Slowing down

Dear church,

Thanks for reading this blog. I really appreciate it. We are going to work our way through the book of Judges together, and I am going to back off of posting as often. It takes a lot of time to post every day, and I’m finding I just don’t have enough of it. I’m sorry about that.

Also, I’m working on a new discipleship curriculum that I’m really excited about. I feel like God is directing me, and I pray I can be faithful in putting it together well. If you are interested in participating, please let me know.

I will blog occasionally from here on out. So please check back here from time to time. And feel free to subscribe if you want to get whatever I may have written. Thanks again. May God bless you all!


Joshua 24: Committed to serve

Dear church,

“… choose this day whom you will serve.” – Joshua 24:15

Pastors in some churches likely would get driven from their pulpits if they preached a message like Joshua’s. They might say something like this, to the twitching ears of the congregation: “You can serve a watered down Jesus and preach a watered down gospel, but I will not! You can call unholy things holy, but I will not! You can question the historicity of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but I will not! Choose some other god to serve!”

Sermons like this would not be popular. But they must be like water to a thirsty person for you – if you are a true disciple of Jesus. We should not only accept the commitment to follow Jesus Christ, but we also should yearn to see others do the same. And we should demand to hear our leaders calling for more of this in the face of cultural disapproval. 

Churches have too many softies in the pulpit, and committed disciples in the pews are not demanding they wake up, or grow up, and preach the gospel Jesus preached. Joshua demanded people repent and follow God. Jesus – the ultimate Joshua – did nothing different (Mark 1:15).

Commit yourself to serving Christ. It is never OK to be hateful, but it is certainly OK to be bold – especially with those who call themselves Christians. Encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25).


Joshua 23: Obedience, straight ahead

Dear church,

“… turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left.” – Joshua 23:6

The biggest obstacle to your life of discipleship is distraction. The world will pull at you. This pull is not occasional, and it is not faint. You will find lots of other ideas and philosophies and ways of life that will appeal to your heart and mind. But a disciple has a single-minded focus on Christ, turning neither to the right nor the left. 

Biblical wisdom tells us this, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). You must believe this if you are to get anywhere with Jesus Christ. His very mission was to call you out of the way of death. He demands we repent and turn toward the kingdom of God. We are to believe in the gospel (Mark 1:14).

When we mix in with the world and its ways, we lose our distinctive flavor as Christians. We forsake holiness for something less. Righteousness has nothing to do with lawlessness. Light does not dwell with darkness. Jesus doesn’t share space with evil (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

You could make God’s Word an add-on to your life. If you do that, you will never reach the maturity you seek, and the danger is grave. Decide now to root your life in God’s Word. Trust the wisdom is true. Cut away every impediment to full obedience to God’s way.


Joshua 22: Loyal church

Dear church,

“You have not forsaken your brothers these many days.” – Joshua 22:3

One of the realities of life in ancient Israel was the loyalty and unity that were to exist among God’s people. They could not envision life separate from one another. The eastern tribes were to fight side by side with their brethren, even after the eastern tribes had secured their own land. And none of the tribes could down a path toward idolatry without a fight from the others. 

This was one body with many members, and we don’t conceive of the church any differently. “So it is with Christ,” the apostle Paul said (1 Corinthians 12:12). Is this how you think about your church family? Christians, particularly in the America, usually don’t. 

When you have everything you need at home – when there’s plenty of money and job security and health to go around – you must still venture out to be with your church family. When one suffers, everyone must suffer. And when one rejoices, everyone rejoices (1 Corinthians 12:26). We do not rest as Christians until every one of our brothers and sisters in Christ has entered into the fullness of the “inheritance” of eternal life.

Never forget you are part of a church family that needs you – and to whom you are responsible. Your spiritual growth will be hindered if you do.


Joshua 21: Help along the way

Dear church,

“The cities of the Levites in the midst of the possession of the people of Israel were in all forty-eight cities with their pasturelands.” – Joshua 21:41

How far do you have to go to find someone who will point you to God? A person did not have to go far in the land of Israel to find a city of the Levites. They were scattered across the land. These cities belonged to those who belonged to God himself. These were the ones charged with maintaining the religious purity of the people. The Levites always and forever were to point people to their holy God. 

We cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ on our own. We are built for community. We are built to live under the mentorship of people who take what has been passed down to them and who pass that down to us. We, then, pass it down to others (2 Timothy 2:1-2). 

Don’t be complacent in your discipleship walk. Find people with more spiritual maturity than yourself and spend time with them. Watch how they live their lives and how they handle adversity. Listen to their wisdom. 

But make sure they are pointing you always to Jesus Christ, rather than some vague notion of “God.” Too many people fall for the trap that all spirituality is the same. It is not. The Levites certainly knew this (Exodus 32:25-29).


Joshua 20: Making space

Dear church,

“Then they shall take him into the city and give him a place.” – Joshua 20:4

God is just. But God does not take rash, unthinking, violent actions in the administration of his justice. His people are not to do this either. And so those who found themselves in desperate trouble could run to a city of refuge. In those towns, protection could be found – at least until the truth could be brought to the surface. These towns provided space for the search for true justice, all the while recognizing the priceless value of human life.

A disciple of Jesus Christ strives never to act in unthinking vengeance. Nor is a disciple to ignore the truth of a matter when it has finally come to light. Rather, we are to seek truth and act with thoughtful intention, recognizing the ramifications of what we do from moment to moment. 

In your day today, you will be tempted to move faster in making decisions than perhaps you ought. The challenge is to make space in your day, and in your life, to seek out the will of God. Try to take control of your time and your emotions. Unless true emergencies arise, don’t let people or circumstances take your eyes of being a disciple who is both merciful and just.

Mature Christians measure their words and their actions in light of the character and ways of God. And we rarely find God to be in a hurry.


Joshua 19: Elders and the church

Dear church,

“… the people of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun.” – Joshua 19:49

In his old age, Joshua was given a place to live. It was his own, carved out from among the land given to the tribes of Israel. He was to live “among them.” These were his people. This was their land. He was home. 

To live among the people of God means we honor our elders. First, we honor our biological elders – our parents (Ephesians 6:1-2). But we also must honor our spiritual elders (Hebrews 13:17). We make their lives easier and not more difficult. We give them the respect that is due to them – not because of their own merit but because God has chosen them and put them in authority over us. He has given them a responsibility, and we honor that. When we honor them, we honor God. 

In our culture, we find it easy to disregard commands such as these. Our culture does not honor its elders. Rather, it nudges them aside, as our full-to-the-brim nursing homes attest. The church, however, is different. We respect those who have gone before us by giving them rest and by listening carefully when they have something to say. We must be humble in this (1 Peter 5:5). 


Joshua 18: The Spirit and big decisions

Dear church, 

“… and Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the Lord.” – Joshua 18:10

Christians no longer cast lots when we make big decisions. And we don’t put out fleeces either. We have something the saints of old did not have. We have the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Holy Spirit – the “Helper” – is vitally important for the life of a Christian. “He will teach you all things” (John 14:26). And the Spirit lives inside each believer (John 14:17). We don’t need to look to things outside of us to learn God’s will. That comes from God living in us. 

But Joshua’s experience does give us instruction in how to make big decisions. Joshua made sure he went into God’s presence. The people set up the tabernacle at Shiloh. It was important to do this thing in the presence of God himself. Never lose sight of God’s presence in your life. 

Then the people considered the existing lay of the land. It was “subdued” before them. The land already belonged to the people. As you move forward with a big decision, pay attention to the existing state of affairs in your life. What is the reality of the situation?

Then Joshua sent out spies to bring back descriptions of the land. We imagine them telling Joshua about the seven portions of land for the remaining tribes. These were the possibilities. What are the possibilities as you consider your own big decision?

Then Joshua got into God’s presence and drew lots. Again, we don’t draw lots. We listen to the Holy Spirit. Take the reality of your situation, as well as the possible decisions you might make, into God’s presence. Typically, by the time you get there, you’ll have a pretty good idea which solution is the best – at least rationally. 

The final step is to listen to the Spirit in humility. He’ll show you the way to go (James 1:5).


Joshua 17: Prayer marked by pride

Dear church,

“Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance?” – Joshua 17:14

Be careful to wipe any sense of “deserving” out of your prayers. The people of Joseph, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, were convinced they were being shorted in the allotments of land for Israel. They had grown into a large nation, and the land didn’t seem big enough for them. Not only that, some Canaanites still lived there, and they were tough customers. 

So the people of Joseph complained to Joshua. In reality, however, they were complaining against God. It was God who was allocating the land by lot (Joshua 14:2). Joshua finally told the people they had everything they needed. “You are a numerous people and have great power.” Basically, Joshua said, “Get to it!”

When we pray, we must pray with humility. If we don’t, we may get demanding with God, expecting him to heed our every whim. Like a parent with a toddler, he sometimes must tell us “no” – because we don’t need the thing for which we are asking or because the thing actually would be a curse instead of a blessing. 

Instead, God might very well say, “You have everything you need already. Get to it.” We receive everything from God as a gift. And we don’t deserve even this much.


Joshua 16: The territory

Dear church,

“The territory of the people of Ephraim, by their clans, was as follows …” – Joshua 16:5

To understand eternal life as an “inheritance” means we accept it as a gift, something we did not earn. We inherited it through Christ (1 Peter 1:3-4). Meanwhile, to understand eternal life as a “territory” means we understand it has boundaries. And within those boundaries is every good thing God has planned for us. 

This latter idea brings two risks with it. First, we can step outside the boundaries of eternal life. We can leave it behind. Some have done that and proved they never wanted to be there in the first place – “for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us” (1 John 2:19). 

Second, we may fail to drive evil out of the territory. It is not merely a matter of receiving the gift. We must live into it. “However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer.” We can fail in this way, too. And if we do, we may be driven out ourselves (Matthew 18:15-17).

This can give us an ominous feeling. Are we doing enough as we live in the territory that’s been allotted to us by the gift of God? But if you feel the ominous feeling, you surely are living in the inheritance. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin (Proverbs 9:10; John 16:8). 

In other words, when you see the boundaries, you’ll know you are in.