When God Is On Your Side You Win….Period

Thursday 28th February

Joshua 3:6-17

The moment had come. Finally it was time to cross over the Jordan River into the Promised Land. What anticipation and excitement there must have been. We join the story in verse 9 where Joshua prepares the eager crowds for what is about to happen. He first tells them in full confidence and assurance that God will without fail”, drive out Israel’s enemies and give the land to them. Secondly, Joshua tells the Israelites that God Himself will go before them (the ark of the covenant was a sign of God’s manifested glory on earth, hence its place in the Holy of Holies). Thirdly, that God will make a way so that they will be able to pass through the Jordan River and into the Promised Land.

 Joshua’s first point comes from both an assurance in what God had promised the Israelites and the confidence in the knowledge that what God had spoken to Joshua, would come to pass. The promise was that of an inheritance in a land flowing with milk and honey. The knowledge was that God was with him as a leader “as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” Knowing who you are in Christ and your purpose in His plan for your life, leads to a life of confidence and assurance that whatever trials you face, God is with you.

 Joshua’s second point was again confidence in God’s presence with them. This is grace. A rebellious people group, unworthy of God’s presence, find God not only with them but going before them to prepare the way for them. God is so gracious that in our battles, we don’t even need to fight for God goes before us in victory. In verse 4 the commanders of the armies of Israel inform them that the Ark of the Covenant was going ahead of them as a guide and as a representation that God will go before them to prepare a way so they can pass over the river. This was new territory for the Israelites. Verse 4 states that  “you (they) have not gone this way before.” We too must remember that when God leads us into paths unknown, He not only is with us but also goes before for us in victory as our guide.

Finally, Joshua’s third point is assurance that the victory had already been won. Interestingly, the Israelites left Egypt by passing through the red sea and now here God has led them to another hopeless situation so that He may show them that their faith should not be in their own strength or any other gods but only in the One true God, Yahweh. Although humanly speaking it was a dead end, for God it was an opportunity to show His grace and favour. Only Joshua and Caleb had seen the parting of the red sea and now here God shows Himself strong again by making a way through the Jordan River. The difference is, is that upon passing the river, the Israelites did not start a wandering journey into the wilderness, but rather stepped into their destiny, finally in the place where God wanted them to be.

 We too must remember firstly who we are in Christ, our vision and purpose. Secondly, that we can only accomplish or walk in God’s will for our lives when we are submitted fully to His presence and are guided by the Holy Spirit. And thirdly, we must remember that the victory has already been won, so we must stand in boldness and assurance in Christ’s finished work. When God is on our side, we never loose. We may lose the fight sometimes but the war had already been won.

When God Moves, Expect Wonders

Wednesday 27th February

Joshua 3:5 

I remember when we were selling our family home last year. My emotions were like a rollercoaster. When you have been in one place for so long, leaving it can be hard to do. The memories shared, the fun and bad times had, were all now in the past tense. The house is behind us and new horizons await.

 The Israelites were too on the brink of a new leap of faith into God’s promise for them. From the time of Abraham they were promised to have descendants that numbered the stars in the Heavens and the sand grains on the seashores. However, they found themselves staring into a seemingly dark and never ending tunnel when the Egyptians took them into captivity and made them a nation of slaves. For 400 years their identity as God’s chosen people seemed a distant memory. They became the tools of a dynasty that ruled the known world. That was until Moses showed up. God through Moses led the people out of Egypt’s bondage and into God’s purposes and plans. However the happy ending was cut short once again as the Israelites, through their rebellion wandered on a journey in the wilderness for 40 years in what could have been a 4-week journey.

 We re-join the story in Joshua chapter 3. The previous chapters have been describing Moses’ handing over the baton of leadership to Joshua and Joshua’s first acts of authority in spying out the land that God had promised to the Israelites. Something was happening in the atmosphere in Israel’s camp. They knew the journey they had been on. They had seen the old generation die out and now they, the chosen few were to re-birth the nation of Israel and ultimately fulfil God’s promise to them. The anticipation was growing. The report had already come out that Israel’s enemies were trembling in fear of their imminent attack. The victory was won even before the battle had started. Why? Because God was with them.

In verse 5, Joshua issues the most powerful and prophetic statement. “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you. What a wonderful statement. How encouraging it must have been to hear their leader, in full assurance that God was with them, boldly stating that God was going to do something amazing in them, thorough them and around them. It must have been such an encouraging message to hear. It is almost like Joshua saying “whatever has happened in the past, your hurts, pains and struggles, leave them in the wilderness. For tomorrow watch what our God is going to do as He leads us into the land of milk and honey that was promised to our fore fathers and now we, yes we, can live in that promise”.

Just reading that one verse excites me. The expectant spirit that must have been in the Israelite’s hearts is one I want in my life. I want to see what wonders God is going to do in my life and you too should expect God to lead you into new pastures, into His promise for your life and into fulfilling God’s plans and desires for you. Just as moving house is processing memories and leaving your past behind, so should our lives be with Christ. The old is gone and the new is here. God has plans for you! Make yourself holy before a holy God and see what wonders He will do in your life!!

When God Moves, Expect To Hear About It

Tuesday 26th February

Joshua 2:9-11 

Yesterday we learned of God’s commission to Joshua to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. Joshua was encouraged to be strong and courageous, having God’s Law on his lips and heart daily. He knew that God Almighty was with him and would equip him to serve in his role as the leader of the Israelites.

Have you ever noticed the power of stories? Stories can transform lives. They can encourage, entertain, teach or simply put fear into your life. The people of Jericho experienced the power of a story. This story was of Yahweh and His chosen people. The outcome was both to acknowledge His greatness and to fear His children. Let’s explore this further in today’s reading.

Joshua’s first act of leadership was to spy out the land he was going to invade. Interestingly God had promised this land to Joshua and his people, however a Godly strategy was required to overcome the enemy. As the two spies reached the walled city of Jericho, they came to the house of the harlot, Rahab. You may remember Rahab from the book of Hebrews, as she was commended for her faith in receiving the spies into her house and protecting them. Rahab in verses 9-11 explains the reasoning behind her acceptance of these two spies.

She starts to explain in verse 9 of the people’s fear of the imminent attack on their land by Joshua’s men and of the Lord’s favour towards Israel. She then further explains the fear the people of Jericho were feeling, as they knew the LORD had already given their land to the Israelites. How did they receive all this knowledge? Because they had HEARD of all that God had done for the Israelites, from their protection and deliverance at the Red Sea, to the utter destruction of Shinon and Og (their stories are found in Numbers 21:22-35). HEARING the stories of the Lord God Almighty not only led to a fearful submission to Israelites but led to an acknowledgment that “the Lord Your (their) God, is the God in Heaven and on earth beneath” (verse 11). 

Rahab, upon HEARING about Yahweh and His protection over His children, could only submit in reverence of Him and acknowledge that He was the one true God. She even stated that the people of Jericho were so fearful that their hearts had melted and there was no courage in them at all. In fact she was so convinced about what she had HEARD of Yahweh’s provision for His people, that she had already acknowledged Jericho’s defeat and was negotiating the protection of herself and her family.

 If God is with us, who can stand against us? When God is on our side, victory is ours. The power of a story really can transform lives. As God’s people are we sharing His story? Are we sharing the stories of our lives? Of how He transformed us from being enemies of God, to Sons and Daughters of the Most High King. Do we share the stories of how God saves hardened criminals, drug warlords, murderers and gangsters? Or how He heals the sick and paralysed? Do we share of God’s provision for us in the hard times or how He protects us from evil? Most importantly do we share the story of how He sent His only Begotten Son to die for us in the greatest act of Love the world has ever seen? Make this day a story telling day and watch what God does through the testimony of your words!

            

Only Be Strong and Courageous

Monday 25th February

Joshua 1

One of my favourite characters in the Bible is Joshua. His dynamic leadership and faithful obedience to God sets an example to most men of Godly submission and righteous living. He lived his life in humble adoration of an Almighty Living God.

 In this first chapter we read of Joshua being encouraged by God and being commissioned to lead His people into the Promised Land. Upon leaving the captivity of the Egyptians, the Israelites through their rebellion to God, wandered the wilderness for 40 years. God had promised Moses that He would give the Israelites a new home, a time of peace and bless them beyond measure. However Moses was not the one to lead them over the border. That was Joshua’s job. Joshua was Moses’ right hand helper. He and Caleb were the only 2 original people to leave Egypt and make it to the Promised Land. God had plans for him.

So we join the story here in these first few verses whereby God is commissioning Joshua with this great task. God reminds Joshua of the promise that He gave to Moses about Israel’s inheritance and their territory. However God wasn’t done. In verse 5 God gives Joshua the most amazing prophecy over his life “No man will be able to stand before 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!” Isn’t that just amazing. Can you imagine if God spoke that over your life? What a promise and what a blessing. Joshua had personally seen God’s provision for Moses and how He really did keep His word and never left Moses. Through all sorts of battles and challenges, God was always there with him. And now that same God has just promised to be with Joshua.

However, there was a condition; to obey the Law, not turning right or left from it. To meditate day and night on it and observe all that was in it. Then his ways would be prosperous and he would have success in all he did. We too can be strengthened by these verses in our own lives. God will never leave us, period. However if we want our lives to be purposeful and prosperous then we too should have God’s word in our hearts, meditating on it day and night, allowing it to be a source of strength and encouragement. On our own, life can easily overcome us. But with God’s strength through His Word and through the Holy Spirit, we become over-comers.

Finally God comforts Joshua 3 times in the first chapter with this statement “Be strong and courageous”. Interestingly, if God said to Joshua ‘I will be with you always and never leave you’, then why would he need to be reminded to be strong and courageous too? Because as much as God was with Joshua, he also needed to draw on God’s strength and remember he was a leader. He was the one the people would follow. It was his responsibility to lead the people into God’s promised land for them. Again on his own, this task was impossible. But by drawing on the promise God had given him, he could find strength and courage to fulfill his role as Israel’s leader. The same stands for us today. God will never give us a role that He does not equip us for. His gracious hand upholds us, the Holy Spirit equips and in HIM, we have the boldness, strength and courage to face the challenges that lay before us.

Jesus – The Joyful Saviour

Friday 22nd February

Matthew 7:1-6, Hebrews 12:2

 

 

So often we think of Jesus as a man on a mission to right the wrongs and stamp His authority on this earth through hard line sermons and constant rebukes. If I am honest, I too have often read the Sermon on the Mount as an almost telling off. However, as serious as His words were, I believe that they were said in love and joy. I remember watching the Gospel according to Matthew on DVD and the image that is depicted of Christ is one of a calm, gentle and almost humorous man. Yes, there were times when He had to ‘lay down the law’, but I truly believe that Jesus was the most friendly, gentle man that has ever graced the face of this earth.

 

Think about it. What makes us so uptight? What causes us to be stressed? Worry, anxiety, fear, or simply not knowing who you are? The list could go on. Yet Jesus didn’t need to worry or carry burdens. If He did He would have never promised to take our burdens from us. Jesus knew who He was. He was secure in His identity. The only issue I can think of that would have caused Jesus to stress, would have been knowing the way He was going to die. But even then, the writer of Hebrews said we should consider “Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the JOY that was set before Him, endured the cross and despised the shame” for you and for me (Hebrews 12:2). It was Jesus’ joy to surrender His life for us His children. Have you ever met someone who was really chilled, content and never complained? Isn’t it a pleasure to be around them? Why do you think so many people wanted to come and hear Jesus talk? Was it because they wanted to be rebuked or rather was it because they wanted to hear the words of truth delivered by someone who could practice what He preached in love and kindness?

 

The truth is that meekness was not Jesus’ weakness. Being meek, mild and joyful doesn’t mean that you are weak but rather it is a decision to find peace even in the midst of storms. One particular section in the film the ‘Gospel according to Matthew’ that struck me was when Jesus was preaching His Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 7. He shares the teaching of not judging each other and first removing the plank in your own eye before you take the speck for your brothers eye. In the DVD he actually picks up a plank and comically demonstrates this by using someone from the crowd to explain His sermon. It really struck me because I have always imagined Jesus almost shouting this sermon at the crowd. However the image that resonates in my heart and mind is as I saw on this DVD, Jesus joyfully and comically explaining an extremely important and relevant message. This is not to say that Jesus’ teachings were not life changing sermons but rather I think Jesus’ delivery of these wise words was done in love and joy. Yes, as mentioned before, there were times when Jesus did need to be harsh and rebuke sinful attitudes and teachings. However let us, if we are to be Christians, be Christ like in our attitudes and in our living. Let us replicate His attitude in all we do. Be joyful, be sincere and let Christ be your mirror. 

Is JOY In Christ The Source Of Your Strength?

Thursday 21st February

Nehemiah 8:10

 

A few days ago I was awoken by the warmth of the sun’s rays shining through our bedroom window. I sometimes get fed up of the cold bitterly breeze that the winter brings so having the sun wake me up was an amazing feeling. That day there were clear signs that spring is coming. The trees buds were showing signs of spouting. The bitterly breeze was cancelled out by the warmth of the sun’s rays, shining and warming our faces. It was a blessed morning. Spring often reminds me of new beginnings, new life and fresh starts. The cold winter period in our lives has passed and now, new life is breathed into us again. Is that happening in you today?

 

In today’s passage we learn of this new beginning in a persecuted people who were captive in the hands of the Babylonians. Nehemiah was commissioned by God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and consequentially breathe new life into a downcast and despondent people group, Israel. Upon completion, those who were held captive started to return to Jerusalem.

 

However, Nehemiah was not content to just have a set of bricks to redefine the new beginning of their lives. The community transformation needed to take place in their hearts and minds. So Ezra the priest and scribe, upon public request, started to read the Book of the Law of Moses (The Torah). Interestingly, after hearing God’s words, their response was to worship God. They lifted up their hands to the Heavens and fell prostrate of the floor in submission to God Almighty. God was building not only a foundation around them of bricks and mortar but of His eternal words in their hearts. However hearing is not enough if you don’t understand what you’re listening to. So Ezra, with the help of the Levites and Nehemiah, helped the people to understand what God was saying through His word. What is your response to hearing and reading the Word of God?

 

The Israelites response here was to mourn and weep. Their hearts were convicted by God’s words. They knew the reason they had been taken into captivity in the first place was because of their rebellion against God’s Laws. However, the passage doesn’t finish there. The Israelites are encouraged to stop mourning and weeping. Although God’s words were working in their hearts to convict, heal and restore them, it was also a day of Joy. When we know what we have done wrong (the Laws job), repent (Christ’s Job to pay our price) and change our ways (Our job with the help of the Holy Spirit), our immediate response is not to stay in a place of weeping and mourning but rather to rejoice in the freedom and liberty that brings. So too Ezra encourages the people to know that the joy of the Lord is their strength. The joy of knowing God’s forgiveness, the joy of knowing God’s blessings in obedience and the joy in knowing that God was still merciful to His people.  

 

The new beginning in this community transformation was in the Joy of the Lord. That was their strength. Knowing that they were being restored as a community, transformed as a community and living under the authority of God’s word as a community. We too must find our strength in the joy of God’s word and the liberty that brings through Christ’s victory on the cross.

 

“The JOY of the LORD is your STRENGTH.” (verse 10)

 

 

O Death, Where Is Your Sting??

Wednesday 20th February

1 Corinthians 15:55-58, Hosea 13:14

No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me;

 (In Christ Alone Lyrics; Keith Getty)

In Christ alone is one of my favourite songs. Its words stand as a constant reminder of the power of Christ’s work on the cross and the victory that we too as children of God can live and abide in. Christ’s finish work on the cross leads us or should lead us into a life free from guilt, free from death and the fear of death and into becoming more like Jesus.

However, as I am getting older, I’m seeing more and more people die around me. Cancer has increased to a shockingly high figure. Sickness and disease is on the rise. These facts shock my heart and cause me to realise that life is so temporary and so often, if I’m honest it does cause me to fear. Yet I must remind myself of Paul’s words in his first epistle to the Corinthian church. “Death, where is your sting? Grave (Hades) where is your victory?” What does this mean and how can this give hope in a hopeless world and victory to those suffering with life threatening illnesses? Let’s take a look at where Paul took this passage from in Hosea.

We read in Hosea 13:14 that God through Hosea reminds the tribe of Ephraim of His jealous love for Israel, His people. Although He has punished them for their rebellion and adulterous hearts towards Him (God Almighty), He promises to ransom and redeem them from death’s grasp. Great judgement awaits God’s children but He is already working on a redemption and rescue plan. The words in this text, “redeem” and “ransom” signify a rescuing, by the means of paying a price/debt that is owed. God was already thinking of this ransom and His redeeming act of kindness. He knew Israel had sinned against Him yet in His grace He was already planning to send His Son as a ransom and redeemer not only for Israel, but also for the whole world.

When Jesus was crucified and died on the cross a price was paid that should have been ours. However when Christ rose from the dead, not only did He defeat sin but He also conquered the grave, He defeated death itself. What are the wages of sin? Death, both physically and spiritually. However, what is God’s promise to His people and to those who accept Him? The gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus. Jesus was God’s plan of redemption and His resurrection paid, defeated and stands as promise over death and sin. We may die physically but no longer has death got a sting, moreover it is a blessing. Why? Because when die, we live with Christ eternally. Remember Paul’s dilemma in Philippians?  He debated with himself whether it was better to live or to die. He could only have that debate because he knew that when he died, no matter the means by which he died, that he would live forever in God’s presence.

Let us not take away from the reality that loosing someone is a harsh fact. They will be dearly missed and it is ok to be sorrowful for their loss. But let us also be encouraged, that death for a believer is temporary and on that great day of awakening, we shall join those who have died in the victory parade to Heaven’s pearly gates to forever abide in the presence of God Almighty, where there is no pain, no suffering, no sadness but joy eternal. Lets us remember that the sting of death is no more, for all victory has been won in Christ Jesus.

“Talitha Cumi” – Little Girl Arise

Tuesday 19th February

Mark 5:35-43, Luke 8:49-56

 

When all hope is gone and our situations are helpless, who do we turn to?

 

Jesus, after healing the woman with the issue of blood, amazingly carries on with His journey to Jairus’ house to heal the ruler’s daughter. This again shows the heart and compassion of Jesus’ desire to see both physical and spiritual healing throughout His earthly ministry. Suddenly, they are stopped by some people who had just come from Jairus’ house. Jesus was too late. Jairus’ daughter was pronounced dead. Can you imagine the sorrow Jairus must have felt? The desperation he first showed when he fell at Jesus’ feet highlights just how much his daughter meant to him. So now, presumably judging from Jesus’ response to him, he was filled with fear and sorrow at the news of the death. However, Jesus words in verse 36, comforts the ruler of the synagogue,Do not be afraid, only believe.” The Lukan version of this story adds the powerful words “She will be made well.”

 

Jairus needed to be reminded who he was walking with. He had just witnessed the miraculous healing of a woman with a 12 year old issue. Jesus was with him. He was (and is) the hope and strength that Jairus could turn to. Jesus’ affirmative and authoritative statement that she will be made well was the comfort Jairus needed. Yet although the text does not state this, upon reaching his house, he must have been even more discouraged at the sound of mourners wailing and crying. It was tradition to bury dead bodies relatively quickly due to the hot weather and lack of modern day storage facilities. Because of this, mourners were encouraged to come immediately after the death to show their respects. Often present, were people who were paid to stir up emotion and wail alongside the families. Yet Jesus was not impressed. He too must have been discouraged at the sight of their unbelief. Jesus then boldly claims the child is not dead but sleeping and proceeds in ushering them out of the room. Although the crowds laughed at Jesus, He was confident in His own healing power and took the girls father and mother into her room.

 

We often, when praying for healing, pray long, eloquent prayers and of course all in Jesus’ Name. Yet I am always astounded how when Jesus healed people, His very words held so much authority that even death submitted to His voice.

 

He then spoke these Aramaic words to Jairus’ daughter, Talitha, Cumi which means “Little girl, arise.” Of course, unsurprisingly, this little girl of 12 years old gets up and walks immediately. What joy must have filled that room? I can just imagine Jesus lifting her above his head, spinning around, laughing with the parents, and sharing this miracle with them. Again, sometimes we often think that Jesus healed people out of necessity because He was God and that’s what He had to do to prove it to people. But, this is not the picture I get when I read this story. I think it was Jesus’ joy to heal this young girl. His desire was to bring joy and hope to this family. Mark says in verse 42 that they were overcome with  great amazement”.  Do you realise that Jesus wants the same for your life? His desire is to see you, His child, resurrected and filled with this same joy!! When hope is gone, when the tunnel seems dark and the path shut, look to Jesus. He is the hope for the hopeless and strength in our weakness. Let Him speak the words of life into your heart. “Talitha, Cumi.” 

Reaching Out To Jesus

Monday 18th February

Luke 8:43-48, Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34

How desperate are you for Jesus to touch your life? Moreover, how desperate are you to touch Jesus? Keep this question in your mind as we explore a woman in Luke’s Gospel, who was desperate to touch Jesus.

This story is also found both in Mark and Matthew, however I believe that Luke, being a doctor, adds the most detail about this wonderful miracle. So we shall Luke’s version as our principle text.

Jesus was on His way to Jairus’ house.  Jairus was a leading ruler of the synagogue. Yet in verse 41 we see that he falls at the feet of Jesus in desperation. His daughter is ill and dying. Seeing his need, Jesus full of compassion and love, follows Jairus to his house, followed by the growing crowds. On His way, a woman reaches from the crowd to touch Jesus, in order that He might heal her. This woman had an illness that had consumed her finance, time and resource yet she still had not been healed. No normal physician could help her but she knew of One who could, Jesus. Interestingly her issue of blood would have made her an outcast in society for she was deemed to be un-clean and not able to show herself in public. Yet she broke all cultural and religious barriers in an act of pure desperation and dependence of and in Jesus Christ. In Mark 5:38 she says, “If I could only touch His clothes, then I shall be made well.” How amazing is her faith. It’s a pure and radical faith. She had probably heard the growing stories of this Jesus, the miracle maker, and wanted her healing too. She had tried everything. Yet everything failed her. How often in our own lives do we spend our resources, time and money in useless endeavors, when all we need is Jesus? Why is He so often the last resort instead of the first thought in our minds?

We rejoin the story in verse 44. Immediately as she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment she was healed. 12 years of suffering was over by one moment in the presence of Jesus. WOW. However, Jesus’ response is to immediately stop… “Who touched me?” I always can relate to the disciples confused reaction here. Jesus, surrounded by a multitude of people, all pushing to get a glimpse of the Messiah and He asked who touched Him. Jesus, unfazed by the doubt in the disciple’s response, asks again “Who touched me? This time He adds that He felt power leave from Him. Finally the healed woman falls at His feet and publically declares that she had touched Jesus to be healed.  Anyone who had issues of blood was considered unclean and anyone who comes into contact with un-cleanliness would have been declared unclean as well. But not so with Jesus. Instead, Jesus, knowing what faith it must have taken to push through the crowds, reach out and touch Him, commended her and said that it was her faith that made her well. Jesus too was not interested in cultural and religious boundaries but rather He was interested in peoples genuine faith. Are you willing this morning to stand out from the crowd? To reach out and touch Jesus? He can heal you, save you and redeem you. His accepts you however you come, but once you have reached out and touched your life will be transformed!!