March 13, 2015
Everything God has taken time to record for us in the Scripture is there on purpose. We must constantly ask God, ""What are you saying to me through this passage?"" if we are to discover His intent for our lives. The first nine chapters of Joshua (larger than many New Testament books) give a crystal clear picture of a vital reality.
GOD’S OPERATING SYSTEM
The opening challenge of God to His leader, Joshua, is to listen to the Lord and follow with simple, unwavering obedience. All Joshua needed to know as they begin a new life in a promised land was encapsulated in one verse: Joshua 1:8.
This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
How could this be clearer and what promise could be greater? The 1:8 System.
(A NEW TESTAMENT PARENTHESIS: It is fascinating to note that the New Testament also records another beginning of a new kingdom and a new system. Instructions are given in another 1:8 verse with a similar promise of God’s presence. The disciples are told to wait and pray for God, listen to Him, and then move forward at His direction with an expanded promise and mission in Acts 1:8: “…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”)
The JERICHO LESSON
Fresh on the heels of God’s 1:8 instruction, Joshua and the people face their first, and one of their biggest tests: a city with a fortress so strong that four chariots could run abreast on the top of the wall. An absolutely impregnable opponent.
But, Joshua discovers as he listens to the Lord and does expressly what God commands, that this is no challenge for God. It is like a flea on an elephant as God gives His servants a simple, seemingly bizarre plan of attack. But it works. Perfectly. Just like God said.
The AI LESSON
Filled with the glory of that success, they proceed to a little, nothing town of Ai. Without thinking, they send a small contingent of soldiers to take this town, but with one glaring difference: they did not inquire of God nor get His plans.
If they would have taken this simple, but absolutely critical step, they would have discovered that one of their number had sinned against God. God is establishing a new kingdom here in His Promised Land, and needs purity of heart and intent for it to function properly. Achan’s materialism and deception, exactly like Ananias and Sapphira’s sin in the fledgling church in Acts 5, threatens this whole God-society.
God withdraws His presence and protection, and the entire nation is defeated until the sin is investigated and removed. Once they return to God’s 1:8 operating plan, they proceed in victory.
The GIBEON LESSON
We return to the story, convinced that the Ai Lesson had its effect and the Israelites will now move only by careful listening and full dependence.
Enter the Gibeonites (who were next in the path of the conquering Israelites). These enemies of God’s agenda have been made crafty by the Father of Deception who they worship. They pretend they are from a far country and come to seek the Israelites protection through a covenant, which they know Israel will be bound to keep.
And then the telling verse (placed their for our instruction) tells us the secret of Joshua’s (and our) failure. It is a small verse with a massive impact and instruction.
So the men of Israel took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord. (Joshua 9:14)
Satan and his followers have schemes and will trick us into alliances we should not make. His compromises always create footholds for his continued entrance into our lives and spiritual communities. And, when we do not ask for the counsel of the Lord, we are mere humans trying to compete with a far superior opponent. We will lose and the results will sometimes linger with us for decades, as the Gibeonites did with Israel.
WILL WE LEARN?
We can read these nine chapters and be mildly challenged by the story. Or, we can realize with sobriety that our loving God is showing us His operating system in bold relief. He gives His 1:8 System at the beginning of both Old and New Testaments.
If we grasp this with understanding, we must not merely nod our heads and go about business as usual. We must inspect our lives and see if we are listening carefully to every Word that God is saying, meditating on it day and night, and being careful to do all that God has commanded in the power of the Holy Spirit. Are we listening to Him before every decision, large and small? The 1:8 System.
We must be shocked, both by Achan and Ananias, and quickly destroy every idol that has turned our attention away from complete devotion to Christ. We must learn to live by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” and embrace obedience to His voice alone as our operating plan.
And then, we will find the mind and plans of God that will astound the world. God will be glorified, His enemies defeated, His kingdom established, and we will be blessed in the process.
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August 07, 2020
August 06, 2020
There are thousands, perhaps millions of people who believe they are Christians who will never enter heaven. This is not my evaluation, but the clear teaching of Christ Himself.
Christ spoke of false prophets who "come to you in sheep clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matt 7:15). It is not the outward clothing, but the inward heart that indicates a true believer.
What is the only way to know the difference between a professing believer and a real believer?
August 05, 2020
Of all the things Jesus could have addressed in the Sermon on the Mount, it's fascinating that He spends a good bit of time addressing worry. In fact, He commands us not to be worried: "Do not be worried about your life."
We are champion worriers. God knows that worry is so counterproductive. Not only is it useless, but it ties us up, destroys our faith, is a poor witness to those who are watching, and dishonors God. So, to help us He gives His true followers multiple reasons why worry is so useless.