Joshua Had Two Choices

For January 21, 2023
Forty years of wilderness wanderings had come to an end with the death of Moses, the Lawgiver. Joshua was now the new leader for the Children of Israel, having been groomed for leadership under Moses’ supervision for over forty years when God made this pronouncement,

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

Joshua had two choices. He could have remained on the east side of the Jordan River, or he could obey God and cross the Jordan River. Here, a brief historical review helps us capture the importance of Joshua’s decision in its greater context.

Some six-hundred years earlier, when Abram (Abraham) was around seventy-five years old, God visited him and promised,

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “ I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:1-3 (NIV)

And,

“Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” Genesis 13:14-17 (NIV)

Abraham believed the Lord and trusted in the promises He made, knowing that they would be fulfilled in time. This promise was passed from Abraham, to Isaac, then to Jacob (Israel), and then to his children, the “Children of Israel.” When there was a severe famine in the land, God sent Joseph, one of Israel’s sons, to provide a means to preserve the family.

However, Israel suffered four-hundred years of slavery about the time Moses was born. He became God’s deliverer, who would remind God’s people of a “promised land” that was “flowing with milk and honey,”

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:7-10 (NIV)

Joshua could have remained on the east of the Jordan. However, had he done so, there would have been no miraculous battle at Jericho and eventual settlement, and no period of the Judges.

There also would have been no inspiring story of Ruth and Naomi; no Priest/Prophet Samuel; no King David; no Solomon; no Jerusalem (the City of David); no Temple at Jerusalem; no Elijah; no Elisha; no Jeremiah, Daniel, Esther, or any of the countless other men and women of faith celebrated in the Bible.

Most importantly, there would have been no Suffering Servant to save the world from sin as predicted by Isaiah,

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. Isaiah 524-6 (NLT)

Joshua trusted God and crossed the Jordan, and God used his act of obedience to fulfill His divine plan for our spiritual (and moral) redemption. Joshua’s act of faith set in motion the will of God for Jesus Christ to conquer sin and death.

Before Jesus was born, it was the Angel of the Lord who would tell Joseph what Jesus’ life mission would be,

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21(NIV)

Jesus would eventually affirm His mission in a conversation with Nicodemus,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 (NIV)

Joshua had two choices, and he trusted God with amazing success.

We have two choices today. We can continue with “life as usual,” suffering with the same imperfections and regrets, or we can turn to Christ by “crossing over” to Him by faith today and experience a fulfilling and satisfying life of change and growth that can last forever. Won’t you allow Him to transform your life today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

Jesus Christ: Son of Man and Son of God

For January 15, 2023
To think of Jesus Christ as Son of Man is not much of a stretch because historical records verify His life, ministry, and existence. We can know that He walked the earth for about thirty-three years with the same human wants, needs, and aspirations we all share. He slept, ate, drank, wept, and was tempted. He experienced joy, anger, sadness, pain, hunger, thirst, anger, and love. He became grief stricken, fatigued, and was lonely.

What set Him apart was that He did not succumb to the temptations that arise from sin, the self, or Satan. Instead, He lived a completely balanced life of moral and spiritual excellence at all times. He submitted Himself to the will of His Father and satisfied all the requirements of God’s Law—He was perfect!

Understanding Jesus as Son of God becomes less of a problem when we acknowledge His being morally and spiritually perfect as an attribute of deity or as a reflection of God’s holiness. In this context, the “perfection” and “mastery” components of His life and ministry make perfect sense. Because Jesus embodied God in human flesh,

Thus, He could impose His will over His creation by silencing the raging storm, walking on the turbulent sea, turning water into wine, feeding the multitudes with two small fish and five loaves of bread, healing the sick, raising the dead, and performing countless other miraculous works that verified His claims to be God in human flesh.

John the Apostle addresses the deity of Christ in the first chapter of his gospel,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 (NIV)

Then he further adds,

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NIV)

God became human and made His home among us. It is humanly impossible to understand and explain the mysteries of God, including the intricacies of His Incarnation. God has the authority to conceal or disclose anything He so chooses (Proverbs 25:2).

Yet He revealed His divine, redemptive plan through Jesus Christ, the only Son of God. All that God requires is our faith in Christ to receive His gracious gift. Today, we can acknowledge Christ as Savior and Lord and receive the blessings associated with God’s promises to save all those who believe and confess Jesus Christ,

But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:6-10 (NIV)

Jesus Christ is both the Son of God and the Son of Man. He is the perfect Mediator between God and humanity to reconcile anyone anywhere with God.

Through His reconciliation, we can have complete forgiveness of sin, spiritual transformation, and eternal life. All He requires is our faith in His perfect work on the cross. Won’t you trust in Christ today and let Him change your life forever?

What a Wonderful Savior!

Abiding Under in Complete Surrender

For January 8, 2023
Through our tribulations, God invigorates our spiritual depth, and His almighty power preserves our spiritual well-being. Just as fire refines precious metals, God uses tribulation to refine our patient endurance so that we face our challenges with bravery and fortitude as the Word of God teaches us,

But we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5 (NKJV)

The Greek word “hupomone,” (Strong-G5281),1 translated as patience, combines two Greek words “hupo,” under, and “meno,“ to abide to convey remaining patient, enduring, being steadfast in our resolve, particularly in our Christian faith.

To “abide under” means to surrender our will to Christ while we humbly and patiently endure by remaining steadfast in our service to Him. It must be pointed out that God never intends us to “abide under” the threat of danger or physical harm. We must address those circumstances carefully, with prayer, counseling, and appropriate intervention(s) on a case-by-case basis.

We are priceless commodities made in His image, and He wants us to practice self-care by seeking proper guidance when there is a threat of violence, exploitation, and/or abuse. Here, it may be best to seek out a qualified professional, Christian counselor, social/community service agency, or law enforcement for appropriate referral and/or crisis intervention.

Yet, we can trust the Lord to give us the wisdom and discernment to avoid situations that would imperil others or us as we grow into the level of Christ-likeness He advocates in His Word,

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:5-8 (NKJV)

Patient endurance requires our complete surrender to the Lord. This is most difficult since it forces us to overcome our greatest internal enemy—pride. One author explores the freedom we have as we submit ourselves to Christ,

What freedom corresponds to submission? It is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way. The obsession to demand that things go the way we want them to go is one of the greatest bondages in human society today. … In the discipline of submission we are released to drop the matter, to forget it. … Only submission can free us sufficiently to enable us to distinguish between genuine issues and stubborn self-will.2

It is the Lord’s job to lead us. It is our job to follow Him by trusting His leadership and obeying His sovereignty, as this hymn conveys,

Trust and Obey3

John H. Sammis (1846-1919)

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies, But His smile quickly drives it away; Not a doubt nor a fear, not a sigh nor a tear, Can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share, but our toil He doth richly repay; not a grief nor a loss, not a frown nor a cross, But is blest if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love Until all on the altar we lay; For the favor He shows and the joy He bestows Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet, Or we’ll walk by His side in the way; what He says we will do, where He sends we will go, never fear, only trust and obey.

Refrain:
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Won’t you trust the Lord with your life and with your circumstances today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

A Happy New Year!

For January 1, 2023
The second chapter of the Book of Philippians relates the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus Christ and tells how every knee will bow to His authority and how every tongue will confess His deity as “Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (v.11)

Thus, for two-thousand and twenty-three-years, we have been numbering the years since Jesus Christ’s birth to remind us of the greatest and most influential person in human history. 1

Although His distinct message has been often ignored, overlooked and disregarded by many. It yet remains simple, compelling, and redemptive to those of us, who love Him dearly and trust Him implicitly,

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

By faith in Him, we can find lasting peace, fulfillment, and complete satisfaction. For when the Son makes you free, you are free indeed. (John 8:36)

He promises to create new hearts inside new people who humbly yield to His will by placing our faith in Him,

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 36:25 (NLT)

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

He also promises to create a new place where we will live with Him forever,

See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. Isaiah 65:17 (NIV)

When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:3 (NLT)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. Revelation 21:1 (NIV)

Only Jesus Christ lived a life of complete moral and spiritual perfection, while fully embodying God’s grace, healing, and love. He gave Himself freely so that we could have a new spiritual identity through the New Birth (Born Again).

By faith, we can have a complete, spiritual overhaul as new persons in Christ. We can experience true and lasting change, growing to be more like Jesus each day.

Here, we turn from our sin, and we turn to Christ to be our Lord and Savior. Then, His Spirit takes control of our hearts so that we can become God’s beloved children forever.

Won’t you begin a new year by accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and let Him change your life?

Happy New Year 2023!

What a Wonderful Savior!

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

For December 25, 2022
This year we celebrate Christmas on a Sunday, the Lord’s Day; the day many Christians worship the Lord Jesus Christ, from the perspective of a grateful heart; grateful for the gift of love, mercy, and forgiveness He unselfishly gave the entire world when He rose from the dead nearly two-thousand years ago.

Christmas remains my favorite time of the year because we honor the most important person who ever lived, whom the angels foretold (my emphasis),

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25 (NKJV)

Love, mercy, and forgiveness are human traits we don’t see much in today’s unforgiving world clamoring for vengeance. Our world of animosities demands that we “get even” for infractions, whether past, present, real, imagined, or not—somebody has to pay.

Death is the ultimate price that one can pay to show their love, and God, through Christ, did that for us at Calvary. His divine, selfless love extends mercy and forgiveness to all people everywhere as we accept His precious gift by faith, by asking Him to be our Lord and Savior. Now when we offend Him with our sin and disobedience, His is a very different response through Christ,

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (NKJV)

Instead of judgment, He forgives us and keeps no record of our sinful past. Psalm 103:12  tells how He separates our sins from us as far as the east is separated from the west.

We deserved eternal judgment and condemnation. Yet, His selfless love prompted Him to restore us imposing no restriction. Mercy says that we have no probation period whereby we “earn” His favor.

Nothing can separate us from God. Neither can anything in our past make us guilty before Him. Thus, we can reflect His mercy as our being prime benefactors. (Romans 8:35-39)

All of us are born to die, but Jesus’ death was most is redemptive. And as we invite Him to abide within us, we can emulate God’s perfect love by forgiving wrongdoings, showing mercy, and extending goodwill to others as well,

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 (NLT) Motivated by God’s selfless love, our compassion becomes a viable and attractive alternative to all forms of love outside of Christ. It encompasses the “most excellent way” outlined in 1 Corinthians 13 (the Love Chapter).

Patient and kind, it’s always at work seeking opportunities to show kindness. It is not jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. It is not possessive or irritable. It does not concern itself with what the recipient can do to “deserve” it, nor does it demand its own way.

It keeps no record of wrongs, and it rejoices when truth prevails. It never gives up, never loses faith, but is hopeful and enduring. Just like the shepherds of old, we too can joyfully observe the Lord’s birthday as recipients of God’s gift of love, mercy, and forgiveness. Won’t you accept this gift today and experience the true meaning of Christmas? What a wonderful Christmas present.

What a Wonderful Savior!

 Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, Jesus!

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