family of Christ both in the Jewish and Gentile world.  Yet, as he was wrapping up his guide to following Christ–in Rome, he focused on this major theme—People are weak, they will disappoint you—So if you want to be like Christ, then bear with them. 

No ministry in the family of God is more personal or more Christ like than the ministry of accepting people as being flawed.  Then working with them and encouraging them to be like Christ.  People respond to patient encouragement.  Think of Jesus—he literally spent three years pouring into the Apostles—they heard all his sermons, saw all his miracles and saw him at his best and most vulnerable moments.  Still, on the day of his crucifixion, they scattered like mice and hid.  After he rose, he met up with them, did not judge them—but prepared them for what became the tool that changed the world.

We are to be like him.  We are to bear with each other, recognize the frailty of men and patiently encourage and drive them to a right relationship with him.  Alcoholic’s Anonymous gets it—they offer regular times to meet, they always listen and encourage—without judging, they take life one day at a time and they move people to sobriety.  Hi, My name is Mike and I’m a sin alcoholic.  It has been ___ minutes since my last sin…(WELCOME MIKE!!!) Jesus said it best, “Let he who is without sin—cast the first stone!”

God Bless You

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”[a] For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.