Category Archives: The Gospel

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 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.

Deuteronomy 30-34; The Law and Grace

What is your definition of grace? When you think of God’s grace, what comes to mind? Jesus? The cross? Forgiveness? Eternal life? What about, the Law?

I’ve heard religion criticized for being a list of rules, of “don’ts.” And actually, Moses reminds us it is. The Law is a very big part of this thing we call Christianity. Even though we know the Law is powerless to forgive sin.

The Law reveals sin, though. And in doing so, it points us to our Savior.

I guess God could have left us to our own devices, not defined sin for us, then sat back and watched us unknowingly crash and burn. Like a cop who knows the speed limit sign is missing, then pulls over unsuspecting drivers and tickets them for driving too fast.  Sorry, boys, not knowing the speed limit doesn’t change the speed limit.

Not knowing what sin is doesn’t change what sin is.

But God is full of grace. In Romans 7:7, Paul tells us he would not have known what sin even was if it had not been for the Law. I wouldn’t know what light was except for the darkness, what health was if it weren’t for sickness, what joy was but for sorrow. I wouldn’t know what forgiveness was if I didn’t know I needed to be forgiven.

Deuteronomy 33:3 tells us God loved the people, He held them in His hand, they worshiped Him, and God gave them the Law as a possession, an inheritance. God gave them the Law as something precious, not because they deserved it, but because He graciously wanted them to know their boundaries so they wouldn’t cross over them. Then He could bless them, like He longed to do.

The Law is still in effect today. Those boundaries are still in place. Idol worship is still a sin. Adultery, lying, dishonoring parents are still sins. And because the wages of every sin is death, God wanted to spell it all out so we would not be caught unawares.

He wanted to give us life instead of death. A life, as sinners, we don’t deserve. That’s grace. And in a very real way, the Law plays a big role in God’s grace.

Grace greater than all our sin.

God, thank you for letting me see your Law as an act of grace. You want us to know what sin is so that we are quick to repent of it, to accept what Jesus did on our behalf, and to enjoy unbroken fellowship with you. That’s grace. Thank you for grace that is even greater than my sin.

Deuteronomy 12-15; Life Is In The Blood

When Moses was teaching the Jews what animals were ok to eat and which ones to avoid, he kept repeating: “you must not eat the blood.” In 12:23 he tells them why:

because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat.

I know of people who will not eat a rare steak because of this directive. Is that what we’re to take from this passage?

For thousands of years, Jews refused to drink blood, while other nations did that as part of their worship of pretend gods. And for thousands of years the Jews taught their children, the life is in the blood.

The life is in the blood.

Then one day, Jesus sat with His disciples at dinner and said, “Take, eat. Take, drink.” The body (meat) and the blood, together. Why?

Because Life is in the blood.

I believe the disciples eventually understood exactly what Jesus was saying, because of the way they were raised. Jesus had told them He IS the Life. And Life is in the blood.

What we read in Deuteronomy isn’t just about dietary restrictions. It’s a picture of Jesus. It points to Calvary, where blood was shed so we can have life.

Life is in HIS blood.

Jesus did what the blood of millions of bulls could not do. He willingly shed His precious blood so that we can have life, abundant life, eternal life.

 

Deuteronomy 4-6; The Greatest Commandment

I was reading Moses’ re-teaching of the Ten Commandments, and was struck by the simplicity of them:

  1. Don’t worship other gods
  2. Don’t make idols
  3. Don’t misuse God’s Name
  4. Keep the Sabbath
  5. Honor your parents
  6. Don’t murder anyone
  7. Don’t commit adultery
  8. Don’t steal
  9. Don’t lie
  10. Don’t covet

Moses elaborated on these commandments later, but in a nutshell, these are the condensed version of God’s commandments to His people.

Do you remember how Jesus answered the young man who asked what the most important commandment is? Jesus said: Love God. Love each other.

Love is the umbrella over which all the other commandments exist. And God Himself IS love. (I John 4:8)

Now, I am by no means an authority on world religions. I have scratched only the surface in my study of them. But I can’t think of another religion whose god says, “Love me.” Or even one who claims to love its followers.

The God of the Bible demands obedience, for sure. But when you understand His love, those demands don’t seem so daunting. In fact, obedience becomes a privilege, not a ritual. Worshiping Him out of love produces love. And when I break a commandment, when I sin, I can receive forgiveness through the precious blood of God Himself, Jesus Christ.

Holy God, thank you for telling us, and retelling us what it is You require of us as Your people. As straightforward as those commandments are, I have broken them more than once. So, Father, I thank You for giving Your Son to pay the consequence for my sin. He did what I can never hope to do. And His perfection is mine through His blood. God, I thank You for love. First for Your love of me, then for the privilege of loving You in return, and lastly for the love that I share with Your people. May my life be lived in such a way that Your love is evident, and enticing. And may I obey You today, out of love.

 

Deuteronomy 1-3; “Why” Doesn’t Matter

I will admit I am a bit disappointed in Moses. As he is teaching an important history lesson to the children of Israel before they finally go into the Promised Land, he says something that is only partially true. He says it in 1:37, then again in 3:26.

“It’s because of YOU,” he tells them, “the Lord was angry with me and won’t let me go with you into Canaan.” Now, while it’s true the Jews had been whining about not having water, their verbal attacks on Moses were not the reason God was angry with him. It was Moses’ own disobedience that resulted in God’s punishment.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day. She shared that her son, a man who is celebrating fifteen years sober after many years addicted to drugs and alcohol, doesn’t want anything to do with church. A while back he attended a service, and an elderly saint said something that offended him, so therefore all Christians are judgmental and unkind.

Now being verbally attacked, whether you’re Moses or a recovering addict, is unfair, embarrassing, infuriating. You may have reason to be upset. But the fact of the matter is, when you stand before God, He’s not going to ask you how you felt you were treated by others in this lifetime. He’s not going to ask any of us WHY we refused to obey Him.

The “Why” won’t matter. But the “What” will.

What did you do with my Son? Did you repent of your sins? Did you accept His grace? Did you obey His Words? Did you live your life in such a way that drew others to the Savior?

When you meet Jesus face to face, the only thing that will matter is, does He know you? No excuses. No pointing fingers. Just you and Jesus.

What will you say?

Numbers 28-30; Old Testament Sacrifices and Jesus

I’m sure I say this every time I read passages describing the required Old Testament sacrifices but… there was so much blood! Thirteen bulls one day, twelve the next, then eleven, etc. Not to mention two rams and four lambs a day for a week. Oh, and don’t forget the daily goat sacrifice.

That’s a lot of blood being shed there at the temple.

We talked about the cross yesterday in Sunday School. Jesus did what the blood of millions of bulls could not do. His precious blood was shed once and for all. He laid down his life willingly, intentionally, painfully, and gloriously for the forgiveness of every sin every person has ever committed or will commit.

“It is finished,” He cried. Debt paid. Period.

All the requirements of Old Testament sacrifices were fulfilled in that one amazing act. The Old Testament sacrifices paint a picture of what Jesus did there on the cross. Sin is serious business. The consequence for sin is death, and without the shedding of blood God cannot forgive sin.

Praise Jesus! His blood was shed so that you and I can know the freedom that comes from accepting His grace, receiving the forgiveness He bought, and walking with the God of Creation, having Him living right in us.

Thanking God for the cross today.