Monthly Archives: June 2017

Joshua 22-24; God’s Compassionate Discipline

When you feel the sting of God’s discipline, do you ever consider it a sign of His compassion? 3:1 tells us God allowed the enemy nations to live with the Jews in Canaan “to teach warfare” to His children. Living among the enemy would require skills, stamina, and strategies. God, because He loved them, wanted them prepared to battle.

Maybe you’re like me and think it sure would be nice if, when a person becomes a Christian, God would just straighten out the path, remove all sickness and heartache, and make life a bed of roses. But that’s not realistic. As long as we continue to have the ability to choose, we will choose sin once in a while. That’s how we are wired.

Think about it. God shows His compassion every time we sin, and He doesn’t kill us. He shows His compassion when He disciplines us, refines us through the fire, so that we can have fellowship with Him instead of being cut off from Him.

The next time you identify sin as the reason you are going through a difficulty, thank God. Our compassionate Father is giving you a chance to get right with Him.

I think of the beautiful hymn, “Amazing Grace.” The second verse says that it was God’s grace that taught us to fear Him, and it’s the same grace that erases our fear of Him. How amazing is that?

God is compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalm 145:8)

Thank you, God, for loving me enough to discipline me, to prepare me to battle my enemy Satan, for giving me opportunities to confess sin and accept your amazing grace. You are worthy of my praise, no matter what circumstances I find myself in. You love me more than I can comprehend. I worship You.

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Joshua 22-24; Choose

I wonder how many times Scripture tells us to “choose.” I wonder how often Scripture either explains in words or in examples the blessings associated with choosing God, and the severe consequences for choosing anything else. Never underestimate the importance of your choices.

God’s made His choice. He chose you. He went to the cross for you. He bought your salvation and is willing to shower you with grace.

When the jailer asked Paul what he needed to do to be saved, Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 16) In Joshua 24, the Jewish leader told the Jews to “choose today” who they would serve. Would they choose God, or the idols of their neighbors?

Choose Jesus today, my friend. Admit you are a sinner, and receive the forgiveness He died to give you. But let me remind you, if you say you aren’t quite ready to give your life to the Lord today, you’ve made your choice to reject Him today. Don’t do it.

Accept Jesus. Choose to obey Him. Choose today who you will serve.

Joshua 18-21; The Donut Hole

I’m the type of person who usually needs to see something in order to understand it. So reading these chapters concerning the division of the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel is like trying to read Chinese or something. It’s meaningless. The map in my study Bible didn’t help much. It had the tribal names in the right places, but it didn’t show the borders. It kind of all ran together for me.

Then I found a map on biblestudy.org that not only drew in the borders, they color-coded the different tribes! Now I get it.

But what is it I get? I’m not one to spend a lot of time studying the material components of Scripture. I don’t have a burning desire to visit that area of our world we call the Holy Land. But because God inspired the recording of the details concerning this property survey, I figure it must be important. So I pulled out my commentaries.

Didn’t get a lot of insight. But Matthew Henry did connect some dots. Like telling me Mount Carmel and Nazareth were in Zebulun’s territory. The tiny area allotted to Issachar is where Ahab’s palace was, where Sisera was beaten by Deborah, where Saul and Jonathan were killed. It was a happening place! Anna, the prophetess who hung out at the temple until she could hold baby Jesus, came from all the way up north in Asher.

I’ve spent all morning dot-connecting. I found it very interesting. But is the reason why these chapters are included in Scripture so that we can get to know a piece of dirt that will perish with the rest of the world some day? I put my commentaries aside, and asked God if there was something He wanted to say to me.

I stared at the map on my computer screen for a while and my eyes kept going to the southern most part of the Promised Land. It’s where Judah received their inheritance, and it’s one of the largest portions of land. But right in the middle, like a donut hole, is Simeon’s land. Simeon, who had disgraced himself, and who was cursed by his father Jacob because of his sin, was placed right in the middle of the territory given to his brother Joseph’s family.

The black sheep of the family was surrounded by the family Savior.

Now there’s a lesson!

I think this is a beautiful picture of how we are to handle it when a brother or sister in Christ sins. So often, we turn our backs on them. We shun them. We talk about them behind their backs. But God, painting a beautiful picture here, puts that sinner right in the middle, surrounds them with the strongest believers.

I notice that the map I have of this area during the time of King David, identifies that area simply as “Judah.” My research tells me that by that time, most of the tribe of Simeon were assimilated into Judah. I LOVE THAT!!!!

The New Testament tells us that when a brother sins, we are to confront him, talk to him, take one or two others with us to do everything we can to bring that person back into the fold. Yes, there may come a time to disconnect. But that should never be our first response.

So the next time you become aware of someone in your family or your church fellowship  who is falling away, remember you are the donut. Surround that person, embrace that person, love that person back to the Lord.

I hope your family will do the same for you.

 

 

Joshua 11-17; Still Ticking

I retired from public education in 2011. I’d spent 37 years working with kids, parents, and fellow teachers. And I loved it. But during Christmas break in 2010, I knew it was time for me to go. I was tired.

Much has happened in the six years I’ve been retired. And I haven’t regretted my decision to move on from teaching. I will say, though, that this chapter in my life has its own challenges.

Caleb was in his 80’s when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. Now, at 85, he was ready to tackle his own challenge, and take the land God had given him. It meant war, and hardship. But he said he felt as strong at 85 as he did at 40. I’m not close to 85, but I don’t feel as strong as I felt at 40.  I wonder what he ate for breakfast.

I’m reminded that obeying God, and serving Him does not have an age limit. I have a dear friend who’s mother has had several hospital stays the past few months as doctors try to get a sore on her foot to heal. She’s been in a lot of pain.

But that hasn’t stopped her from sharing Jesus. She talks about her Savior to everyone who comes into her room. She hands out business cards with our church’s address and phone number, and invites them to join us. Doctors, nurses, orderlies, volunteers, janitors, have all received a special invitation from this dear woman. They all know and love Ms Madelyn.

Ms Madelyn’s ministry has changed over the years. She can’t teach Sunday School or work in the nursery or sing in the choir. But even in the midst of her pain, she’s obeying Jesus’ Great Commission. She is still involved in ministry.

Ministry changes with age, as does simple tasks we take for granted. My back isn’t as strong as it used to be, my knee gives me problems from time to time, I don’t have the stamina I once had, and my hands are showing signs of arthritis. But my heart is still ticking, and I have a job to do.

At prayer meeting last Wednesday, we prayed for an especially long list of people with physical needs. Cancer, heart problems, organ failure, the health of our elderly population is getting more precarious all the time. Our pastor told us he’d read that someone once said the aging process is a gift from God, intended to wean us away from this life, and get us looking forward to the next.

It’s kind of like the timing of my decision to retire from teaching. People kept tell me I’d know when it was time for me to retire. I remember saying, “Then I’ll never retire, because I love my job.” And I did. For 36 1/2 years I loved it. But during that particular Christmas break, I realized I was worn out physically, mentally, and emotionally. I didn’t have the same enthusiasm I had when I was first out of college. I didn’t wake up each day eager to get to school to be with my kids. Even my colleagues started getting on my nerves.

I think what the pastor shared about aging being a gift from God, is true. I know the older I get, the more I am aware that this body is wearing out, and the more I think about living in heaven. I just never considered these aches and pains gifts from God, a way a loving God helps us let go of this life, and grasp His hand to lead us into eternity.

So what I take from these chapters today is to be faithful with the abilities God has given me today, in 2017. I may not be able to do the things I once did. But I can do the things God asks me to at this stage of life. If God can help Caleb conquer nations at 85, I’m pretty sure He is going to help me with the battles He wants me to win today, too.

You’re never too old to tell someone about Jesus. Not while your heart is still ticking.

 

Joshua 8-10; Wax or Clay?

The Israelites had a reputation in Canaan. Or rather, the God of Israel had a reputation. The people inhabiting the Promised Land had heard the stories. Plagues in Egypt. Impressive victories in war. The Jordan River crossing. City walls collapsing.

Not only that, but the Canaanites knew the amazing God of the Jews had promised His children their land. If that happened, the Canaanites knew they would lose everything, including their freedom, maybe their lives. What to do?

The Gibeonites decided to go to the Jews and form a treaty. Five other kings decided to join forces to fight the Jews. One king heard the truth and chose surrender. Five kings heard the truth and chose to defy God.

Matthew Henry reminds us the same sun melts wax, and hardens clay.

It’s the same with truth today. I don’t need to give examples. You see it every day on a work-wide level, in our nation, our schools, in some churches, and in hearts of people close to us. We saw it when they hung Jesus on the cross.

Truth: There is ONE GOD, the creator and supreme ruler over all creation. Jesus is GOD’S SON, eternal God in human form. God is HOLY. He demands holiness of anyone who will come to Him. But we have sinned against Him. ALL OF US have sinned against Him. So in and of ourselves, there is NO HOPE, because the penalty for every sin is DEATH, eternal separation from God. But Jesus went to the cross to die, to pay the debt of our sin, of my sin, of your’s. And whether you want to believe it or not, Jesus is THE ONLY WAY to God.

Does that truth melt your heart, or make you angry? Do you want to surrender to God, or deny Him? Do you want to accept the truth, or fight against it?

I hope you’ll read these chapters in Joshua today. Find out for yourself what happens when people surrender, then enjoy God’s protection from the enemy. And find out what happens when people refuse to surrender, when they take up arms against God. They didn’t stand a chance.

Holy God, I surrender. I am a sinner who deserves your wrath. I deserve to die for the sins I’ve committed. But I’ve heard about You, how powerful and awesome You are. And when I hear You say there is only one hope of salvation, I believe it. So, God, I accept Jesus. I repent of sin, I turn my life over to You. Because the truth is, when I stand before You on that day, I don’t want You looking at me, seeing my sin. I want You to look at me and see Jesus. He is my Savior. And He is the Savior of anyone who surrenders to the truth.

Joshua 6-7; Quit Crying

When you were a kid, did you ever hear the words, “Quit crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about?” I have to admit I heard it more than once from my dad, the father of five girls. ‘Nuff said.

I have a great nephew who I adore. When he was younger, and didn’t get his way, or was disappointed about something, his voice would go up about two octaves, he’d scrunch up his face, and he’d whine. One time, during one of these delightful episodes, I asked him if he ever got his way when he whined like that.

“No,” he whined. (good on you, parents) I smile.

You do know we have raised a generation of whiners, don’t you? You can’t watch the news without seeing some millennial whining about something. It’s embarrassing.

The Israelites had just watched Jericho crumble. God had given them such an amazing victory, they seem to have felt invincible. “Let’s get Ai,” they decided.

So Joshua sent some men into Ai to check out the lay of the land. They came back with a glowing report. “Piece of cake. Send a few soldiers and we’ll take that city with no problem.” Hoo-rah.

Well, Joshua did send only about 3,000 soldiers. And they were soundly defeated. Routed. Crushed. They went running for their lives like cockroaches when the lights turn on.

When Joshua heard they had lost the battle, he tore his clothes and fell face down on the ground before the ark. He stayed there all day like that. The elders followed suit.

Then Joshua prayed something like this: Why God? We should have never crossed the Jordan. The Canaanites think we’re a joke now. They’ll attack and defeat us. They’ll wipe us out. It’s not fair. (I can imagine his voice was a couple octaves higher, too)

I love how God answered that prayer, and I can almost hear my dad’s unsympathetic voice as God says, “Get up. Quit whining.”

God goes on: “Israel has sinned. Do you honestly expect me to give you victory when you treat me like that? You know better. A deal’s a deal, and you’ve broken your end of the bargain by your disobedience. Don’t come crying to me. This is on you.”

That’s rough. Where is compassion? Where is tolerance: Where is this love that everyone is talking about?

God’s compassion and love are never directed toward sin. God never looks at a sin and weakens because of a tear in our eye. He cannot and will not tolerate sin. His holiness demands that.

I think God would have us take Him very seriously concerning this sin thing. In God’s eyes, sin is sin. No grey areas there. Not only will God not tolerate sin, He cannot bless sin, either. The consequences for sin are serious. Deadly. I hope you read all of chapter 7 today. It’s not pretty.

It is futile to whine about God’s view of sin. You might think He’s unfair. In reality, He is absolutely fair. He hates your sin as much as He hates mine. And what is sin for you, is also sin for me. We don’t have to guess. He’s absolutely clear about that.

I can’t help but think of the movie, League Of Their Own. I’ve never watched the whole movie, but I’ve often seen the part where the frustrated coach of a girls’ baseball team tells a weepy player, “There’s no crying in baseball.” In life, as in baseball, there are rules. Three strikes and you’re out. Beat the ball to the base and you’re safe. Obey God and you are blessed. You can whine about the “unfairness.” But it doesn’t change the game.

Get over yourself, dear one. If you are holding on to a sin, and think God ought to bless you in spite of it, think again. If you want God’s blessing, repent, get rid of the sin, obey Him according to Scripture.

Quit crying. You just might find yourself with something to really cry about.

Joshua 3-5; 1,000 Yards Away

The Jews reached the Jordan River, but Canaan was on the other side. Plus, the river was at flood stage so that took wading across out of the mix. They could see the Promised Land. But there was a watery barrier between them and the blessing.

Then Joshua told them God’s plan: Have the Levites pick up the ark, and step into the Jordan. That in itself was an act of faith. And their obedience always speaks to me every time I read this Scripture. But something else jumped out at me today.

We know the Ark of The Covenant wasn’t just a fancy trunk containing valuable Jewish memorabilia. It was the place God sat on earth. It not only represented His Presence. It was His Presence. And no one could touch the ark and live.

The Levites took the ark into the river, the river stopped flowing, the Levites walked on dry ground and stood in the middle of the Jordan. The people were told to follow the ark, and they did.

Now here’s what I’ve been overlooking all these years: Joshua told the Israelites to stay 1,000 yards away from the ark. That’s ten football fields, over a half mile.

We’ve all seen the pictures in our Bibles, or on the walls of our Sunday School rooms. A wall of water looming over them on one side, dry ground on the other, priests standing there holding the ark, and Jews scurrying along to get to the other side. That’s not how it happened.

The ark stood there, all alone with only the Levites holding on to the poles. The wall of water was more than a half mile away, and the dry ground reached all the way to the sea.

The commentaries I read this morning pointed out some interesting thoughts about this. One, it tells us God stands alone. He doesn’t need our protection. Two, everyone could see it, and be assured by its presence. If they had crowded around it, only those closest to the ark would be able to see it. Standing back gave everyone the same opportunity to look and be encouraged. Three, no one would be in danger of accidentally bumping into it, which would have meant death to that person. And four, it demonstrates that a Holy God is untouchable.

So I sit here today and wonder what any of that has to do with us in 2017. The ark was meant to be followed. The Presence of the ark parted the waters when the Levites obeyed. But no one could get within a half mile of God. Is that the lesson today? Are we to take this to mean God is far off, working in our lives, but untouchable?

Yes.

God is so holy that no one ought to ever think about approaching Him closer than from 1,000 yards away. He is that holy.

But Jesus!

Makes me love Him all the more. When I take a look at God’s holiness as shown in Old Testament Scripture, I am humbled to know I have access to Him every moment of every day, up close and personal, because Jesus lets me wear His holiness! I deserve to be made to stand back from God. Way back from God.

But Jesus bids me, “Come.” Wow.

God has not changed. He is as holy as we see Him here in Joshua’s book.

But Jesus!

Holy God, I pray that we will never overlook the fact that You are Holy, Holy, Holy. I don’t think we really grasp that reality very well here in 2017. Thank You for sending Jesus to purchase holiness for me, so that I can come to You boldly, without fear of the death I deserve. It’s true that Jesus is the only access to the Father. I pray that everyone reading this blog post will receive Him and allow Him to be that bridge between us and You. You are holy. We are not. But because Jesus died on the cross, we don’t have stand 1,000 yards away from You. We can crawl up into Your lap, whisper in Your ear, and know You welcome us with open arms. I love You.