Tuesday, November 30, 2010

waiting & hoping

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Romans 8:23-25

Many good things in life require a degree of patient hope. We wait for them. It might be that long line at the DMV to get that first of teenage dreams, the driver's license. It might be the young man waiting downstairs for that special young lady to be ready for a first date. It might be the entire endless month of December, when as children we wait, knowing that Christmas morning with all its promises is coming. Good things are worth waiting for in life.

And Paul's point for Christians is that the real outcome of our salvation is known by waiting through life for that final big finish. Until the day when we are with Jesus face to face, we will groan in these bodies, waiting eagerly for the joy that is ours forever. It is in this hope that we are saved. We are saved to live beyond ourselves. And we must wait for that day.

Critics of Christianity accuse us of just living for a heavenly delusion. But that is not what we are doing. In fact, it is much bigger than the traditional picture. It is not about a white robe, wings in the clouds, strumming a harp. It is about real life with Christ, free from the ravages of sin and entropy on a mortal body. It is about true life... a passionate way of living free from all that restrains me and weighs me down. It is a hope that right now I do not see fully, yet experience in rapturous glimpses. Still in patient faith I know it is coming as surely as the Christmas presents under the tree let me know that the joy of Christmas morning is worth waiting for, no matter the cost in personal patience.

So the encouragement for the Christian is to be a person of hope. This is not a "cross your fingers" and "wish real hard" kind of thing. It is a patient belief in what God has promised. And every time I attend the funeral service of a Christian, I know what that hope is about, for that person is no longer done with waiting. They know God's true gift of eternal life in His Son. They live in hope, for hope, and eventually wildly beyond all idea of what to expect, and so will I. Wait for it... Wait for it...

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Monday, November 29, 2010

inner conflict

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
Romans 7:18-19

What I know about my real inner self comes from Paul's descriptions about the inner battle to do right. I am not naturally equipped to do what is right. I am born a depraved sinner and very quickly depravity will assert itself in me. There is nothing good dwelling within me. Because of this natural bent toward sin, I am incapable of pleasing a holy God. There is no way I can do it on my own.

But as a Christian, I have the desire to do right. And even those who are drawn to Christ will find themselves drawn by the guilt of sin and the overwhelming holiness of God to want to be right. The problem is that depravity makes us totally incapable of carrying out what the mind may truly desire. Our best efforts while depraved are still marred horribly by sin. We lack the ability to be holy outside of any action on God's part in our behalf. That is what Paul is saying here. He personally could not do anything truly good because he was born a helplessly rotten sinner.

Reality check: Sinners will do sin, even if they want to do something good. That is the final conclusion on the matter. Sin is at work in sinners. We live in it, we die because of it. We swim in an ocean of iniquity every day, sometimes without even realizing the pollution we are constantly at home with!

The result is that we often have to wrestle with an inner conflict. Now Paul has said all of this to lead to a marvelous solution yet to be unfolded in chapter eight of Romans. But for now, the reality is that sinners need Someone greater than themselves to rescue them. And Jesus has the solution for this inner conflict. Thank God, it does not depend upon me!

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

death and life as daily metaphors

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 6:11-14

This is a personally significant area of the Book of Romans. Paul has argued in Romans six that the death of Christ has brought about a positional change for the believer. Our old sinful self was crucified with Christ so that we no longer are enslaved by sin (Romans 6:6). The result of this is that the physical death of our bodies is no longer something to be feared for its eternal consequence. Death is no longer the problem it once was (Romans 6:8-9) because we will live with Christ after the death of our bodies. In the final sense, death loses because of Jesus.

But then there is this significant continuance of our lives until that time when we are with Christ. There is a daily effort on our part to deal with the residual effects of our fallen natures... the part that is personally still here until we enter eternity. The Christian must daily make some considerate effort to fight this. We must consider ourselves daily with the final outcome: dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Paul says we can choose to let sin reign or we can choose to let Christ reign. It is that simple. If we choose sin, we will obey personal sinful passions to our detriment. And I know what lurks in my heart when I do not focus on my Lord. It ain't pretty! I have to fight it daily by surrendering to the Lordship of Christ. Sometimes I don't do so, and sin leaves a damaging mark on my life or my relationships. Paul taught that the believer must regularly present the very limbs of his body as God's instruments. That conscious effort helps keep sin from having dominion over the day.

Take these hands and feet today. Use them for Your service. Take this tongue and speak in and through it. Take this mind and fill it with Your thoughts.

"Take these hands and let them move, at the impulse of Your love"
"Take my feet and let them be, swift and beautiful for Thee"
"Take these lips and let them be, filled with messages from Thee"
"Take my heart, my God, I pour, at my feet its treasure store"
"Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine"

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

the purity & simplicity of justification by faith

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1

The truth of this verse, if it was the only fact I ever knew from God, would be enough to keep me trusting Christ in this life and for eternity. This powerful concept is what kept Christians passionate in their pursuit of Christ at the threat of death. It led Paul to take this message to every place that God led him. It is how in one century Christianity went from being the message of a dozen Palestinian Jews to a passionate religion that caused the most powerful government in the world at the time to feel threatened.

And when the organized church went stagnant and heretical and worldly in her focus, it is the doctrine of this verse that fueled men like Luther, Calvin, Knox and Zwingli to preach once again a pure gospel. As reformation fires burned, the liberating gospel of justification by faith melted away the bonds of legalism, heresy, false authority, and money-hungry religion. Justification by faith is a doctrine with a fascinating history. And I believe there is more that God will write in and with it.

A pure gospel is preached by Paul in the Book of Romans. It is one reason why I find myself drawn to it. In my younger days, I found myself slightly intimidated by the deep doctrines of Romans. But today, I see their purity, their beauty, and even in their depths I find a simplicity that is frankly lacking in much of the contemporary church. I find most pastors and leaders caught up in methodology. The contemporary church is most interested in one leader aping another leader's ideas, particularly if it is packaged and marketed well! And the older I get, the more drawn I am to just wanting to be a simple preacher of the gospel... someone who is a man of one message and one method: justification by faith resulting in peace with God through Jesus Christ.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Monday, November 22, 2010

faith: defined by experience

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
Romans 4:20-21

I love how Paul defines faith in the life of Abraham in this vital chapter of the book of Romans. Paul's point is that Abraham, father of the Jewish nation, was justified before God centuries before the Mosaic Law was in effect. And the basis for his right standing before God was his remarkable faith in what God had promised. It was in that faith that God counted him righteous. Paul concludes the point by insisting that God still operates with faith that way today. We are "counted" righteous in Christ through our faith in Jesus and His saving work on the cross (Romans 4:22-25).

Abraham's faith was shown in the life of a desert nomad. He wandered a land of promise, a wealthy homeless man, trusting in a God Who called him to abandon a comfortable life in a prosperous city. God promised him an heir. And for decades Abraham lingered on in that promise. It was not until he and Sarah were both so physically aged that conception was impossible that God honored the promise. It was clear faith was in operation, literally born out of experience!

My faith is refined and to a degree defined by my experience with God. In that sense it is very personal, individually known by me alone. Where I have had to trust Christ is not always where you or another person may be called to trust Christ. I am saved by faith in the gospel, but my faith is proven in a walk with God that is personal and unique. There are many shared experiences within the church with other believers... but even then they are most valuable as we share personal experience with one another. I am glad that God did not enroll us by Christ into a spiritual factory that produced identical Christian puppets. Instead, God delights in our individuality. He redeems us in Christ as the unique persons we all were created by God to be. And like Abraham, our faith is lived out in personal circumstances distinct to each of us, yet linked powerfully to one God Who loves us all.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

the gospel is my only hope

...the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus...
Romans 3:22-24

There is only one solution for the problem of sin. It is not to be found in a just human government or any form of racial, social, personal, or gender equality. It is not going to be found through legal means. It is not going to be dealt with by education or science. There is no pill or psychological therapy that can eliminate our sinful tendencies. The only hope for us is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Jesus, by putting my faith and trust in His sacrifice for my sin, I receive a righteous standing before God. It matters not what good I might think I might do. I am part of a vast group of sinful conspirators from my very birth. Paul has already elaborated on the universal aspect of sin as the defining human condition for everyone on the planet (see Romans 3:9-18). I cannot save myself. No human can do so. Only Jesus saves us.

Nobody gets a pass on needing the saving work of Christ. As Paul said, "there is no distinction". Every person, Jew or Gentile, has fallen short of the glory of God. Sin is endemic to being human. But thankfully the story does not stop there. Jesus came to make the difference for all this.

Paul goes on to explain that through faith in Christ, that condition can be turned around. We can be justified by His grace freely. Salvation is offered to us as God's free gift when we turn from sin, confess ourselves as sinners in need of forgiveness from a holy God, and receive by faith the salvation only Jesus offers us, committing ourselves to His Lordship and worshipping His as God and Savior. We are then declared righteous, like a judge dismissing the charges against us, and are redeemed from the slavish and hellish consequences of being under judgment as a sinner. That is really, really, really good news. It is the solution for all that is wrong in the world.

That sounds trite. It is not. Our spiritual need is our deepest one. Yes, access to healthcare, clean water, adequate nutrition, shelter, etc are all important needs, particularly in the most impoverished parts of the world. But they do not overshadow the gospel. Christians ought to be preaching the gospel WHILE caring for those other needs. We should never think that those needs alone are what doing the work of the gospel is all about. To fall into the trap of materialistic thinking as children of God is deceptive, disobedient, and ultimately disrespectful of the Savior Who came first and foremost to give His life a ransom for many.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

mankind's moral insufficiency

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
Romans 2:1

Paul's warning in this passage is one against self-based moral judgment. Only God can truly stand in judgment over sin because He alone is holy. When human beings pass judgment on other human beings it is is just one sinner sinfully discriminating against another sinner. We need an outside standard.

And what Paul meant by practicing "the very same things" is absolutely clear in the context. It is spelled out in an excruciating list of sins in the last part of Romans chapter one:

"And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."

The one who tries to pass judgment on sin while living outside of the clear standards that God has revealed in God's Word is just a wicked person evaluating another wicked person's wickedness. Men have insufficient moral gauges by which to evaluate holiness. We condemn ourselves when we judge others.

The only standard for holiness is God. Even in a civil society with a solid representative republic and democratically elected officials, sin will reign! People cannot collectively create a perfect standard of right and wrong. We need God's input for that to stand a chance of being true. That is why the Judeo-Christian basis for law and government should not be tossed out by postmodern deconstructionists of culture. It served a purpose of at least being a solid basis from which to build something. When it is replaced by the vote of the masses or the legal musings of educated sinners in the political, legal, or judicial systems, we are ignoring the warning Paul gave us all of our inability to judge right from wrong outside of God's holy standards.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Monday, November 15, 2010

faith that is fame

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
Romans 1:8

Paul wrote these words of encouragement to the Christian church in Rome. Situated in the heart of the empire, these believers faced a decadent culture with a strong faith. The result was that they were famous among all the Christian churches for their testimony as a church. And Paul wastes no time commending them for this kind of vivid and vital commitment to Christ.

He lets them know that they are living in a world that desperately needs the gospel. And he longed to preach it in Rome. He knew that the imperial center was rife with sin, but that made it ripe for the gospel! He knew that the truth was being suppressed by unrighteous men and that God's wrath was revealed against the ungodliness so prevalent among the Roman elite (Romans 1:16-18).

He knew there was enough natural knowledge of God's divine attributes from the natural world to lead even the most debauched person to struggle through a rudimentary awareness of God (Romans 1:19-20). They may have chosen to not honor what they knew about God as they turned to idolatry (Romans 1:21-23), but there was still hope for the gospel. They may have spiraled down from paganism to unmitigated passion (Romans 1:24-25), but God was still their creator. Their rebellion was expressed in sexual deviancy (Romans 1:26-27), in a debased way of thinking about everything (Romans 1:28), and in a laundry list of sinful characteristics (Romans 1:29-32). Yet it was here that Paul was eager to preach (Romans 1:15) because He knew that Jesus could change all this as lives were surrendered to Him... the truth and the experience that Roman unbelievers had always been searching for.

The fact that Roman Christians emerged from this kind of culture is an amazing testament to the saving power of the gospel. When people whine about how bad current cultures are, we only need to turn to Paul's fantastic treatise on the gospel here to be encouraged to keep preaching it! The gospel was designed to save the worst of us because it is meant to be proclaimed to all of us. And it can turn infamous sinners into saints with a famous faith!

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Then the people answered, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods, for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God."
Joshua 24:16-18

This serves as a fitting end to the book of Joshua. The book begins with Israel's commitment to God and to Joshua's leadership (Joshua 1:16-18). And it ends with a strong commitment to obedience to God as Joshua prepares for the inevitable end of his long and blessed life. The main concern that Joshua had was with the spiritual relationship Israel had under the covenant. And this reaffirmation at Shechem was meant to keep Israel's priorities laser-focused on God.

Despite some failures, this generation under Joshua was remarkable for its faith and commitment. These people were prospering under obedience to the covenant, and they knew it. They knew that God had brought the nation out of Egyptian slavery. They knew that God had supernaturally led them through the wilderness. They knew that God had made the military of conquest of Canaan possible by driving out peoples before them. They were committed to serving the Lord.

The thing that made this obedience easy to affirm was that they saw God at work. They were quick to testify to God's goodness. It was not so much about Joshua's tremendous leadership as it was God's grace and provision. Joshua wanted to see this, and it had to please him to see God so enthusiastically worshiped in such a spontaneous way with the nation. His servant leadership was affirmed by Israel's undivided loyalty to God.

In a sense, I don't want to be known for my leadership. I don't want to become indispensable in any work God has called me to do. Instead, I want God to be made known and affirmed. He does not need me, and people should not "need" me in order to know Him! Instead, the mark of real ministry and real leadership is that God is clearly in the foreground and the leader does not need the attention. That is where I always want to be found... just another follower of my Lord!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

careful to love God

One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the LORD your God who fights for you, just as he promised you. Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God.
Joshua 23:10-11

This chapter is a short but powerful sermon that is one of the last things that Joshua said to the entire nation of Israel. He reminds the nation of the good things God has given them in the Promised Land. He reminds them of the fact that God has led them to victory and given them the lives that they now enjoy. He has really emphasized God's faithfulness to the covenant and to the conquest of Canaan for His people.

Along with this reminder of what God has done in tribute to His faithfulness, Joshua issues several calls to faithfulness for Israel. He has urged them to be strong in their faithfulness to keeping the Law of God (Joshua 23:6). He has told them to "cling" to the Lord their God (Joshua 23:8). He emphasizes that God has not forgotten even one of His promises to His people (Joshua 23:14). And then Joshua warns them that negligence to do cling to God and keep His Law and giving in to the temptation to turn aside to the lifestyle and worship of the Canaanites would bring judgment from God (Joshua 23:12-13; 15-16).

The Israelites were to be marked by an an attitude of carefulness to faithfulness. Implied in this warning and encouragement is that effort was involved. They had to be spiritually vigilant. They had to be strong and true. They had to trust in the God Who fought for them. They needed to be sure that their lives were committed to worship. Joshua as a leader kept the focus on the important priorities, and Israel under his guidance would be reminded to do the same. Loving God is a discipline, but it one that brings good life to all who are careful to love and obey the Lord their God!

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

presuming motives is a bad idea

And the report was good in the eyes of the people of Israel. And the people of Israel blessed God and spoke no more of making war against them to destroy the land where the people of Reuben and the people of Gad were settled. The people of Reuben and the people of Gad called the altar Witness, "For," they said, "it is a witness between us that the LORD is God."
Joshua 22:33-34

This is the conclusion to a potentially divisive moment in Israel's early history. The tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh had helped their brothers conquer the territory west of the Jordan river. Once this task was done, they returned home, east of Jordan to settle into their allotted territories. But they chose to make a statement on the west bank of the Jordan. There they build a monumental symbolic altar to the Lord, not for sacrifice, but to witness to the true altar that resided with the ark at the tabernacle.

This action was misunderstood by the western tribes. The thing is described as "imposing" (Joshua 22:10). It was large enough to be seen from both sides of the river. The western tribes thought this might be indicative of idolatry, or of at least setting up a rival site for the worship of God, which was contrary to the Law. There was talk of war between the tribes.

But a delegation met with the Reubenites and Gadites, and at that mediation, they quickly realized their mistaken assumptions. The symbolic nature of the altar was quickly understood, and doubts and fears settled, they agreed that the altar thus served a good and important function. It was left standing as a witness to the entire nation of its commitment to the worship of Yahweh.

How much better our lives would be if we would not make rash decisions based on presuming the motives of others! That is the lesson from this story. Had the leaders of the western tribes acted on their presumptions, who knows what that civil war would have done to the nation so early in its history? But God graciously granted peace through the process of just finding out the facts and honoring both parties in deference to the Lord. May God's people learn the same thing from this episode!

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Monday, November 8, 2010

faithful God

Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.
Joshua 21:45

This is the summary of Israel's position as the land has been allotted to tribe and then by family clan. Everything that God promised the Israelites under Moses came to pass under Joshua. And entire new generation had grown up with nothing but the promise in their memory and they now possessed all that they needed and could ever desire through the provision of God in their new home.

At stake in the entire conquest of Canaan is the reputation of God and his faithfulness to keep His promises to His people. And no failings were at God's hands. Israel made its share of mistakes and compromises. God lived up to all of His promises. That is the point of this passage. There was work left to do in places, there were mistakes made by Israel in sparing some Canaanites as slaves. God did not tell them to do this. And they would later be hurt by these incomplete obediences in future generations. God still had done all He said He would do for them.

I am encouraged by the faithfulness of God. Faith is no easier today than it was back then, with the possible exception that we have a long record of God's faithfulness in the Bible. But it still takes faith to believe and trust what I cannot see either in the past, or for the future. One thing is certain, God is faithful to His good promises. I know that from my past, I believe that for my present, and I will stride into my future and eternity on that hope!

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Thursday, November 4, 2010

cities of refuge

These were the cities designated for all the people of Israel and for the stranger sojourning among them, that anyone who killed a person without intent could flee there, so that he might not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, till he stood before the congregation.
Joshua 20:9

God cares about the most extreme human situations. In the case of accidental manslaughter, He designed specific places where the accused party could find a "neutral corner" to settle out the specifics of the case. This is somewhat similar to our concept of "change of venue", except that under the OT Law, the family who lost the family member had a duty to track down the killer and avenge the murder. So it would be easy for emotion to overcome the facts. The cities of refuge were a place to sort out the case. The ESV Study Bible gives a great summary of the concept as it was initiated under Moses and brought into practice by Joshua:

Josh. 20:1–2. The fullest description of how the cities of refuge are to function appears in Num. 35:6–34, where the Lord expands on his initial instructions to Moses in Ex. 21:12–14. They are to be six in number, chosen among the Levitical cities, with three on each side of the Jordan (Num. 35:13–14). They are to guarantee judicial due process for anyone in Israel, including “the stranger” and “the sojourner” (Num. 35:15). In Deut. 4:41–43 Moses designates by name the three cities of refuge in the newly conquered territory east of the Jordan, one each in the territories of Reuben, Gad, and eastern Manasseh. Later, in Deut. 19:1–10, he charges Israel regarding the cities to be designated west of the Jordan, though he does not name them, as the land is yet to be conquered. They are to be appropriately spaced, so that the fugitive can reach the nearest one before being overtaken by the avenger (Deut. 19:3; and see note on Josh. 20:3). Should God enlarge Israel's territory, an additional three cities can be designated (Deut. 19:8–9). That the additional three are not mentioned in Joshua may hint at the fact that Israel was not entirely successful in taking over all the land. The three cities west of the Jordan are finally named in Josh. 20:7. This overall progression is in keeping with the geographical movements of Israel and the extent of the conquest at each stage.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

reward for servant leadership

When they had finished distributing the several territories of the land as inheritances, the people of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun.
Joshua 19:49

Only after all of Israel had been given allotment of the promised land did Joshua receive his inheritance. The leader did not demand, he served. That is a secret of Joshua's success as a leader. He simply waited for God's timing and direction on matters of leadership. He was more concerned about serving his God and his people than he was about his own personal desires.

Joshua could have demanded the best and most influential territory for himself. After all, he was the leader. They needed to impress their conquered foes! It would have been entirely in keeping with kings of the Canaanites for Joshua to have built a stately walled fortress and to have demanded tribute. Instead, he simply keeps serving his people, patiently waiting until they have all been given their needs before making his request before God.

And Joshua chose to fade into semi-retirement. (Joshua 19:50) His cozy little city in the hill country of Ephraim (Timnath-serah) was out of the way of all the main power centers. I imagine him enjoying the last remaining years of his service building a home and farm. He is living out the dream he knew Israel could have when he first spied out the land under Moses' leadership.

Joshua experienced the reality the servant leadership is its own reward. I once heard another well-seasoned saint say this: "You will never regret truly serving someone for the sake of Jesus" (Howard Hendricks). I wholeheartedly agree. And Joshua is an Old Testament character who proved this point.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

worship at Shiloh

Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The land lay subdued before them.
Joshua 18:1

I see just some simple surface observations about worship today. This was meant to be a moment of celebration. Israel had congregated at Shiloh with the tabernacle and its furnishings were all set up for worship. For the most part, they controlled the territory of the Promised Land. They were free to do with it as God had commanded them.

Joshua used this moment to encourage the last seven tribes that had not received their inheritance to do so. They were to walk through the remainder of the territory, furnish descriptions of the land, and then upon return to Shiloh, Joshua apportioned it to each tribe. This was the last step. Worship at the victory God gave led to possession of the land that God gave.

Worship is really worship when it leads to further obedience. That is the point that Joshua made to Israel at Shiloh. It is not enough to go through the motions of ceremony. Real worship happens with our hands and feet when we obey God's command. Real worship is beyond the assembly and into the world.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Monday, November 1, 2010

when conviction is lost

but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.
Joshua 17:18

This portion of the book of Joshua shows Israel losing its resolve. There are times when we find it hard to obey God, and it is often really easy to result to our own strategies. In case of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, they did not seem to want to trust God in the effort to continue driving Canaanites from the land. In Joshua 16:10 they forced them into hard labor. When they complained to Joshua that they needed more land, what they meant was they needed more open land with no Canaanites in it! Joshua's answer was to encourage them to press forward into the hill country. They balked at this, insisting that the military power there was too strong (the Canaanites had iron chariots). But Joshua encouraged them to move forward with this plan.

The first thing to do when we sense conviction to obey God is waning is to re-examine our priorities. Joshua shrewdly kept Israel on mission with his encouragement that they would succeed. He knew that God was more powerful than fortified walls or chariots of iron. He would take care of them... forever.

The second step is continued obedience to God's instructions. That is ultimately what the Israelites had to do. Every accommodation that they made with the Canaanites would later come back to hurt them. So Joshua's words were really words of warning. We might not have the Book of Judges if Israel had fully heeded them!

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13