Tuesday, April 24, 2018

APRIL 24 "NO DISCIPLE LEFT BY JOSHUA?"

If you follow the life of Joshua, you will find little to no error, in his service to God. Nor will you find any flaws in his character. Perhaps Joshua learned enough watching Aaron over the years, to learn what not to be and what not to do. Joshua is pretty much a straight shooter, impeccable in his ways, so why does he not leave a disciple, why "no disciple" for Joshua? Where would Israel have been if Moses had not discipled Joshua? Yet, even knowing the impact and the importance of a disciple, Joshua leaves none.  "No disciple" is the only thing you can hold against Joshua, but it doesn't make sense. If Joshua was such a stellar disciple in every other area, why did he fail in this most important area? I've often thought about this and there can only be one conclusion......it's not that he failed to think, or to leave a disciple, it's that there was none to disciple. Yes, Moses discipled Joshua, but Joshua was interested in being discipled, it takes "two to tango" as the saying goes. I believe, that this group got so apathetic that there was nobody in the "up an coming", there was no man that saw that as a place he would like to be, no the places they could see themselves were, let's say, less than Holy. You'll notice the trend continues, as God begins to raise up individual judges to rescue Israel, but every time the deliverer,the judge dies, there is nobody to follow in his footsteps. Currently in one of our churches we have a leadership, Joshua position, that has recently vacated and to everyone's dismay, there is no likely candidate to step into his shoes and neither is there anyone volunteering. I believe, Joshua did not fail in leaving a disciple. I believe there was no man desiring or willing to be discipled and that's how bad the apathy and spiritual lethargy had gotten in this bunch. The proof, is in following the mind set of the people, through the era of The Judges. Synergy can be both a good thing and a bad thing, depends in whose favor it's working. I remember a time where synergy created a movement in our church where every man wanted to be a disciple and get sent out to Pastor. Surely God was not calling 95 percent of men in a church to leave to go Pastor. No doubt some of those men were called, but many were not and just caught up in the synergy of that moment. As it goes, the more people who wanted to be discipled, go out and preach, the more people that wanted to go out and preach. However this synergy can work against you too. The more people that aren't interested in being discipled, then the more people....I believe this is the time frame Joshua is in. They've seen the costs, the sacrifices and hardships and this group sees absolutely no reason why they would ever want that whole discipleship thing, " you must be crazy", they think and this mindset then becomes pervasive throughout the camp and Joshua has no man even remotely interested in the job. How sad that is for Israel and how sad that is for a church, to have "no disciples", to have no men, who desire to be a Moses, who desire to be the next Joshua. For all the bells and whistles of the modern day church, you can tell a lot about the  spiritual climate of a church, by looking around to see, if there be any disciples!

Monday, April 23, 2018

APRIL 23 "FIGHT NOW...OR PAY LATER!"

     I'm not sure which 1/2 of the tribe of Manasseh this is that "did not drive out the people of Beth Shan.....for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land".    God's response, "You have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you".  Who was it that thought we will just stay here, and not cross the other side of the Jordan?   1 The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock. 2 So they came to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the community, and said, 3 “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon— 4 the land the LORD subdued before the people of Israel—are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock. 5 If we have found favor in your eyes,” they said, “let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.”  Numbers 32:1
     Now if you read on, you'll find out that the tribe of Manasseh is involved in this too.  "don't make us cross the Jordan", of course not, don't fight, don't make us fight, we just want to settle for mediocrity, we just want to settle for what we don't have to fight for, so is it any surprise that when they do have to fight, they don't. They leave the Canaanites there. God says in verse 3 "therefore I will not drive them out" in other words, had they fought, wholeheartedly, God would have taken care of them. Manasseh's excuse is.."they were determined to stay"  Really?! No duh!  Your sin is determined to stay too, the enemy of our soul (never mind our land) is determined to stay too, I guess that's why so many Christians live victory less lives today. It's so much easier just to let things remain  as they are rather than fight.  God's prophecy here is in verse 3 "they will be a thorn in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you".
Their response was probably, "yeah, yeah, we'll deal with it".  And that they would and that you are. Let's not be like Manasseh, fight for your finances, your marriage, fight against your flesh and remind God that you don't want to be like Manasseh and that you believe that if you fight, he will drive out the enemy on your behalf! The truth is, "fight now or pay later!"

Sunday, April 22, 2018

APRIL 22 "ARE YOU RELIGIOUS?"

     It's hard to imagine Abraham ever serving any other God but Jehovah, but he did and so did all his family.  “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods."  Often people look at our families and can't imagine us being anything other than Christian. Some of us grew up Christian as our heritage, the rest of us served the gods on the other side of the river, so to speak. We have seen what it is like so serve a false god or give ourselves to impotent religion. In our text we are not sure why these people are holding on to relics of their past gods and religion; while trying to serve the true God.  And when challenged by Joshua to throw down their idols and relics there is no argument from them.  "throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”  OF course this scripture is quoted all over the world, posted on the doors of many homes, but the reality is, it was only Joshua that would actually follow through. The moment Joshua passed away they would go back to their false gods.  No doubt a Leader makes a difference, but we must be able ourselves to make the distinction between what it is like to be involved in impotent religion and serving false gods verses having a living, vital relationship with God.  Perhaps to the majority of those following Joshua they couldn't really see or better yet, hadn't really experienced the difference between the two, ie: false god vs. true God.  This is why perhaps Jehovah Witnesses marry Catholics and Catholics marry Mormons and Mormons marry Pentecostals and Pentecostals marry Baptists and Baptists marry Atheists because in their minds, all we are talking about is religion, and one religion is just about as good as another. I can just hear this group of people saying to Joshua, "On the other side of the river we served these gods, but we can serve your God too, Joshua, we have no problem with that, right guys?"  As the very popular cliche of today goes..."it's all good".   Is it all good?  Human beings are by instinct, very religious in nature.  Find any tribe in any part of the world and you will find them worshiping some kind of spiritual deity. These people were living out what came naturally to them, being religious, however Joshua had an encounter, a relationship with God.  If we are not careful, we can sit in the church and revert back to being religious, even those of us that saw what it was like to serve the false gods on the other side of the river (so to speak). It is your natural tendency to revert back to being religious. Abraham never went back to being religious, Joshua never went back to being religious but there are many who do.  Our prayers can become religious repetition (Jesus said, "do not pray in vain repetition as the pagans do"), our mindset in church can be religious repetition, blessing our food can become religious repetition, worshiping can become religious repetition (our right hand is raised, but we are looking away from the screen and our minds are a million miles away) and our walk with God becomes more of a religious experience than anything else.  In my home one of the greatest insults we can throw at each other is..."you're religious" sometimes we through this around in jest, my daughter will laugh and say, "oh dad, you're so religious" but sometimes it is good to just sit down, be quite, be still before the Lord and ask yourself, " am I losing my relationship with God and reverting back to being religious", take an assessment, an evaluation of your self today and answer that question.  I've often wondered about putting that scripture on my front door "as for me and my house....." but my experience from the past 20 years has been that many times the homes I have walked in to that had that on their front door are simply the people who nodded their heads with Joshua on that day and said "amen", carved it out of wood, put in on their doors and became incessantly religious from that day forth. Joshua carved this principle in his heart, not on wood or a plank, he probably carved it on his heart every morning, taking time to be with God, I'm still tempted, at times to put that scripture/plank  on the front door of my house and this should only serve to remind me how important it is that I use that as a reminder of how prone I am to becoming religious and how much more so I should seek God and make sure that scripture is carved in my heart, not on a wooden door. I would much rather people walking into my home, with no advance declaration on my front door and then be wowed to see Christ Like people living in the home, then to see a declaration on the door (that often the folks living inside forget is there) walk in with great expectations of they type of Godly people you would run into, only to realize, that the only sign of God in that home is hanging on the front door.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

ARIL 21 "WHAT, NO RESURRECTION?"

The false religion of "no resurrection" as we read today, has been around for a long, long time.  However what makes this particularly interesting is the group that propagates false religion is propagating this false claim to "the Resurrection" Himself, ie; Jesus Christ. John 11:25 Jesus says, "I am the Resurrection". Arrogance has no boundaries. "A fool is wiser than 7 wise men" we read in Proverbs. These Sadducee's are going to sit there and argue "stupidities" with The Resurrection Himself. Proverbs also tells us that the man who argues with a fool becomes a fool himself.  Jesus doesn't get into an argument with these boys, He simply makes them look like the fools they are and moves on. Not much has changed today, there are still cults/false religions that want to argue their false doctrine. Jehovah Witnesses still try to propagate that when we die we remain in the earth and they quote Solomon in Ecclesiastes. The Apostle Paul writes "if there is no resurrection than we are the most miserable of all men".  We think we are going to convince and out argue a fool or arrogant person and we are so wrong. Here are these men, arguing about the resurrection, with the resurrection himself. Often we feel sorry for people that are caught up in cults like Mormonism & Jehovah Witnesses, but do we really think that God would allow anyone to remain caught up in lies if they really were seeking "the truth" and were not caught up in pride and arrogance. I had a good friend who was raised a Mormon, but she was not "set" on being a Mormon, or anything else for that matter, she was set on seeking and finding the truth and it is no surprise today that God brought her ought of that false religion to experience true salvation through Christ. Arguing with Jesus seems like the most arrogant thing any human could ever do, but I dare say, while we are on the subject, that it's not just Sadducees that argue with Jesus. We may not argue with Jesus about "the resurrection" but we sure do argue with Jesus on many other issues and maybe as we read our story today, we see how silly and arrogant we are when we argue with the One who says, "I Am the Resurrection and The Life!".

Friday, April 20, 2018

APRIL 20 "NO LOVE LOSS FOR JESUS"

     THE group of Pharisees hated Jesus, there was no love loss between the Pharisees and Jesus. There were other groups who loved Jesus and were open to what he had to say and with them he sat down and talked.....nicely!  Jesus is no respecter of persons and neither should we, but you cannot deny that Jesus had various methods for reaching various groups of individuals. Jesus knew who is target audience was and that affected how he responded. It is written in scripture "do not cast your pearls to the swine", but yet we see Christians do this everyday.  No doubt, we will be persecuted, that will come naturally but do we really have to subjugate ourselves to it?!
     We cannot discern whom God is leading to himself and who He isn't (although sometimes it is quite obvious) but we can discern the mocker vs. the serious seeker.  We cannot discern who will be saved and will not, it could be the mocker who one day gets powerfully converted and the serious seeker goes on to seriously seek in another faith. The point is not to try to discern who is going to get saved and who isn't, the point is that we should have various methods for various audiences. Should we respond to the mocker the same way we would the open and broken down sinner, Jesus didn't!  What are your methods if any? We really do want to "just love them to Jesus", it is far less confrontational, but is it really the method to reach all? The love 'em to Jesus was a complete failure with me. I needed a harsh word, I needed to hear the truth about my sin and where it was taking me. When told that Jesus died for my sins, my response was, "to bad, I never asked him to".  Jesus was gracious with the woman at the well, but he was unashamedly to the point about the fact that she had been with five other men and the man she was now living with was not her husband.  Towards Mary Magdalene, his method was compassion and mercy, towards the Pharisees he was very harsh and straightforward, even to Nicodemus who came seeking him out in the middle of the night, he rebuked him by saying, 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?  Jesus is not being rude, but He is being blunt.  To be an effective witness you have to have more in your arsenal than just "love 'em to Jesus", you have to be able to discern your target audience, are they sincere or are they only there to mock? Then change your method of reaching them, don't cast your pearls to the swine, save that for the broken and contrite heart. Jesus does win over Nicodemus, but loving him to himself was not enough, he would have to bluntly expose this man's hypocrisy. If you will take the time to study the life of Jesus and you will find a man that loved all humanity but yet used different methods to reach different groups and this is how He was most effective and it will be how we are most effective in our witness and effectiveness for him, follow the way of The Master! 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

APRIL 19 "FIGURES...THERE WOULD BE FAVORITISM!"

"Always favoritism around here", we can't stand favoritism, at least when it doesn't include us, then we are staunch opponents of it. Well, if you are a staunch opponent of favoritism than you were probably upset by today's reading. "After all the land was divided among the tribes, the Israelites gave a special piece of land to Joshua".  There you have it, in black & white, they are not even trying to hide this favoritism, do they have no shame! Wait, is this the Israelites giving Joshua this favoritism or God? Read on...."For the Lord had said, he could have any town he wanted".  Favoritism from God? How am I going to resolve this? I thought God was perfect.  Well, God is perfect and sinless so we can only conclude that favoritism is not always such a bad thing. Is our God not a God of recompense, of God of rewards? If favoritism is coming to an individual because of hard work, than it is earned and is probably due and in cases of many, long over due. If favoritism is coming to someone just because they like them better, than it is wrong. We who dwell in mediocrity always despise and disapprove of favoritism because it has never come out way.  It is a shame when Christians and a church to be more specific begin to resent favoritism that their leaders have benefited from. God here sees fit to reward Joshua for the leadership role he has taken over from Moses and the considerable effort Joshua has put forth, it has not gone unnoticed from God. This favoritism that Joshua receives from God should not upset us, but encourage us. It teaches us God does see and does take careful notes. Some churches see to it to bless their Pastor and his wife other churches see to it that they receive no favoritism and blessing or anything special. Which church would you like to be a Leader in, which church would you like to serve God in? Our text reveals to us that Joshua got "a special" piece of land, that's right, a "special" piece of land. Do you resent that? Do you think Joshua should have received an allotment just like everybody else? Of course you do, cause I know you, I've met you before and I'm glad you're not my God. If you don't want to go to College and study hard then at least don't envy or hate those that did and now prosper. "Leadership, Manager....yeah, I told them forget it, let them find someone else, I don't want to have to deal with all these headaches of these people, scheduling, having to fill in when people don't show" Okay, so you've admitted that it's more work to lead, then don't complain when those that do step into that position benefit from it. Don't resent when the Corporate Area Manager comes down and give them a bonus and not you. Don't resent it when they are taken out to dinner and not you  Don't resent it when your Manager now is being favored by the Area Wide Manager. And it is the same in the Kingdom of God, those that will rise up, take leadership and responsibility will have favor with both God and Man and you should not resent the favoritism they now have, "For the Lord said, he could have any town he wanted".  Favoritism in the church, favoritism in God's Kingdom, you're darn right!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

APRIL 18 "I'M SOOOO TIRED!"

   Unlike the world, we do not just find ourselves physically tired, we also find ourselves spiritually tired. Not only are we having to deal with issues at work, home & school but we are also having to contend and deal with spiritual issues, issues we are struggling with and then trying to help others with spiritual issues they're struggling with and I'm tired, are you? \
     I have to say that while I was shocked to read that the tribe of Ephraim did not get rid of the Canaanites [ 10 They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor. ]  I have to also say, that I'm not so surprised. What the Ephraimites don't realize, is that if you don't fight now, you will have to fight twice as hard later.  The worse words Jesus ever spoke were "go the extra mile". Is there a principle in that admonishing that we have yet to understand? Why didn't they "dislodge" the Canaanites? Obviously because they were tired and exhausted. One more battle, one more fight, is it really necessary? What are the options? Eventually they regret the day they let the Canaanites live there among them. And who suffers....their children!  The older generation is not so much influenced as the younger by the ways of the Canaanites, but their children get ensnared.
     I'm tired, I'm exhausted, but if I knowingly walk away or avoid a fight now, I will have to deal with the issue later and now there will be damage.  The Ephraimites are a good tribe to study and learn from. I believe they represent our lives more so than the other tribes.  Their motto and ours is....."the least I have to fight, the better. The Ephraimites by nature, take the path of least resistance. The Ephraimites have a mindset of "this is good enough", the Ephraimites have a mindset of "I'm tired, let's just settle for this", "I'm tired, please let's not make a big deal out of this".   The Ephraimites are the Post Modern, American, Nuclear Family.  Many folks this year are going to fight in a battle that they were avoiding years back and now even if they win, it will only be a partial victory, it will only be a "lessor of two evils" and should they (we) have fought at the onset we/they would have won a full victory. The other tribes may have fought longer and harder than Ephraim but at least when they were done, they could relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor. It's your choice, fight now, fight harder, go the extra mile and get complete victory, or fight later, fight twice as hard and end up with a partial victor or the lessor of two evils, the choice is ours. God allows Ephraim to do this, even though He knows it will not go well with them, it's their choice and that same God leaves the choice to us today.