Joshua 5: Obedience, and a new start

Dear church,

“Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.” – Joshua 5:2

The history of Israel for forty years had been marked by the “reproach of Egypt.” This is the idea the Israelites were chosen by God, but they kept meeting disaster after disaster in the wilderness. The bewildered Egyptians must have mocked the plight of Israel. Perhaps God “has brought them out to put them to death in the wilderness” (Deuteronomy 9:28).

Have you ever felt shame? The Israelites surely felt shame for their actions as a nation. A whole generation had passed away because of its unfaithfulness. Fortunately, God gave them a new start. And that new start began with obedience to the commands of God – “make flint knives …” Obedience to God’s commands must mark the lives of God’s people.

To be obedient to God means to do what he says today, regardless of what you have done in the past. It means making flint knives and cutting something away from your life, some bit of flesh that has been the source of disobedience in your life. It means to do this thing that God has commanded, no matter how much it may cost you. 

This is what Jesus did. He bore our “reproach of Egypt” to the cross. For him, obedience to the Father was a way of life, and it gave us a new start. 


Joshua 4: Mission starts at home

Dear church,

“Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.” – Joshua 4:22

The biggest mistake a Christian parent ever will make is in not proclaiming the gospel to his or her children. If we are “to seek and to save the lost” as Jesus did, surely this includes seeking and saving our children. A Christian parent may object and say he wants to let his children find their own way into the faith. This is wrong. We are to proclaim the gospel to our children.

A pile of twelve stones stood at the bank of the Jordan River. Anyone could see them, and certainly the children could. The stones were a wordless testimony to the work of the Lord in the life of the family of God. But the stones weren’t to remain wordless. The parents were to provide the words – “Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.” This is proclamation. We are to tell people about the work of God in our lives. We especially must tell our children. 

Millions of children are raised in Christian homes but do not remain in the faith as adults. We may say this failure falls at the feet of poor church youth programming. But parents are more influential to their children than any youth pastor could be. Yes, the Spirit of God blows where it wishes, but are we wishing and praying it blows toward our children (John 3:8; 15:7)?

Lovingly tell your children about the work of the Lord, both in your life and in the world. Tell them once. And then tell them again. And again. You’ll get better at it each time. 


Joshua 3: Led by the Spirit

Dear church, 

“Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on before the people.” – Joshua 3:6 

When reading deeply of the Old Testament, you will discover hints of the New. The presence of God rested with the ark of the covenant. The ark led the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Put more accurately, God led the people across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. It was God who was directing the whole event. He was the leader.

Christians experience God’s presence through the Holy Spirit, who lives inside each of us. The Holy Spirit is our “ark of the covenant,” and it is the “ark of the covenant” of the people of God, the church. God’s presence leads us into places where we have not passed before. 

Following the lead of the Holy Spirit is critical to your life as a Christian. The Holy Spirit often speaks to us in subtle ways. We must learn to listen. The Holy Spirit also will never lead us in a way or to a place that is not supported by the Bible. For the Israelites, God’s presence led them toward the fulfillment of God’s promises, which the people knew from God’s Word to them.

The Holy Spirit, likewise, leads us in living according to God’s will for our lives. You are likely to be surprised at times in how the Holy Spirit does this. The places where He takes you are, indeed, new. “For you have not passed this way before.” The faithful still will follow.


Joshua 2: The radical faith to surrender

Dear church, 

“For the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens and on the earth beneath.” – Joshua 2:11

Every human being must answer the same question at some point in his or her life: “Will I surrender to the will of God or not?” Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute – not someone you would expect to find salvation by the hand of a holy God. But she surrendered. She saw the work of God. She discerned his power and at least a bit of his plan. It was enough for her.

Rahab made a radical choice, and we must ask ourselves whether we were anywhere near as radical when we became Christians. For Rahab, submitting to the will of God meant abandoning everything she’d ever known – not least of all her profession. For us, we might be tempted to walk delicately in our old ways while proclaiming we are part of something new. 

True faith, however, permits us to leave the old ways with reckless abandon. It takes faith to submit to God. To have this faith means we trust God to save us from our own rebellion and selfishness, which put us outside his presence and in the path of his wrath. To have this faith also means we trust God to save us from the grasp of a world that suddenly will turn against us.

Don’t take your walk with Christ lightly. Trust him like Rahab trusted “God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” Leave the old stuff behind. Be radical in this one thing at least. 


Joshua 1: Courage for the mission

Dear church,

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened.” – Joshua 1:9

The difficulty in carrying out the mission of Christ is in summoning up the courage to make it happen. If we are “to seek and to save the lost,” then we must have courage (Luke 19:10). Some will reject the message of the gospel of Christ, and some will reject us as people. 

Only a man who has no doubt about his charge as a Christian will be able to face such opposition and go forward without fear. And every Christian has been commanded to go into the lost places of the world – from bars to jungles to the cubicle next to yours – in search of lost people. One area of ministry doesn’t look the same as the next, but all of them will require courage.

Again, we must have no doubt about the command of God, just as Joshua had no doubt about the command. The call to courage was linked to the command. We must remind ourselves again and again a Christian is to live on mission. And we go with God, as Joshua did – “for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” And we recall the promise of Jesus as he gave his own command – “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).


Luke 19:1-10 – A mission for the lost

Dear church,

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

The mission of Jesus Christ is to seek and to save the lost. This was the animating force of his ministry on earth, and it remains the animating force of the church that now serves as the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Just as Jesus came to save you – a lost person, a “sinner” and undeserving of grace – so Jesus’ disciples ought to have their sights set on the same types of people. 

Zacchaeus was an outcast. You perhaps were one, too. Zacchaeus was a hated tax collector. On top of that, he was rich – an ominous place to be if one wants to be saved (Luke 18:25-26). And he apparently was a cheat. And yet Jesus sought him and saved him. The passion, joy, and repentance from Zacchaeus – indeed, the faith – was obvious.

We ought not to forget what it means to be lost, and what it means to be found. That first instant when we realize we’ve been found should take our breath away. To look for a person like Zacchaeus, someone hopelessly lost, is to look for someone you’d least expect. You’ll know him when you’ve found him. Is there anyone who comes to mind today?


Luke 12:32-34 – A vision for the treasure

Dear church,

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” – Luke 12:32

The kingdom of God is the greatest of treasures, and it should motivate us to do remarkable things – things we wouldn’t imagine ourselves doing under normal circumstances. These Christian days of ours are not normal circumstances because we’ve been given the kingdom. 

The kingdom of God is neither a place nor a time. It transcends all of that. Rather, the kingdom of God is the realm and reign of God, where human sin has done no damage and has no influence. The kingdom of God is an existence that is full of peace and joy. Every truly good thing you can imagine has a home in the kingdom of God, and the truly bad things have no place there.

This kingdom is so good that it is rightly compared to a treasure. And if this is your treasure, your heart will chase after it with gusto. Our problem is we can become satisfied with the things the world offers, settling for possessions and money and temporary things instead of the kingdom. Jesus is calling us to have a vision that goes beyond the temporary and the purely visible. He wants us to latch onto something greater than what the world has to offer.


Luke 5:27-32 – Repentance leaves things behind

Dear church,

Still more leftovers from Luke 5 … Enjoy – and I hope you still are reading one chapter per day! God bless!

“And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.” – Luke 5:28

Levi left everything – his tax booth, his vocation, his standing with the Romans, his wealth, his security. When you come to repentance, you also must leave things behind. It is unlikely this always will be easy. We have wound ourselves up in certain unholy lifestyles and habits and friendships and reputations. To cut our ties with those things may very well bring pain.

But we must do it if we are to follow Jesus. The danger is to think these unholy things aren’t all that bad. “Surely,” we may say, “God isn’t going to be a stickler about this thing.” The call, however, is to absolute holiness. We are to live our lives as Jesus lived his life, with an unwavering devotion to God himself. 

Have you eliminated from your life every vestige of your old sinful self? You may have no further to look than the entertainment you consume or the way in which you speak. Do the things you consume with your eyes and ears and the words that come out of your mouth reflect the goodness and mercy of God?

As you repent of those old things, never forget you also are going somewhere. The void left in your life by those things left behind will soon be filled by the one who says, “Follow me.”


Luke 5:17-26 – Faith can be seen

Dear church,

More Luke 5 leftovers … Please read Luke 5:17-26.

“And when he saw their faith …” – Luke 5:20

Faith is not merely an inward condition of the heart. You may tell others you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and you may tell yourself the same, but true faith results in action. This is why people who say we should separate our faith and our work, or our faith and our friendships, or our faith and our politics, don’t really understand the nature of faith.

The goal of discipleship is to increase your faith, so that more and more you are integrating your faith into your actions. This does not just mean a few of your actions. It means all of them. No longer will anyone wonder about your beliefs because they will be lived out in real time. Everyone will be able to see your faith.

To live this way means, among other things, that you will speak words of hope rather than gloom, and you will make room in your life for the downtrodden, and you will have a kind of carefree joy that catches people by surprise. 

We do this because we can’t help it. We simply believe Jesus has the power to do all he has promised to do. To believe this means we have the newfound freedom, like a paralytic on his feet, to live in ways the world would never dare to live.


Luke 5:12-16 – Prayer is for busy people

Dear church,

This week, I’m going to give you a few leftover thoughts from Luke 5. I hope they are helpful. Please keep reading one chapter of Luke per day. I pray you will be blessed as you read.

“But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” – Luke 5:16 

Prayer must punctuate your life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. In the middle of the busy-ness, we find Jesus praying. The crowds pressed in on him, but he did not let the crowds dictate his relationship with the Father. 

It would have been easy for Jesus to yield to those who wanted good things from him. Likewise, it would have been easy for Jesus to recognize the good work he was doing and say, “I have a duty not to stop until it all is completed.” After all, much work needed to be done. And God the Father always was there. Prayer could come later.

There is much work to do. Right now, you may have great works in mind for your day. This is good. This is why we must pray – so that we don’t get lost in the work we’ve set out to do. We must work with our mind on God’s will. We must constantly go back to God for guidance, encouragement, and perspective. 

Jesus would “withdraw to desolate places.” To pray, we must pull back from the work. Sometimes, we can only do this mentally. But that is enough. A man making sales calls can pray, as can the driver of a backhoe. We “withdraw,” and we talk to our heavenly Father.