April 13, 2011

Today you should read: Joshua 3

This is the moment Israel had been waiting for.

For the past few dozen years, the Jews wandered in the wilderness, wondering if they would ever enter into their Promised Land. By this time, some were probably questioning the existence of such a place.

Their waiting and wandering included times of both great sin against God and great devotion to God. They worshiped idols, complained, revolted against their leadership, and so on. But they also received the 10 Commandments, witnessed the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud, met with God and had moments of intense worship and prayer. It was the best and worst of Israel in a 40 year period.

Leading up to today’s reading, I asked myself, “How well do I truly follow the Lord?” Convicting… I’m pretty sure my life directly parallels Israel’s time in the wilderness — a cycle of ups and downs. How about you?

Well, the momentous occasion in Joshua 3 is once again an event that could only be attributed to God’s power over nature and God’s care for Israel. The Lord called Joshua to be a great leader, and Joshua was up to the task, knowing that his power was coming from God.

The Lord told Joshua, “Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites. They will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses.” Joshua 3:7

Upon entering the Promised Land, the Israelites approached a familiar scene — water. How would they cross the Jordan River? Time to build a bridge? Maybe get a few boats? Pull a Michael Phelps and swim across?

No. They went across “Red Sea” style. God split the waters and allowed them to cross on dry ground (v.17).

The beauty of this historical account is in how much it parallels our spiritual lives. The reality for the Israelites is that they deserved to drown in the Jordan River because of their disobedience to God, yet God’s grace abounded. He gave them a new home, a land flowing with milk and honey. He paved the way for their entrance into the land — it wasn’t anything that they did that merited this moment. They simply enjoyed the unearned favor of God.

In the same way, we don’t deserve anything from God, especially eternal life and Heaven. What we’ve earned is sin and death. Instead of us paying for it, though, God has allowed us to move from death to life on dry ground. It’s splintery ground. It’s the cross of Christ.

Food For Thought:
1) How does Joshua 3 remind you of the gospel?
2) What unmerited spiritual blessings are you most thankful for?
3) Have you come into a relationship with Jesus? Have you crossed from death to life on the dry ground of Christ’s cross?

Posted by: Todd Thomas

April 12, 2011

Today you should read: Joshua 2

Harlot: to fornicate; to whore; to commit fornication; to play the role of a harlot; to commit adultery; to have intercourse with false gods or foreigners; to seduce.

As Easter approaches this passage is clearly marked by God’s grace in the life of a woman whose entire livelihood came from her sin. Rahab the harlot played a major role in protecting God’s people.

How in the world do you handle such a passage? As I write, I think to myself, “This passage is very hard to work through”, but as I reflect on my own life, I see that the providence of God and that His almighty, sovereign plan is so much bigger than any one person’s sin. Here is my take on Joshua 2:

Joshua sent out two spies as a part of a military strategy to check out the land they were to invade. These two spies found shelter in the house of Rahab, the hooker. You may think, “God’s people finding shelter in the house of a hooker? Say what?!” At first glance, this might seem a little odd, but take another look at the passage. It is clear that Rahab had heard of all the incredible things God had done and all the victories He had given the Jewish people (v.8-11). With this knowledge, Rahab must have understood that their God was the One True God and her action of providing shelter for the spies communicated her faith in the One True God, even though it meant betraying her own country. There is no way she would ever do such a thing unless she had true faith in God.

Because of her faith and actions of protecting the spies, Joshua’s men make it clear that if she tied a scarlet thread on her door and remained indoors, Rahab and her family would not be killed when Joshua’s men invaded and took over the city.

This promise then leads to Rahab lying to the king of Jericho about where the spies had taken refuge. Rahab flat out lied with no remorse. Now the Bible does not commend her deceit (v.4-5), but Rahab’s “works” and not her “words” justified her. Read that again: “Rahab’s ‘works’ and not her ‘words’ justified her” (James 2:25). The Bible does not commend her deceit, but it does commend her faith (Hebrews 11:31). Rahab risked her life in order to protect the spies because she believed in the sovereign God of Israel.

Please do not hear me say that this is a work-based salvation. I am saying that the faith Rahab had overflowed into her actions, or “works”, which made it clear that her actions were fueled by faith in God. She first had faith, which led to her works. Remember this: “Great faith, wherever it is found, is always rewarded, for it is pleasing to God” (Hebrews 11:6).

*Note: In order to handle this passage correctly I used Bible Believer’s Commentary whose author is William MacDonald. This is a very helpful resource that I turn to when dealing with difficult passages of the Bible.

Posted by: Zach Monroe

April 11, 2011

Today you should read: Joshua 1

In chapter one of this great book, Joshua is experiencing a major event in his life. His boss, mentor, spiritual leader, and best friend dies…Now what? He had thought about this day – planned and trained for it – and now it’s here. He’s in charge and he’s scared!

God is going to use Joshua to accomplish something that Moses was forbidden to do because of his sin of anger (Numbers 20). *Note: God is serious about our lack of control over anger (James 1:19). Joshua was to lead the children of Israel into the promised land. God makes Joshua a great promise in verse 5:
“No one will be able to stand up against you. I will be with you – just like you saw me be with Moses. I will never leave you – I will never forsake you.”

Then God gives Joshua very specific, very important instructions on leadership – great advice for all leaders to observe and practice:
– Be strong and courageous (v.6)
– Fear is paralyzing. Trust – don’t fear (2 Timothy 1:7)
– Carefully obey the Scriptures (v.7-8). Think about them, talk about them, follow them
– God’s Word keeps leaders heading in the right direction (Hebrews 4:12)
– Don’t be afraid or discouraged (v.9). Discouragement destroys leadership – look to God and keep going (Hebrews 12:2)

So how did our new leader do? Beginning in verse 10, we see that he does exactly what God told him to do, beginning a new chapter in the life of a new leader and God’s chosen people. This is going to be a great book – hold on for the ride of your life!

God raises up and brings down leaders – it’s not you or your skill or your position; it’s the hand of God.
Leadership should be a treasured gift; develop it in a godly fashion. Everything rises and falls on leadership.
We lead by loving; no one cares what you know till they know that you care. Don’t trust your own intuition or wisdom; trust God and His Word (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Posted by: Tim Parsons

April 9, 2011

Today you should read: Mark 16

How can we put into words a fitting summary of Mark 16? Mark is the first New Testament book written, and this is the first account we have of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. How can we comprehend an indescribable event such as this? How can we fathom the moment that all of history hinges on?

The chapter opens with the backdrop of intense sadness. We find the two Marys coming to anoint the dead body of Jesus – something neither of them expected to do. This was, after all, their Messiah. After His horrible death, they wanted to honor Him with the proper burial rituals. One problem: who would roll the large stone away?

But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside. Mark 16:4

The women must have been scared and confused. Initial suspicions were probably of grave-robbers or that someone came to desecrate the body of Jesus. What they found next blew their minds even though Jesus had tried to tell them He would return from the dead. An angel of the Lord declared the good news to them:

“Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body.” Mark 16:6

These women were the first eyewitnesses of the empty tomb, an event so grand that it caused the women to fear and tremble (v.8). Eventually, they would tell the news to the disciples, and the chapter ends with a brief comment on the Great Commission.

When I read this chapter, I’m simply in awe, much like the women were. The one thing that no human could ever have victory over was now defeated. Jesus conquered death! This is why we exist as a church, to worship the Risen King, to tell the world about the Savior that has the power to free people from the handcuffs of sin and death.

Does the truth of the resurrection affect the way you live? Does it change the way you worship? Does it give you passion to point others to Jesus? Perry Noble said it this way: “The church needs to quit looking like a funeral parlor and start acting like the tomb is actually empty!”

The only way I could summarize this chapter is this: the most triumphant, beautiful, awe-inspiring moment in all of history.

Posted by: Todd Thomas