Monthly Archives: March 2010

Christianity is a Lifestyle

I finally got around to listening to the Mars Hill podcast from February 21. It is the section where Jesus calls Peter, James, and John. Anyways, this quote struck me.

“And this, Mars Hill, is what absolutely troubles me to my core. We enjoy so much of God’s grace. We are a miracle. We are a miracle. What we enjoy is miraculous, miraculous. We grew by almost two thousand people last year, baptized eight hundred. It’s insanity. Hundreds of people married, hundreds of children born. And at the end of the day, it seems like it takes about twenty minutes for someone to meet Jesus, get baptized, get in a community group, and retire. Done. If they even get to a community group, retire. “Great, my sins are forgiven, I met Jesus. I got some Christian friends, the church is there for me. I’m done.” “What about all those other people?” “Tough.” Some of you would say, “I would never say that I don’t care about lost people.” You vote with your wallet, you vote with your schedule. Don’t tell me what you believe, show me how you behave. Don’t tell me that Christianity is a belief system, it’s also a lifestyle.”

It seems so many people today are happy having said a little prayer and they feel that is it. All Christianity is about to them is reciting a prayer. They may come back to church they may not, but its okay they are good they said a prayer. There is no life change, no fruit, no growing in spiritual maturity. No one in the bible that came to believe in Jesus left without it being obvious something changed about them. As Driscoll said, “Christianity is a belief system, it is also a lifestyle!”

Christianity changes you.It makes you want to go out and tell everybody about Jesus. Persecution in America means someone may make fun of you. Persecution in the day of the apostles meant you would be ostracized from society or killed. Yet when people heard about Jesus in the New Testament they went out sharing the message. Christianity is a way of life and if Jesus is Lord of your life it is something that will shine in a way that everyone will see.


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A Man After God’s Own Heart

I have been reading through 1 and 2 Samuel lately. The life of David is such an amazing representation of who we are in Christ. David constantly goofed. He committed adultery (2 Samuel 11:4) and murder to cover it up (2 Samuel 11:15). He almost murdered a man because the man would not give him something to eat (1 Samuel 25:33). He had a census (2 Samuel 24:2) taken knowing that God did not want him to. He did a poor job raising his children. One son raped David’s daughter (2 Samuel 13:11-14) another murdered his own brother (2 Samuel 13:28) and tried to take the kingdom from David (2 Samuel 15:10).

David’s life was filled with mistake after mistake. Yet God felt David’s heart was right. (1 Samuel 13:14, 1 Samuel 16:7, 1 Kings 11:4,1 Kings 14:8, 1 Kings 15:3, Acts 13:22) When David sinned he would cry out to God forgive me, make me pure, wash me (Psalms 51:1-19). David prayed to God when his enemies attacked (Psalm 3:1-8, Psalm 109:1-31) and David knew where his strength came from (Psalm 18:1, 28:7, 59:16-17). God forgives and overlooks our sin when we worship Him through the Son. When we accept Jesus as Lord and savior then we like David are washed as white as snow.


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John 1:35-40

Today we are studying John 1:35-40. This is three days after the priest have questioned John about why he baptizes and two days after announcing to the crowd that Jesus is the Lamb of God. John and two of his disciples are standing around together. We know that one of the disciples was Andrew (John 1:40) and it has been traditionally assumed the other was John the author of this gospel. The three of them see Jesus walking by and John the Baptist tells them again that Jesus is the Lamb of God.

John is trying to tell his disciples to go and see this teacher. John is humbling himself and letting his truest followers go and follow Jesus. I think the church today needs to pay close attention to what is going on in this verse. Our churches should be actively seeking those who are the most dedicated followers and then sending them out to multiply and build. Instead of relying on organizations to find and send people to plant churches or to go on foreign missions, we need to be seeking from within and sending out.

Andrew and John follow Jesus and in verse 38 Jesus looks at them and asks, “what are you seeking?” This question What are you seeking, what are you wanting is asked with Jesus knowing they followed Him after being told that Jesus is the Lamb of God. We also must remember that These two men have been following the Baptist. They have lived with him, heard his sermons over and over, and more than likely had private conversations with him about who and what is this Messiah that is coming. We may not have a record of John’s sermons, but we do know he was teaching repentance and that a messiah was coming to take the sins of man and grant forgiveness.

These two men understood who Jesus was and Jesus knew that they had that understanding of Him. So this question what do you seek is saying, How far are you willing to go for me? Are you seeking something that doesn’t require sacrifice? Are you seeking something that doesn’t change your life? Or are you seeking something that is so amazing that you will never be the same again. Something so amazing that you will sacrifice everything to gain it, not because you have to but because it means that much to you.

Their response was, “Teacher, where are you staying?” With the knowledge that they had this is saying we want it all. We are going to follow you anywhere and all we want is to learn from you.
Jesus says, “come and you will see”. When we ask Jesus into our life with a true and repentant heart, He will not refuse us.

The last part of this section talks about Andrew going and finding his brother Simon and announcing he has found the Messiah. This should be us going and telling those closest to us about Jesus. Simon Follows Jesus and is given the name Peter or Cephas.


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Friday’s Links

Stacy Harp at the Persecution Blog asks what would you do for a bible?

Chaplain mike has posted on the Internet monk site a post about Long and Wandering prayer. It’s based on sections from a book by David Hansen and it talks about spending all day in prayer.


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Even the Idols Bow Down to God

In 1 Samuel 5:1-5 the Israelites have just suffered defeat by the Philistines and to top it off the Philistines have taken the ark of God. Just imagine to the Israelites everything is going bad. God has abandoned them and their symbol of Him has been taken by their enemies. A whole family of priest have died.

On the other hand the Philistines are celebrating. Not only have they defeated the Israelites but they have also captured their God. Remember we are talking about a pagan nation that believes the idols are actually true and breathing gods. To them this ark is their god. So to celebrate and show their appreciation to their god, Dagon, they place the ark in front of a statue of Dagon.

Just imagine as they finish a night of celebration and mocking the Israelites and their captured God, the Philistines go to bed on top of the world. Then they wake up and go to worship. When they enter the house of Dagon, their god is bowed down in front of the ark. The priest are scratching their heads asking how did that happen. Someone suggest , “They probably bumped it when they were putting the ark in here. It fell after everyone left.”

They carefully place Dagon back on his stand and make extra sure he will not fall again. The next morning they walk into the temple and a look of horror comes upon their face. Not only is Dagon back bowing before the Lord. his hands and head have been cut off. In 1 Samuel 5:9 they have realized that the hand of God is hard against them and their god. They are ready to give the ark back to the Israelites.

What gets me about this passage is that it is blaringly obvious that God is sending them a message. If their god is bowing to Him, shouldn’t they bow to Him. He has given them victory over the Israelites and here he is speaking to them. As Paul says in Romans 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. They have an opportunity to turn to God. He is revealing Himself to them and they send Him away so they can go back to their idols.

How often does this same scenario reveal itself in our lives. Jesus shows us what he wants from us. Yet we turn to our idols. Instead of taking up our cross and following we complain about going to church. instead of worshipping him as Lord we carry Him around like a genie in a bottle expecting Him to bow to us. We never seem to notice we keep falling on our faces in front of Him.

The saddest part of this story though isn’t that the Philistines chose not to turn to God, but that the Israelites picked up a pagan custom from it. (1 Samuel 5:5) The priest of Dagon started to avoid the threshold of the temples because the head and hands of Dagon were lying on the threshold. Jump forward to Zephaniah 1:9 On that day I will punish everyone who leaps over the threshold. The Israelites missed what God was telling them.


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85 Years Young

What a beautiful illustration of faith in Joshua 14:12! The Israelites have been in all out war trying to get the land God has promised them. Now Joshua is letting the tribes take the land allotted to them and here is Caleb going to Joshua. Remember when we were younger and we went and scouted out the land for Moses. We saw all those Giants. They were everywhere.(Numbers 13) But we told Moses, We can do it. God won’t let us fail. Then them other guys said no we can’t. We will be killed. Moses told us, you can have that land. the rest of you will never step foot on it.(Deuteronomy 1:35-36)

Joshua I’m 85 years old. I still feel like a forty year old man. Give me the land of the giants. I know there are some still hiding in the mountains and caves , but I have God and I was promised that land. (some may take note here that Caleb says assuming the Lord is with me[NET translation] and say he has doubts. This is not what is going on Caleb knows if he has been obedient to God, God will live up to that promise. Caleb also realizes that no man is righteous{ Romans 3:10} and there are times he has stumbled, hopefully he is right with God and can take that land.)

Can you imagine at 85 years old going and taking on an army of giants just with your immediate family. We often think of the faith David had to have to approach Goliath as a young man, but here is an old man going to a place where he knows many giants will lay in wait to ambush him. That is faith. God promised God will give.


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Friday’s Links

My daughter had an article printed in the Tn WMU Paper the link (click on the March/April issue.She is the acteens article on the right) also go check out her blog share my God

Michael Patton has put Bible Translations in a Nutshell and give a brief overview of the different translation philosophies


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I Pray for You

Sorry, but I’m feeling a little malicious today. You got to admit this is a funny song though. If you have any complaints about the thought behind it, maybe you should read Psalm 109 and preach to David. He apparently had some malicious days too.

Psalm 109
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
1 O God, whom I praise,
do not remain silent,


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John 1:29-34

Today we will be studying John 29-34. This is the day after men were sent from the pharisees to find out who John was and exactly what was he doing. John is standing in the Jordan preaching and baptizing Jewish people. He looks up and sees Jesus walking by. Jesus has already been baptized by John at this time (Matthew 3:13-17) and when John sees Him he stops and looks towards Him.

“Look,, It is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
This verse is so beautiful as it is reminiscent of Genesis 22:8. Remember the story of Abraham. He had always wanted a son. God granted him one in his old age and then asked him to sacrifice him. As they were heading up the mountain Issac asked Abraham, “Where is our sacrifice?”
Abraham said in verse 8, “God will provide the lamb.” God did provide the lamb in that case and here John is showing his disciples that God has provided a lamb for them and for us.

Back to John 1:30 and he is reminding them of what he said the day before about one greater than him. He says, “This is Him.” Then John goes on to tell them that this is what God sent him for. His purpose in life was to announce the coming of the Messiah. In Luke 1 the priest Zacharias goes into the Holy of Holies to burn incense and a angel appears to him telling him that he will have a son and this son will go to announce the Messiah. That son was John. John tells them that as he was baptizing Jesus, God’s Spirit came upon Jesus and told John that this is the one that baptizes with the holy spirit. John concludes this section stating that he has seen and is witness that Jesus is the Chosen One of God.

This short section is beautiful because it bares the inspired testimony that Jesus is the sacrifice for our sins. Every sin that I have or ever will commit is forgiven by God because Jesus took my place. Jesus accepted the wrath of God for me. We also see that God has a purpose for our lives. There is something he has planned for us. All we have to do is humble ourselves and accept the fact that we are servants of God. Then we will have our eyes opened to how Jesus is using us to increase His kingdom.
I love how John steps aside when he sees Jesus. In Matthew he actually says,” I shouldn’t be baptizing you. You should be baptizing me.” John is a very popular preacher. People have left everything to come to the wilderness and follow him. His followers are faithful and love him. Yet John knows that he is just a messenger. Jesus is the Way to forgiveness and salvation. May we all humble ourselves as John did.


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The Miracle From Afar

Joshua 3 is an interesting chapter in that it is such an amazing miracle. The Jordan river is overflowing the banks. The priests carrying the ark walk towards it and as soon as there feet touch the water it stops flowing.(Joshua 3:15-17) They walk into the middle of the river and stand as everyone passes by. This is amazing by itself but for everything there is a cause and effect.

In Joshua 3:16 the older translations say the water “rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam” (KJV). The newer translations say “rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam” (ESV) I’m going with the newer translations here, so let’s look real close at what happened. The priest step in the water and it builds up in a huge mound. God is performing a miracle for the Israelites.

Let’s go to the city of Adam and think through this though. You are a citizen of Adam and you have heard rumors of the Israelites and their God. Supposedly God has given them all this land on the other side of the Jordan. You know as a riverside resident that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Then one day you go out to the river and see the most amazing thing. It is higher than normal and it’s no longer flowing and it’s as if it hit an invisible wall. You walk around and look and the water just stops. you stare downriver and there is nothing in sight. Then some kids (I say kids simply because they are always the nosiest and first to see what is going on.) come running up and tell you the Israelites are crossing the river. They have priest with this huge box just standing there as they go across.

You think, “Wow, there God truly is delivering them!” This story plays out everyday in the lives of Christians who believe in an all powerful God that can do anything. The Christians witness God’s miracle and the non Christians get to see the results of that miracle. For example Elevation Church is doing a series called storytellers. they had there praise band do a concert where between songs they would get up and do their testimony. Wade Joye (starts at 27 minutes) talked about his twin girls and how one was born with a bleeding brain. The doctors told them the girl would never walk, probably never be out of diapers and even said that she wasn’t going to make it and they should take her off life support. The girl is now two years old and walking.

The family saw the miracle happen. The doctors saw the family’s faith and the results of that faith. That can sometimes be the most powerful witness we can give.


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Lovely Monday

What a day last Monday was! I went to bed Sunday night thinking about what a simple day it was going to be. I was getting up and taking my wife’s truck to Jackson to have a noise from the front tire fixed. While there I would be attending an associational meeting to help me get to know the pastor’s in my area. I woke up did some bible study, read some blogs and wrote a little. My wife and kids got up, so I said I was going to take the tire off and make sure it wasn’t something I could fix. (By the way the noise started Wednesday on the way home from church and the truck had been driven only once since then.) As I’m looking at the rotor and brake caliper, my oldest daughter peeks her head around and said, “I’m having trouble with the Jeep.”

I go to see what is wrong and the key is stuck in the ignition. It will not turn and it will not come out. I tell her to take my van and go onto school. I’m messing with the Jeep when I realize my wife has to be at work pretty soon and the tire is still off the truck.

I get the tire on the truck and go in to see if my wife is ready to go, since now I will have to pick up the van so she will have a vehicle to carry my son to the doctor, while I go to my meeting and the shop. I walk in the house and she tells me my Savannah called and said the van would not go any faster than thirty miles per hour. She made it to school but people were honking at her and passing her all the way there.

I have my wife drop me off at the school to get the van and I head home at a little over thirty miles per hour. I Get a quick shower and head back into town. I drop the van off at her work and tell her I’m on my way to Jackson for my meeting. This is a thirty minute drive and I have fifteen minutes left. She tells me the truck got worse after she left the school, but one of her customers recommended a shop in Henderson. I tell her I still have my meeting and it will make it.

A half a mile later I call to tell her the truck isn’t going to make it to Jackson and I need her to pick me up at the shop in Henderson when she takes our son to the doctor. I call my pastor friend in Jackson and inform him that I’m not going to make it because I have had three cars quit all in one morning.

I gave up!

I gave up and quit trying to go where I was going. Why do I tell you all this? Because this is what our lives are like until we come to Jesus. We are trying to go our own way and one thing after another keeps stopping us, but we keep plowing on in our sin as we get further broken down. But we must give up! We must realize we have to stop and ask for help. We have to give our lives to Jesus and he will change our direction. He will take the stress of our broken down lives and fix them. But we have to realize we are not going anywhere first.

Just to finish the story. To top off everything else, the doctors think my son is diabetic. He goes later this week to take a three hour glucose tolerance test to find out for sure. That really isn’t that big of a deal except he has one kidney and high sugar is really hard on the kidneys. Luckily I have faith that all things work for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose and I can look at last Monday as God just wanted me to have an Illustration.

May the grace of the Lord be upon you,
MSW


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Friday’s Links

Tim Challies wrote a post called Ruined For Anything Else talking about how “Once you’ve been exposed to doctrine you see the richness in it for your own soul and you truly are ruined for anything else.”

On the Resurgence site Russell Moore talks about Misguided Christian Outrage towards the remake of “We are the World”.

Paul Copan at Parchment and Pen asks the question, do we have to tell the bad news before we tell them good news.


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God’s Love Letter

I’m currently reading through the NIV Application Commentary written by Gary M. Burge. On pages 83-84 where he is writing about the contemporary significance of John1:19-51, he talks about some test him and a colleague at Wheaton College ran. He footnotes an article from Christianity Today he wrote, but I’m going to quote from the NIVAC on John. Remember these are conservative Christian students who truly love Jesus and live a life that reflects that.

“We have been shocked at what we learned. Students from strong, conservative churches were sending us some of their best Christian eighteen-year-old students who did not know who came first, Abraham or Moses. They were not sure if Barnabas was in the Old Testament or the New Testament. When asked to put a list of major biblical books in proper order (such as Exodus, Psalms, Isaiah, Matthew, Romans), they failed miserably. When asked if Paul believed in the resurrection of the body, most said “No.” … “Recently one of my students told me that she was sure Jesus was baptized in the Dead Sea of Israel. Another thought that Paul was one of the twelve apostles.” He goes on to say they did not know of heroes of the faith like Luther, Augustine, or Wesley. Matters of doctrinal basis for their Christian Identity were beyond their grasp.

As I read this I remembered something that happened as I was teaching a youth class. I had a list from a post by Greg Stier called What if Jesus was on Twitter. It was several quick sentences in twitter fashion about things Jesus might say if he used twitter. I figured the youth would love it. As I read them off I noticed many confused faces. They did not know these bible stories. Go and check out the list these are basic bible stories that should stand out (such as Jesus clearing the temple, the disciples going fishing after Jesus’ death). They did not know them. I’m not blaming the church or the teachers because it’s our own responsibility to meditate on the word of God.

It isn’t just youth and young adults. I know many people that are strong Christians. There is plenty of fruit in their life to show it and you can see it in the way they care for others. Yet they have never read the whole bible. They have never even read the New Testament. So why are Christians not reading the bible? I was saved and baptized at age 14. I tried reading my bible and never got very far. It was hard to understand so I would give up. This happened over and over until I was in my early thirties. I then set a goal of getting through the bible in a year. It took a little over a year. I tried it again. It went a little quicker. Every time I read through the bible I pick up more and more and it gets easier and easier to understand.

Wayne Grudem explains the biblical reasons for this in his essay “The Perspicuity of Scripture ” in Themelios 34.3 especially section 2.3. God expects us to have put forth the effort to read the bible (Ezra 7:10) and have the willingness to obey it. (James 1:22-25) Then through the Holy Spirit (Psalm 119:18, 27, 34, 73) we will start to understand what we are reading.

So what do we do about this lack of bible reading? We must show Christians that the bible is fun to read, pastor’s need to teach that God expects us to spend time meditating on His Word, and we should exhort each other to spend time in scripture.. The bible is God’s love letter to us. Would you not read a love letter from the one you truly loved? Then you should read the love letters from the one who loved you so much that he saved you through the death and resurrection of His Son.

G.M. Burge, “The Greatest Story Never Read: Recovering Biblical Literacy in the Church,” Christianity Today 43 (Aug., 1999), 45-50
Wayne Grudem, “The Perspicuity of Scripture,” Themelios 34:3 p 288-308
Another post about this problem that contains a lot of statistics can be located at http://www.theologicalstudies.org/page/page/1573625.htm


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Fleeing Into The Danger Zone

I was at my dad’s house a few weekends ago and he was working on his swimming pool. For some reason it had a huge rip in it and obviously no water. He had taken the ladders out and sat them on the grass next to the pool. Before I go any farther with this story I need to let you know something about my dad. He hates snakes. I’ve seen him turn the channel on TV because a snake was on the screen. He is a true advocate of “the only good snake is a dead snake!”

Anyways my son, my dad, and I are staring down into this empty 12 foot hole in the ground. He is explaining that there are several small holes in it besides for the gash down the side. He tells me that there are holes where the ladder was and he doesn’t understand that because the ladder has always had rubber ends on it. He then proceeds to turn around and start to pick up the ladder. Remember the ladder is laying a few feet away on the grass. This is the moment my son calmly states, “Hey that’s a snake.”

I’m trying to see where my son thinks he sees a snake when I realize my dad is rather quickly stepping backwards towards the empty pool. My mind realizing the scene is about to get really bad, but not being able to form a complete sentence yet just starts repeating, “the pool, the pool!” Luckily, by God’s grace, my dad understood that “the pool” meant the snake is not the biggest problem you need to avoid right now.

So in an attempt to get away from one danger my dad almost stepped right into a worse danger. That is how it is with us and sin sometimes. We try to do like Paul told timothy and flee immorality,(1 Timothy 6:11) but we don’t watch were we are going. What do I mean? For example we may make man made rules to avoid a sin yet we become proud. Or maybe we avoid people that we know are living in some sort of sin so that we are not sucked into the same sin. That’s a good thing. But what if we are the only person that might be able to bring that person to Christ yet we cross the street like the priest in the parable of the good Samaritan.(Luke 10:30-31)

Fleeing from sin is a good thing and we definitely should not go where we know our weaknesses are, (for example a recovering alcoholic probably shouldn’t go and witness to people in a bar.) but putting ourselves in a bubble and avoiding the world is not living out the great commission.(Matthew 28:19-20)


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The Gospel of John 1:19-28

Today I’m looking at John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus. We will be in John 1:19-28. John has been next to the Jordan river and he is baptizing Jewish people. Baptism is not odd for the Jews they have used it for a long time to baptize people who are being brought out of paganism. Jews were not baptized though. John comes along and starts baptizing Jews without checking with the religious powers that be. So in verse 19 The Jewish leaders have sent people to find out exactly what he is doing.

Remember from Matthew 3:4 that John wore camel skins and ate locust. He was a rough looking individual and when they ask him who are you. He says quickly, I am not the messiah. It’s interesting that the pharisees did not have a problem assuming this wild and rough looking man in the wilderness was the promised messiah, but refused to accept Jesus, who could come into the synagogues and teach better than any of them as the messiah.

They go through the typical assumptions that show up when they see a prophet. Are you Elijah? Are you the Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15) John quotes from Isaiah 40:3 saying that he is the one sent to announce the coming of the Lord. Well that can’t go back and tell their leaders this man never really told us anything. So they ask Why do you baptize? This is when John tells them that there is one among them that they don’t recognize. Jesus has been teaching in the synagogues and these pharisees are out in the wilderness looking for him.

Now notice his response. He says he baptizes with water but that isn’t nothing compared to the one I am proclaiming. I’m not even worthy to untie his sandal. A disciple of a teacher would do many things for his teacher but he would not untie his shoes that would be a servants job. What John is stating is even though he has a large group of followers and they respect and listen to his teaching, He is not even worthy to be a slave of Jesus. We should all learn from John. We are not worthy of anything Jesus gives us, but He loves us so much He asks the Father to accept us as adopted sons through his death.


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Only Be Strong and Courageous

Last week I read through the book of Joshua and so many things jumped out at me. I’m going to start today with Joshua 1 and the secret of success. This is as close as you will see me get to a Joel Osteen Gospel.

Upon Moses death God speaks to Joshua and gives him command of his people and tells him what it will take to be successful. I listened to a sermon on this passage once and the preacher pointed out several things in this passage that we can apply to our lives to be successful. I see one that all the others are based on. Joshua 1:6 “Be strong and courageous”, Joshua 1:7 “Only be strong and courageous”, Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous”, and Joshua 1:18 “Only be strong and courageous.”

Who is saying that was two things? When God repeats Himself it means listen up. Normally God stops at three times, yet here He repeats Himself four times. that means listen up and pay close attention this is very important.

Before telling Joshua to be strong and courageous in verse 6, God tells Joshua that He will never leave or forsake Him. In verses 7 and 8 God reminds Joshua to obey the law, but immediately goes back to letting Him know that Joshua is doing what He willed and that He is with Him. The final command to be strong and courageous comes after Joshua has commanded his men and they repeat to Him what God has told him.

God is making sure Joshua understands that he is in His will and doing things for God. He can’t fail. This stands true for us to day just as it did for Joshua. If we are in God’s will and doing what He has called us to do we can’t fail. Success is guaranteed. That is not to say there won’t be times when we feel like things are not going as they should, it’s just saying that it will work out in the end.

look at Joshua 7:6. Joshua has had thirty six men killed in an attack that God ordered. He is doing what he was supposed to do yet God allowed him to fail. Joshua falls to his knees and prays why, Lord, why?

We will have times in our lives when we are trying to do what God wants and it seems we are failing and the task is impossible but God has told us be strong and courageous because He will not fail or forsake us. Let us always put our trust and hope in Jesus and we will succeed.


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