Sunday, August 31, 2008

Curses and Blessings Part 2

In the last Joshua post I began a series called Blessings and Curses. I said at the time not to look for daily posts, but I had no idea it would take me ten days to get to the next one. I do hope to do better.
Our study jumps from Joshua 8 where Joshua had obediently divided the people into two groups to proclaim the blessings and curses of God. This has a lot to do with us in spite of the fact that we might not think so. Go back and read the first article in the series to catch up with today’s lesson.
In Galatians 3:2 Paul asks the question, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?” The answer to the question should be obvious – by the hearing of faith.
In verse 3 he asks another question. “Having begun in the Spirit are you now made perfect by the flesh?” The answer should obviously be “no”. So we begin by faith and we are perfected through faith. In order to illustrate this point, Paul brings up Abraham in verse 6. He tells us that Abraham believed God and it was counted as righteousness for him. Stay with me now because I know some of you are not used to thinking through the details of Paul’s argument.
In verse 7 he tells us then that those who are of faith (like Abraham was) are the sons of Abraham. God had promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him and verse 9 tells us the conclusion to this section: Those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. This then sets up the basis for the argument Paul is going to use in the rest of the chapter and it is an extremely crucial argument if you want to understand your relationship to the blessings and curses of God.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Curses and Blessings Part 1

Today is the first of several posts in a series discussing the God’s curse on mankind and the way out from under the curse into God’s blessing. I taught this series a couple of months ago in the adult Sunday School class in our church and believe it is one of the most important concepts I have ever covered. Don’t look for daily updates because things are starting to get busy as I get ready for another school year, but hopefully at least once a week I’ll be able to post the next section.

We begin in Joshua 8:30. If you read this section you will see that Joshua split the people up and sent half to Mount Ebal and the other half to Mount Gerizim. I know that’s not the most interesting beginning and you may be tempted to tune me out, but please stay with this series and follow the logic of God’s truth.

In Deuteronomy 27, Moses commanded this event. The people on Mount Gerizim were to read the blessings that you read in chapter 27. The people on Mount Ebal were to read the curses. You’ll notice that God’s blessing included every facet of life. Similarly the curses. Notice the curse in verse 26: “Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law.” Paul picks this up in Galatians 3:10, “For as many as are of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’”

In Deuteronomy 30:19 God pleads with them to choose life. The choice is before them – life or death. What would they choose?

We’ll pick this up next time because we want to see what this all has to do with us. If you’re thinking that since this is the Old Testament it has nothing to do with us, think again. Paul deals with this thoroughly in Galatians and the truth is encouraging and liberating.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Wages of Sin

After the victory at Jericho, the Israelites felt pretty confident about the next battle at Ai. What most of the people didn’t know is that one of the men had taken some things from Jericho as spoil. God had commanded them to take nothing but to burn everything.

When the Israelites went to attack Ai, they were soundly defeated. Obviously God wasn’t with them on this venture. When Joshua asked the Lord why such a defeat, God told them about Achan’s sin and disobedience.

There are several things we can learn from this. First, our sin affects everyone. Even for so-called secret sins, we shouldn’t think that others in the body of Christ are not hurt. This is a spiritual battle we’re in and there are spiritual consequences that we may not be able to see.

Israel’s response to this revelation was to repent. There was repentance, humility and a sincere concern for God’s name and His glory. Repentance and sorrow weren’t enough, however. Action had to be taken. Achan had to get specific about his sin explaining how he had seen then taken and hidden the loot.

What was the result for Achan? He and his entire family were put to death. This reminds me that God is serious about sin. Romans 3:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. Those of us who know that Scripture well repeat it so easily and without feeling, but I wonder if we really understand the impact. The sins you and I commit are enough to cause us to be stoned as Achan was. Somehow I don’t think we look at it that seriously.

Finally, I’m reminded of the awesome grace of God toward a sinner like me. Second Corinthians 5:21 says that Christ was made sin for us so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Galatians 3:10 explains how He was cursed for us so that we would be released from the curse. I Peter 2:24 tells us that He bore our sins on the cross. “Sin has left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.”

Monday, August 11, 2008

Memorization/Meditation Plan Coming

I hope your summer has been going well. I’ve been busy with a family trip to South Carolina, a train trip with my wife to Denver and an extended family campout at Spring Mill State Park in Indiana. If you see me personally, don’t ask about the 8 hour wait for the train in Denver or the invasion of the raccoons at Spring Mill because if you do, you’ll hear the long versions of both entertaining stories. Spring Mill, by the way is a very nice park with lots to do for the whole family.

One of the spiritual disciplines that we as faithful men ought to have is Scripture memorization and meditation. When I was in college and for a time thereafter, I used the Scripture memory plan published by the Navigators. What I liked about this plan was the outline of biblical topics that went with it. My intention is to go back through and focus on those passages and I invite you to do that with me. Beginning in September I’m going to use each Monday as the memorization/mediation day. I’ll post the verse for the week and the outline points that go with it. If you’d like to be emailed that information each Monday, let me know. Otherwise I just encourage you to check the blog on Mondays to find out the verse of the week.

Each month or so I pick a verse that I can use in praying for you and others in my life. This time I’m looking at Epesians 3:18, 19. Paul prayed that they “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Take some time to think through all of the “impossible” things being prayed for here for real people, especially the part of being filled with all the fullness of God!

People don’t like to read long emails so I’ll quit for now. Remember if you want the memorization emails, let me know.

Have a great week.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

God is in Control

Last time I mentioned that the purpose of engaging the enemy in a battle and winning that battle is for the glory of God. As I grow older I’m learning that all of the struggles and battles in our life all funnel down to our response to what God is doing in our lives and whether we will trust Him and obey Him in them. So often we want to focus on the circumstances and the other people involved. We wonder why we are being treated unfairly or why the other person doesn’t have to be all that they should be. We find this often in the struggles in marriages. When we counsel one partner to be obedient to God and respond the way God would have them to, he/she usually wants to know what if the other person doesn’t do what they are supposed to do. It’s relatively easy to be obedient when the other people and circumstances in our lives are the way they should be. What’s difficult is when things don’t seem to be lining up fairly.

Do you remember when Jesus was telling Peter how he (Peter) would die in John 21:21? Peter pointed to John and asked, “What about that man?” Basically Jesus’ answer was to forget about John and follow Christ. That is exactly what God wants from each one of us. He wants us to obey at the point of the testing.

Sometimes other areas of our life are in good shape, but God points at one particular area and says, “What about obedience here?” Are we responsive in that area?

The real question comes down to this. Do we trust God? God’s ways and our ways differ. (Isaiah 55:9) When the situation seems not to have an answer, it probably doesn’t.

Only God can change people – and He can change them. (Proverbs 21:1) Nothing is outside of His capabilities and knowledge. Sometimes we look at God as though He were as frustrated by situations in life or the world as we are. The truth is that God is never frustrated. He accomplishes all He desires to do. (Daniel 4:34) His wisdom is unsearchable and perfect. (Romans 11:37) There is no flaw or missing links in His thought process.

When the battles are great or the circumstances seem impossible, think on the truths that I have just outlined for you. Everything is under control. Do you remember what happened when Paul asked repeatedly for a certain physical problem to be taken away? God did not remove the problem. He just said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Are you ok with that?