Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”
Get ready, get set…GO! We are all familiar with that as the beginning announcement of a race. Get ready means to get yourself loosened up and ready to run (focus), get set means to get in your blocks or your starting position. Then, of course, you are off to the races! So far in the book of Joshua the people have been in the get ready phase of their journey. Now, with this command, Joshua is saying to them “get set!” Now is the time to get into the starting position.
The starting position was a position of consecration. Consecration means to set apart, specifically to be set apart for God’s use and to position yourself in total surrender and focus on Him. This would have been a familiar command to the people as they had been given some very specific practices and acts of consecration. There were ritual cleansings, washings, fasting, and other traditions they were to keep as acts of concentration. This was all in an effort to position themselves to be a part of the work God was about to do.
This is a great challenge for us. It is time for us to consecrate ourselves. It is time for us to make the conscious decision to set ourselves apart for God’s use, to get rid of the distractions, and to focus entirely on Him. Jesus modeled this for us when He was baptized, when He went away to spend time in prayer alone, and especially when He went to pray alone in the garden just before His crucifixion. These were times where He was setting Himself apart. For us that might mean baptism, prayer, Bible reading, and fasting. The point is that we intentionally make room for God in our life and remove anything that is keeping us from fully surrendering to Him.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” God has called us to this life of consecration, it is our job to respond in faith and in action, and then God finishes what He has called us to. Let’s make it a point to consecrate ourselves so we can join in the even greater work God wants to do in us and through us.
Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you, to possess it.’"
The time has come – the time to start a new year, the time to embrace change, the time to move forward, and the time to follow God wherever it is He is leading us! What an exciting time for those that like change and what a terrifying time for those who don’t! As Joshua and the Israelites were getting ready to make that big change they were given three days to prepare and to pack. What would you have done to prepare for the big move? What provisions (only the essential things) would you take for the journey and for your new life? They had some things to consider and evaluate.
Whenever we move or make changes in life we are forced to evaluate what we really need and what is not necessary. What do we need to take with us on this journey and into this new phase of our life? Inevitably there are things that get left behind, things we determined are not as important (or as essential) as they once were. But, we may also end up taking things with us that we will later learn we didn’t actually need. For instance, how many boats were taken to the Jordan river – because why wouldn't you need a boat to cross a river? As it turned out God had another way – He divided the river and they walked across on dry ground!
The real question we need to ask ourselves is are we willing to leave the old and unnecessary behind? The hardest things for us to leave are always the things we found value in at some point or brought us comfort. Those are hard to leave because they have worked for us before. But, maybe, in this new life God has called us to, we don’t need them anymore. Maybe, god has a new way and a new plan that is better. Would you rather have to row a boat across the Jordan or watch God split the waters and just walk across on dry ground?
Trust God as we start this new year and this new journey. Be ready to drop what you don’t need and follow His lead. He is ready to part the river and lead you on to victory. We may not know all the details of how, but we don’t need to. All we need to know is the One we are following and the one who has promised victory.
Now Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land…
2020 is just about over! How does that make you feel? We have come through a lot this year. It will forever be a year that we tell our kids, grandkids and their kids about. COVID, protests, riots, politics, and wildfires! Who would have thought!? But, now we are entering a new year and many ways a new world – uncharted territory. No one had lived through 2020 before, but we did, and now we get to live into 2021.
Near the end of Moses’ life he stood on a mountain and looked out over the land God had promised Abraham. It had been a very long time coming and Moses had been through a lot. Finally, the new territory. They would soon be entering it and taking the land God promised. However, due to some bad decisions, Moses would not enter that land. Instead the people would follow Joshua into battle and he would lead them.
I feel like this is where we are today. We are looking out into a new world and some new land but if we are going to take it we will have to leave some things behind. We are not going to be able to take it if we cling too tightly to the past. The Israelites would have to leave Moses and follow Joshua – a new leader who would lead them into a new place and do some new things.
It is easy to look at that and be afraid. Change is never easy and entering a new place is always a bit uncomfortable. Just like the Israelites we will be tempted to stay or go back. They were always tempted to go back to Egypt – slavery sounded better than the wilderness at moments. They could have stayed in the wilderness and not followed Joshua, but that would have meant their death. If we want to live we will always have to move forward.
2021 is our chance to move forward. To do it effectively we may need to leave some things behind. That might be scary and hard, but it is necessary. Chances are, you already know what those things (or people) might be. I want to encourage you to go – take the land – with the same words God gave Joshua; “be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
What an incredible announcement! What makes it even more incredible is who was receiving this announcement. Shepherds would not have been the first group of people I would have thought of to tell about the birth of Jesus. I know when I have an important announcement to make I usually tell the people closest to me first. In these days, shepherds were not known for their religious excellence or their prominence in society. They were known for being dirty and dishonest people. Yet, those are the people God sent an angel to, with such great news.
This part of the Christmas story gives us many reasons to rejoice at the birth of Christ. One of the things it shows us is that God always knows where we are and will always come find us there. These shepherds were out with their sheep in the middle of the night, very easily could have been in the middle of no where. Yet, God knew right where they were – darkness and all. The birth of Jesus is a reminder that God knows where we are and that He will not just sit back and wait for us to come to Him, He will come to us with the Good News of Jesus.
God’s presence in our world is reason to rejoice. These shepherds were afraid at first. Probably because there was a bright light and an angel out in the middle of no where in the middle of the night. But, there may be times in our life where we find ourselves afraid and in the dark. Let this be a season where we are reminded that we don’t need to live in fear. Jesus is here with us. Our Savior has come.
Let’s spend a little extra time rejoicing in the arrival of Jesus. Let’s make sure to celebrate His birth. But, take time to also rejoice and celebrate that He has come into your life too. He can be our personal Savior. These angels gave this message, personally, to the shepherds. God, through Jesus, has also brought this Good News personally to you as well. Rejoice and do not be afraid because Jesus has come for you today!
“Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.
How much time do you think you spend grumbling and complaining about the circumstances in life? We probably do that way more than we should. Have you ever noticed how that grumbling and complaining never really makes you feel any better and will often just make things worse? Well, the disciples get a lesson from Jesus about the best way to live through less than great circumstances. They, too, found themselves questioning (probably grumbling) about Jesus’ statements. Instead of going to Jesus with their concerns, they just kept it to themselves.
Jesus intervened, however, in their griping session and said told them to change their conversation. They were going to go through some difficult times – like child birth. Great advice right? He started by telling them it will be hard. They will experience grief and sorrow. But, if they can stay the course, the joy will come in the end. Jesus challenged them to change their focus from their present grief to their future hope.
As followers of Christ we need to recognize that our joy doesn’t come from a peaceful and pain free life. Our joy comes from the hope we have in the future we have been promised. Jesus uses a woman giving birth as an illustration. That is a very uncomfortable and, at times, painful process. But, when it is over the new mom doesn’t think about the pain, she thinks about the joy and love of her new child. Women can make it through child birth not by focusing on their current pain, but on the baby that comes at the end.
In this life we will have some trying and difficult times. But, even in the midst of them we can still have joy. Not because the trying times go away, but because we know that they will only last a little while. Soon, we will see Jesus. Soon our grief will be turned into joy. As Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning!” Let’s make sure we spend less time grumbling and more time celebrating what lies ahead – the best is yet to come!
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing….“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
John 15:5, 11
What brings you joy in life? That will look different for all of us. Some of find joy in nature, some find joy in family, some find it in careers, and others find it in success. Rejoicing in those things is perfectly fine, in fact we need to rejoice in those things recognizing that the blessings and good things we have in life are a gift from God. But, what happens when those things change or stop? What happens to our joy when the career ends, or the family moves away, or we aren’t finding the success we had hoped for? What then?
Jesus gives us a lesson on joy in John 15. This passage talks about Jesus being the vine and us being the branches. He goes on this long explanation about if we want to bear fruit we have to stay connected to the vine. If we are not connected to the vine we will not bear fruit. We like our fruit, in fact we find great joy in our fruit. Wouldn’t you consider the things you thought of earlier as fruit in your life? I, however, don’t think Jesus is speaking only of those things. I also think He is talking about things like the fruit of the Spirit as mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. But, however you view fruit understand this – there is no fruit apart from the vine. There is no joy apart from the vine. If you want joy and you want fruit you have to abide in Jesus.
We may go through seasons where we aren’t seeing much fruit, maybe even no fruit. But, that doesn’t mean we should give up. This passage talks about the non-fruit bearing branches being taken away. But, the problem with those branches isn’t the fact that they aren’t producing fruit, it is that they have disconnected from the vine. They are no longer abiding. We know god looks at the heart while we look at appearance. So, fruit is all we can see. A lack of fruit doesn't mean your heart is dead, it may just mean you are in a difficult (or pruning) season. God is the vinedresser who cares for us to make sure we can produce fruit.
So, if you are in a difficult seasons and aren’t seeing much fruit. Stay connected to Jesus. He is the source of life and joy – and fruit. Stick with Him – the fruit and the joy will come.
Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which means it is the 4th Sunday before Christmas and a special season set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to look forward in hope to His second coming. This advent season we will be focusing on the joy Jesus has given to us. When Jesus prayed for us in John 17 He told the Father that He had been teaching us all these things so that we may experience the fullness of His joy. Joy is essential to our living the life God meant for us to live.
Way back in the Old Testament there was a man named Nehemiah who had the privilege of leading God’s people, the Israelites, out of exile. He got to lead them home and even rebuild the walls around Jerusalem after the city was destroyed. Soon after their return Nehemiah had the people gather together to hear the reading of God’s Word. Once they heard it, and understood it, they began to week and mourn because they realized how messed up things had gotten.
However, Nehemiah interrupts their weeping with a challenge to rejoice and trust in the joy of God to get them through. They could have stayed in their guilt and in their shame because of their past decisions. They could have continued to sulk and beat themselves up because of missed opportunity. Or, they could take Nehemiah up on the challenge to make a different choice – let the joy of the Lord be their strength.
Their joy wasn’t based on their past. They didn’t need to do all the right things to be loved by God. He loved them unconditionally. The fact that they were standing in a rebuilt city after all these years of exile was testimony to that. God never left them. Yes, they had messed up. But, their joy didn’t depend on their perfection. It depended on God. Their joy wasn’t their own, it was God’s joy and it brought them great strength. Don’t live in the past, live in the joy of God and let Him be your strength.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
Ever feel like everyone is watching out for themselves and no one is really thinking of others? I have felt like that a lot lately. Now, When it comes to human leaders I would like to think that when it really comes down to it they are making decisions believing they are the right ones for the most people. I hope. Even if I don’t like the decision, my hope is that they really believe it to be the right one and that is not just based in selfishness. I also hope that when we complain and disagree with things it comes from a genuine place of love for others and not from a place of self-serving interests.
What it really boils down to is as humans we always end up being a little selfish and we don’t always look out for the interests of others. The only one we can trust to always be looking for us is God. He is always with us and is always for us. We can rest assured that when God makes a decision it is always with our best in mind and when we trust Him, will always lead to a more abundant life and healthier relationships.
All throughout the Bible we hear about God dwelling with His people, something even this Psalmist alludes to. God is always with us. He stays with us, thinks about us, and know us better than we know ourselves. I mean, He knows the very number of hairs on our heads (and exactly how many hairs we have lost). He proves it, not just with words, but with actions.
Consider all the ways God has interceded in this world. He found His people in captivity in Egypt and led them to the Promised Land. He did that for them. Jesus left heaven and came to this world, for us. Jesus lived, died, and rose again all for us. Jesus promised to not abandon us, but to come back for us. Do you see? It is all for us.
It is easy to become selfish in this life because no one is looking out for me – so I have to. That leads to a life of incredible worry and frustration. Why not live with God as King – who dwells with you, cares about, and is for you. People will let us down. But God never will.
… Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel….
How do you define a win? What does it look like for you to win? In sports it is easy to define a winner – it is the one with the most points at the end of the game or the one who crosses the finish line first. That’s pretty easy. But, when it comes to life defining a win isn’t always that easy. When we don’t find the win we have been looking for it is easy to fall into despair. When we let despair have its way in us we can miss the actual win God has for us.
Take for instance these two guys who were on their way to Emmaus after the death of Jesus. These guys were walking along talking about everything that just happened and Scriptures describes them as being sad. In this sadness they missed recognizing the risen Jesus! They were sulking in what they thought was a loss and missed the victory standing (literally) right in front of them!
They had decided that victory meant their political redemption. Jesus, if He really was King, would take over the Roman empire. He would defeat them and Israel would be set free. But, how can that happen when instead He is crucified and buried. Now, three days later they can’t even find His body! They were sad because what they wanted to happen didn’t. So, they assumed they lost.
Don’t let despair take over. Just because life doesn’t turn out the way you want doesn’t mean you have lost. When your prayers aren’t answered the way you pictured it doesn't mean God doesn’t care. God is King and has promised you victory. When things don’t work out the way we want, we just might need to redefine what victory looks like and be willing to see beyond our little boxes. God didn’t just want to redeem Israel, He wanted to redeem all of Creation. Victory was won, it was just a bigger victory than they expected. God has a victory for you, it just might be bigger than you expected. Keep hoping and trusting in Him, don’t let despair win.
Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
God’s Kingdom is here! After a week of watching this country argue and fight over an election I just want to say – God is still King! This election has become very personal for many people as they feel like over man vs. another is going to strip them of their rights and their freedoms. If we keep putting our hope in human leadership we are never going to find what we are looking for. We will always live with a sense of fear and uneasiness. Now, maybe more than ever, is when we need to realize that God is King and His Kingdom is in our midst.
This statement from Jesus reminds me that I do not need to wait for this Kingdom, but that I can enjoy this Kingdom today, if I want to. We should not just be waiting for a future Kingdom, we should also be living in a present Kingdom. Jesus says this Kingdom is here and in fact when you pray, ask for this Kingdom to come. For God to reign supreme in this place just as He does in heaven. So, let’s look for this Kingdom and watch for ways it is breaking forth in our lives and in this world.
When asked what to look for in Matthew 11:4-5 Jesus answered with look for healing, look for life, and look for hope among the hopeless. God’s Kingdom is here healing our lives, giving us life, and bringing us hope. Fear not – God is King. Let’s put our faith there and live in His Kingdom and not get so dependent on the kings of this world.