Monday, February 29, 2016

February 29, 2016

"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!"  Luke 15:13-17

You probably recognize this portion of Scripture as being taken from the Parable of the Prodigal Son and it shows how one can shift from being a son to being a slave.

Here are some of the modern forms of slavery:

Achievement - being a slave to performance.

It is actually more apparent in the case of the old brother in this parable but it is rampant in our culture. While there is nothing wrong with achievement, living to achieve is a problem. When you are driven by the need to out perform everyone else in order to prove yourself it is not a healthy way to live.

As seen in the older brother, having an inordinate need to perform and achieve usually is driven by unrealistic goals and results in frequent frustration.

Affirmation - being a slave to popularity.

Both sons seemed to care more about what others thought of them than the approval of the father.

The approval and validation of others is a powerful influence in life. It is important to everyone but seems to be an obsession for some who define their self-worth based upon what others think of them.

Do you care about the Father's opinion or are you a slave to the need for man's approval?

Adherence - being a slave to legalism..

In the two sons you see both extremes in regard to rules. The older son kept them all with a critical heart and the younger brother rebelled with a careless heart. As a result, neither them enjoyed the love of their father.

Legalism supposes that keeping rules can result in holiness. The law-breaker believes that casting off rules will result in happiness.

Each is a slave to misconception.

Addiction - being a slave to appetites.

When you think of addiction you most likely think about abuse of chemical substances. More often than not, that is the case.

Certain personality types lend themselves to addiction, but those drawn into addiction are drawn by a need to feel good and escape from emotional, physical or psychological pain. They begin using the pain-killers but soon abuse them. In an attempt to escape momentarily from pain they become a slave to a great source of pain - addiction.

Addiction is perhaps the most harmful form of selfishness - unless you become addicted to Jesus.

I am glad slavery in America was abolished 150 years ago. I look forward to a day when slavery of the soul is abolished.

For you, that day could be today.

February 28, 2016

"The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days." Joshua 6:13-14

Glory Days begin or end from the neck up. You can be physically present in the Promised Land but have your heart and mind mired in Egypt.

That had been the problem with the Hebrews for the past 40 years. God is a God of second chances, fresh starts and new beginnings and under the leadership of Joshua the Children of Israel got their mulligan when they crossed the Jordan. But soon after they ran head on into the stronghold of Jericho. It would have to fall before they could realize their "Glory Days".

Strongholds always stand between you and your Promised Land.

What is a stronghold? A stronghold is a mindset or a thought process that stands in opposition to God's truths. You could say it is a false premise that keeps you from embracing God's promise.

That "stronghold" can be every bit as imposing to you as Jericho was to God's people. And like Jericho, it has to fall!

Joshua 6 details three ways to take down a stronghold. I've given you two of them and now I'm sharing the third:
  1. Fight in God's Power!
  2. Fight With God's Weapons!
  3. Keep God in the Center!
When God called Joshua to take out Jericho He gave him a plan! The plan was to have the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant in the center of a procession that would circle Jericho every day for six days. There was great significance in how the procession was organized.

Soldiers prepared for battle led this procession, the priests carrying the Ark were in the center of the procession followed by more soldiers.

What a beautiful picture of how God leads us to victory! His soldiers (angels) go before us and behind us as long as we keep Jesus in the center of our lives and keep marching toward our Promised Land!
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;

    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:9-16

Friday, February 26, 2016

February 27, 2016

Your "Jericho" must go if you want to experience your Glory Days!

Everyone has a "Jericho" to overcome. You know what yours is and I am well aware of mine.

One of the great things about the Book of Joshua is how clearly it lays out a strategy for defeating a spiritual stronghold. The first key is to fight in God's power!

The second key is to fight with God's weapons!

So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” Joshua 6:6

Decades ago, Clara Peller famously asked."Where's the beef?"

You may be asking, "Where's the weapons? I see no weapons in this verse!"

The weapons listed in Joshua 6:6 are in no way conventional weapons. That's probably because this is not a typical battle! Taking on Jericho, like taking on your personal spiritual stronghold requires spiritual weapons. You cannot fight a spiritual battle with the weapons of man. Spiritual battles are fought and won with spiritual weapons like the those mentioned in the verse above. 
  • The Ark of the Covenant
  • Trumpets Made of Rams Horns
  • Priests and Soldiers
Who fights like that?

Well, that was the point! They only needed the weapons God assigned them because they weren't going to fight, God was going to fight FOR them!

If I'm going up against a strong spiritual enemy such as a stronghold I want every spiritual weapon available! Strongholds remain strong and even become stronger when you come against then with weapons of the flesh. Don't do that!

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." II Corinthians 10:3-4

Before we discuss the significance of these weapons God told Joshua to take into his encounter with Jericho let's understand what a stronghold is. Paul gives an insight in II Corinthians 10:5 - "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 

A stronghold is a argument or a mindset or a thought process that sets itself up against God's truth. You could say a stronghold is a false premise that you set up in direct opposition to God's promise. Some examples might be:
  • "God can never forgive me" - A stronghold of guilt
  • "I could never forgive" - A stronghold of resentment
  • "Bad things always happen to me." - A stronghold of self-pity
  • "I don't do well if I'm not in charge" - A stronghold of pride
  • "I don't deserve to be loved." - A stronghold of rejection
  • "I'll never get over this." - A stronghold of defeat
  • "I'll never measure up." - A stronghold of legalism
  • "I'll only as good as my appearance." - A stronghold of vanity
  • "I'm only as good as my net worth" - A stronghold of materialism
To bring down a stronghold you must deny these false premises and stand firm on God's promises! That's when these godly weapons come into play!

The weapons:
  • The Ark of the Covenant - which represents God's presence and His power
  • The Ram's Horn Trumpet - this trumpet sounded to signal victory. The silver trumpets where the call to battle but when the ram's horn sounded it signified the end of the battle!
  • The Priests - carried the Ark of the Covenant
  • The Soldiers - walked in front and behind the priests to protect them. That symbolizes the angels God sends to guard His people.
The battle is the Lord's and just like He did with Joshua He will give you the victory over your stronghold when you use His spiritual weapons!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

February 26, 2016

"And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given into your hand Jericho, with its king and mighty men of valor." Joshua 6:2

God has a Promised Land for you! He wants you to enjoy the Glory Days He called you out of Egypt to experience Canaan. When God led you out of Egypt He gave you everything you need to make into Canaan!

Just as the fierce, fearless and formidable fortress of Jericho stood in between the Israelites and their Glory Days you have your own stronghold that must be defeated if you are to enter into the joys of Canaan.

You are well aware of what your "Jericho" is but you may not be aware of how to overcome it. 

The story of Joshua and his defeat of Joshua provide valuable insights into how you can take down the stronghold standing in your way. Let's pull them from this Biblical account.

First, make sure you believe in God's power as Joshua did!

Notice that God didn't say, "You take this city," He said, "I have taken this city!"

God didn't say, "Fight FOR victory", God said, "Fight FROM victory!"

God didn't say go forth hoping to win, He told Joshua to go fight IN the hope that He had already assured the victory!

God did not say, "Go fight against your stronghold," He says, "Believe in my power to defeat it and tear it down!"

God said to Joshua and to you, "Trust in me and believe in what I have done for you and given to you when you were converted!"
  • Did God forgive you?
  • Did He put His Spirit in you?
  • Did He make you a new creation?
  • Did He renew your mind?
  • Did He make you alive in Christ?
  • Did He deliver you out of darkness?
  • Did He make you His child/heir?
  • Did He make you great and precious promises?
So, face it, the question is not, "Will you overcome your Jericho?" The question is, "When will you overcome it?"

When will you stop thinking in past terms and begin thinking and talking and walking like a child of God?

When will cease your negative self-labeling  and expect things to begin to change?

When will you stop living like a victim and begin living like a victor?

You are not destined for defeat Jesus defeated the enemy. You are not destined for depression or discouragement! 

Today's habits will not necessarily be tomorrow's habits!

Don't give place to the devil! Don't agree with his lies!

"The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." Psalm 16:6

February 25, 2016

"And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given into your hand Jericho, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; and on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, the priests blowing the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up every man straight before him." Joshua 6:2-5

God had brought His people OUT of Egypt and THROUGH the wilderness. Now He was ready to lead them IN to Canaan the Land of Promise. As soon as He brought them across the Jordan River the first thing they confronted was the impregnable fortress of Jericho. Jericho stood between the Israelites and the fulfillment of their God-given inheritance. Jericho had to fall. God promised Joshua He would deliver Jericho into his hand and gave him a plan to do it.

You have a Jericho standing between you and your Glory Days in Canaan. Your Jericho is that stronghold that stubbornly prevents you from enjoying God's presence and His power and from possessing what He promised as your inheritance. It won't be a city it will be something left over from your years in Egypt aggravated by the futility of the wilderness wanderings. It may be:
  • Your anger
  • Your guilt
  • Your anxiety
  • Your addiction
  • Your negativity
  • Your bitterness
  • Your resentment
  • Your critical spirit
  • Your trust issues
  • Your cynicism
  • Your feelings of anxiety
  • Your fear of rejection
Your Jericho is as real and foreboding to you as the real Jericho was to Joshua and his people. But the good news is the same God Who delivered Jericho into his hand is the same God Who can bring down your stronghold!

Do you believe that?

You may be thinking, "I want to believe that but I have tried to break down those walls for years but I haven't made a dent in them."

Let me point you to the promise God gave Joshua "See, I have given into your hand Jericho, with its king and mighty men of valor."

Just as God promised Joshua He would give him the Promised Land He will do the same for you.

Just as God had a plan for His people to attack Jericho and defeat it He has a plan for you to charge Jericho and bring it down!

Do you want to know what that plan is?

I will be preaching on it this Sunday and writing on it in this blog.

Are you curious to know the plan?

Read and reread Joshua 6 and it will become obvious to you!

In case it doesn't I plan to devote the next several days revealing three steps for destroying your Enemies in Canaan!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

February 24, 2016

“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 1:1-9

The journey to the Promised Land has historical significance, biographical significance, geographical significance and theological significance. This story really matters!

Egypt is an illustration of the sinful life, the unregenerate life, the unconverted life where we are held captive by the bonds of sin and shame. You were born in Egypt but you cannot afford to die there. The only way out of Egypt was for God to send a deliverer who was greater than the Pharaoh. That deliverer was Moses, the one who God referred to as “the greatest prophet”.

In your spiritual Egypt you are a prisoner to sin and held against your will by guilt, shame and evil desires. Your only hope of escaping Egypt is through faith in Jesus, the “second Moses” sent by God to set His people free from sin and death.

Outside Egypt the wilderness awaits!

The wilderness was the 250 miles of desert and barren land that separated Egypt from Canaan. In the wilderness you weren’t in Egypt but you weren’t in the Promised Land either.

Spiritually speaking, the wilderness represents the carnal Christian life. You have been brought out of Egypt but Egypt has not been taken out of you. God has placed the Holy Spirit in your life but you have not yet displaced the selfish sinful nature.

Moses led God’s people OUT of Egypt to lead them INTO Canaan!

A future in Canaan was their dream and God’s desire for His people. It was to be a place of faithfulness, fruitfulness, and freedom. But before they enjoyed their peace in Canaan they had to defeat the Canaanites and destroy all their idols. Only when their victory was total and complete would they know the rest God called them to enjoy.

Canaan, in the spiritual analogy, represents the Spirit-Filled life. In Wesleyan terms it is called sanctification and leads to holy living. John Wesley referred to this Spirit-filled state as “perfect love”. As in Canaan, there must be a consecration, a cleansing of all idols and a surrender of all that stands in opposition to God’s will. Once the consecration is complete the Spirit of God can come in with His full presence and power to take possession of that life.

Like the journey from Egypt to Canaan spiritual growth is a journey, a progression, a process that begins in Egypt (salvation) and leads through the wilderness (carnal Christianity) and then into Canaan (Spirit-filled life).

Where are you on your spiritual journey?

Where should you be?

What is your plan to get there?

Monday, February 22, 2016

February 23, 2016

“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.” After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert.  By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” Exodus 13:17-22

So, Egypt symbolized the life of sin prior to conversion.

As the Hebrews were trapped in the bondage of slavery, we are captives to the bondage of our sinful nature.

Every day was marked by drudgery, cruelty and hopelessness in Egypt. Such is life under the bondage of sinfulness.

God sent Moses to deliver His people from the Pharaoh through supernatural plagues and the blood of a lamb. God also sent His Son, Jesus, to become the Lamb of God to deliver us from our Egypt by His blood shed on a cruel cross.

If you are still a captive in Egypt, I strongly urge you to trust Jesus as your Savior to deliver you from the power of sin and death. You don’t have to live in Egypt and you certainly don’t want to die there!

When Moses led God’s people out of Egypt he led them into the wilderness. They had to travel through the wilderness in order to get to Canaan. When in the wilderness they weren’t in Egypt but Egypt was still in them. The wilderness was designed to be a place of testing His people and His people learning to trust Him.

The wilderness was supposed to be a temporary address on their way to the Promised Land. However, they remained nomads for forty years when they failed to enter into Canaan.

Spiritually, the wilderness is a symbol of the carnal Christian life. When you are in the spiritual wilderness you have God’s Spirit active in your life but the selfish sinful nature or “the flesh” is also present. Those two natures constantly oppose each other creating a weak double-minded follower of Christ.

The Apostle Paul expressed it like this: I don't do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don't want to do. I do what I don't want to do. But I am not really the one who is doing it. It is sin living in me. Here is the law I find working in me. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. Deep inside me I find joy in God's law. But I see another law working in the parts of my body. It fights against the law of my mind. It makes me a prisoner of the law of sin. That law controls the parts of my body. What a terrible failure I am! Who will save me from this sin that brings death to my body? I give thanks to God. He will do it through Jesus Christ our Lord. So in my mind I am a slave to God's law. But in my sinful nature I am a slave to the law of sin.” Romans 7:19-25

What a miserable way to live! And yet it is where most Christians reside. Max Lucado sites a survey conducted by the REVEAL Research Project that polled Believers in over 1,000 churches world-wide seeking to discover how many of them self-identified as living in “Canaan” spiritually. Only 11% could confidently declare that they were experiencing their “Glory Days”. Do the math on that and you see that leaves 89% of those who populate churches living in the wilderness. They are out of Egypt but Egypt is still not out of them.

Are you an “11%’er” or an “89%”?