Accompanying Confidence

Accompanying Confidence

Read:

“. . . We are your servants; now then, make a covenant with us.” Joshua 9:11

Reflect:

The heroes of the Bible were not fatalist. They didn’t live carelessly or haphazardly. They never threw caution to the wind. Each of them was assigned a specific task with its own unique focus. The one thing they had in common was the assurance that God’s presence was accompanying them. 

All Abraham had was a promise that God would promote, protect, and provide for Him. So he displayed great confidence in God and set out to follow Him. And then there was Moses, charged to take on large scale deliverance, armed with the accompanying promise that the great “I AM” had sent him. David was a psalmist and a King. All the good he accomplished began when the Lord had mightily come upon him. Each of these extraordinary people had been assured God was with them and, as a result, accomplished great and mighty things for God. 

Joshua was a military leader with strong spiritual influence. His hard fought and hard won victories were driven by the confidence that God would give him the ground he stepped on. One can only wonder how such a great and Godly man, schooled in the discipline of laying his cares and uncertainties before the Lord and waiting for God’s guidance, could be fooled by moldy bread and blown out sandals. 

Joshua was a warrior who could be threatened and not flinch. All the pleading in the world could not deter him from following the path of duty. But the Gibeonites had found Joshua’s one weakness – flattery. They told him of how they had heard of his many victories and how his fame had spread to faraway lands. Joshua liked thinking that people knew who he was. The Gibeonites had him twisted around their little finger.

The moment we abandon our dependence on God, our spiritual life begins to disintegrate. Never allow anything that divides or destroys your confidence in God. Beware of allowing your ego, the opinion of others, or circumstances to separate you from God’s leadership of your life.

Respond:

Think through the major areas of your life, do you have the confidence the way you are living is pleasing to God?  

Doing the Right Thing The Wrong Way

Doing the Right Thing the Wrong Way

Read:

“. . . We have come from a far country; . . .” Joshua 9:6

Reflect:

A lie, God hates it. Because He is the very essence of light, in Him there is no darkness at all. 

The harsh reality of the choice of the Gibeonites to lie is they could’ve gained protection without the deception. The law of Moses stated (Deuteronomy 20:10-18) that any city within the boundary of the conquering city who willingly surrendered could be given refuge and that the inhabitance was to be spared.

This story helps us to understand that the Gibeonites choice to survive was a right thing done the wrong way. The lesson here is worth remembering.

We should avoid doing good things in a bad way. This is a common fault of many. Often the grace in acts of kindness is lost by an ungracious way of doing them. We give, but with reluctance. We confess mistakes, but do it in a snippy, sarcastic and sullen manner. We express regret, but not for the mistake, instead, for the inconvenience of having to acknowledge it. We take the thoughtful advice of faithful believers, but do so begrudgingly. We act compassionately, but we delay it. Delayed obedience is disobedience. We yield our heart to God, but in defiance and only as a last resort.  We do the right thing, but only after trying to find a way from not doing it at all. 

So the Gibeonites rightly submit, but make the submission in a wrong way, using falsehood and pretense, taking away from Israel the grace of generosity and the friendly spirit that would have been extended towards them. 

Don’t blame them for their choice to lie, but remember, that every fault is a mirror. We each may see ourselves in this story. We are more like the Gibeonites than we care to admit, in that some bad seems to creep into our choices and mix with the good. Because of God’s mercy, such mixture may not be fatal, but it always takes the edge off the blessings of God.

Respond:

In what area of life are you doing the right thing the wrong way? What are you gonna do about it?

 

Caught Up in the Moment

Caught Up in the Moment

Read:

“They went to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal . . .” Joshua 9:6

Reflect:

All decisions have consequences. We simply are not aware of all that will happen as a result of our choices. Had Joshua seen all that hung on his decision to make a covenant with the Gibeonites, he would’ve asked for God’s guidance. We must develop the habit of seeking God’s counsel in all matters great and small. Knowing that when we are faithful with little, we will be faithful in much.

Oftentimes we are too smart for our own good. We talk ourselves into making commitments because we are caught up in the moment, we are thinking of our present happiness and personal gain. 

We don’t realize when we are being deceived by envy, jealousy, and evil desires. A significant portion of Joshua chapter nine is taken up with the Gibeonites convincing Joshua to make a covenant with them. Like the Gibeonites temptation has a way of coming in disguise. It reasons with us. It says “I’ve come a long way; I’m not an enemy of yours, you can trust me.” Temptation tries to look reasonable, it brings with it credentials to convince us to act. 

Truth requires no such introduction. Truth is fearless. It needs no justification. Truth can apologize with dignity, truth can react with candor. Truth doesn’t have to explain itself, it just is. It doesn’t need long, drawn out soliloquies. It may at times be tough to hear, but eventually, if we will listen and look at ourselves honestly, it will set us free. But often we can’t, won’t, or refuse to see the truth. Anytime our rationalization is equal to the temptation, deception is heavy upon us, and we are caught up in the moment.  

The implication of Joshua not seeking God’s counsel is that if he had inquired of the Lord, he could have seen the truth, he would have known he was being scammed. The danger of making prayerless decisions couldn’t be clearer.  Seek Him in all you do.

Respond:

Today choose to factor God’s guidance in your decisions.

Outwitting God

Outwitting God

Read:

“they also acted craftily . . .” Joshua 9:4

Reflect:

Truth, it’s the only direction God moves. To try to move towards God in an opposing direction is a trap for our soul. Many turn back because they are afraid to look at things from God’s perspective.

The overthrow of Jericho and the destruction of Ai struck terror in the hearts of the neighboring inhabitants of the Gibeonites. They wondered if they would be next on Joshua’s conquest of victories. The kings within the region of Palestine organized their forces for battle, but the Gibeonites were determined to act otherwise. 

They decided a treaty would be a far greater safeguard than to face Joshua in battle. Joshua chapter nine records their subtle plan of deception to secure safety for themselves. Self-preservation is one of the strongest instincts of human nature. The Gibeonites went to great lengths to preserve themselves in the security of Joshua’s camp. Yet, we often do the same thing spiritually.

The conviction of sin on the conscience is often met with defiance and avoidance. Often, those under great conviction don’t seek mercy. Many would rather brave the attack, with incredible resistance against God, than be overcome by Him. Though those with a dulled conscience have seen others who have been won by the compassion of the Lord, this does not deter them from the empty attempt to outwit God.

Working from a place of deceit will cause us to miss the very thing we are trying to gain. The Gibeonites put on the appearance of being willing to know God without ever planning to adopt in their heart the God of the Israelites. They gave no thought of renouncing their own idolatry and serving God. They only wanted the advantages which would amass from making a covenant with Joshua. 

The truth of this story shines bright before us. God knows the actual state of our heart. Hypocrisy must be stripped away from our heart. If we want the benefits of knowing God, we must become God’s people in heart and mind.

Respond:

Have you brought your motives into the light? Place it all out in the open before God until there is no hidden dishonesty or craftiness left in you.

ACTS | The Audacity of the Apostles

The Audacity of the Apostles

Read:

“. . . they kept right on teaching and preaching . . .” Acts 5:42

Reflect:

When we enjoy religious freedom, material comfort, and financial security, these are merely kind reflections of God’s generosity. They also pose a real and present danger to our spiritual health. They sweetly seduce us into complacency, self-trust, and a nervous protectiveness of our artificial security. They distract our hearts view from the blinding radiance of the Lamb of God. 

Instead they set our sights lower and closer to an upwardly mobile paradise of tennis, golf, and surf and sand, teaming with tanned, trim, pleasure-seekers. Contrasted with the presence of the suffering church in our world, we are awakened to a hope and treasure not confined to this world. 

The audacity of the apostles declare to us today what they preached long ago. We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. For a Christian consumer of culture, this is a bitter pill to swallow. The message of the cross cuts through all childish selfishness, it breaks us out of the trance of security, comfort, and pleasure. 

Only the church has the credibility to call people to suffer for a cause greater than themselves. The kingdom has invaded history. The incarnation, the words, the deeds, the death, resurrection and the enthronement of the King is advancing even now, bringing salvation through the power of the Spirit to the corners of the earth. Nothing but the gospel of the Kingdom and the King can wake us from shortsighted, felt needs. 

For the church to proclaim this living hope, hope that strengthens people and gives them the courage to take risk for all things right, pure, noble and true, Christians must live their hope.  Because of the living hope of heaven, Christians can afford to lose all the world can take from them. They have an inheritance that can never spoil, perish, or fade.

Nothing less than a vibrant growing faith in the kingdom of God can instill in us a courage that can’t be intimidated. Christians who can stand with the audacity of the apostles and say, “Christ will be exalted in my body whether by life or death,” are set free from fear to tell of Christ’s saving power without hindrance. 

Respond:

In all you do today, think of the success of the Kingdom here and now.

ACTS | Unnatural Acts

Unnatural Acts

Read:

“So they went in their way . . . rejoicing . . .” Acts 5:41

Reflect

Suffering isn’t just for heroes of the past. We need to awaken to the reality that we live in a world similar to the one the early Christians lived in, we are engaged in the same struggle of faith and faithfulness against opposing forces. The resistance to Christianity remains dogmatically unchanged in its objective to destroy the foundations of faith. 

The varieties of sufferings, miseries, setbacks, and irritations, portrayed in Acts, mirror our own struggles today. We are called to the same call of the early church – we are called to rise above ridicule, rejection, false accusation, and slanderous criticism and to embrace the demanding cost of discipleship with a faith-filled hope. 

The reactions to the suffering we see in the pages of Acts are unnatural acts. Threats calculated to silence them only empower them to spread the word further. The floggings meant to cause one to cringe and cry out, instead, draw out a praise of the goodness of Jesus. What explains such unnatural acts? 

Joy.

Shared joy in the expansion of the kingdom caused them to see pain and insults as the price of success. 

Honor.

The apostles rejoiced in the honor of disgrace for the sake of the name of Jesus. Enduring dishonor meant they were counted worthy of the privilege. 

Boldness.

Uninhibited courage was not the result of the apostles’ own mental and emotional strength. It was a gift of God given by His Spirit. 

Obedience.

Accountability to the Lord Jesus strengthens His servants for faithful obedience that will not swerve in the face of suffering.

Compassion.

The work of the Spirit gave them daring gentleness that was not cocky or arrogant towards persecutors, but a striking compassion to pray for their enemies.

Justice.

They never sought personal convenience. They were insistent that neither their conduct, nor message constituted a counterattack on their accusers. 

Dust.

Christ’s messengers responded to rejection by shaking the dust from their feet. It symbolized a day when God will separate those who have run to Him from those who have run from Him. And His kingdom continues forward.

Respond:

Do these seven reactions describe your reaction to suffering?