Your Choice

Joshua 24

February 26

Like Moses, Joshua had an opportunity to give a farewell message to the Israelite people he had led before dying. Under his leadership things have gone well. One of the greatest compliments given to a godly leader would be that your people served the Lord throughout your tenure. In verse 31 Joshua gets just that. 

Joshua uses these last moments to remind (common theme in this book) the people of where they came from and what God has done to get them to the promised land. God was the sole source of their successes and their only failures were when they tried to do it on their own. 

The part of his speech that gets the most attention is a challenge. After telling them all what God has done he looks out at the people and asks them to make a choice. If serving this God I have described is undesirable, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. Don’t wait, waiver or wander. As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord. 

It is a choice that is set out before each individual both then and now. Half commitments are not acceptable. It is a decision that we continue to make each day as we face the temptation to wander. Like Joshua, as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord. 

-John Wincapaw

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Look at Genesis 12:1-7 to see the significance of gathering the people at Shechem for these final words from Joshua.
  2. As Joshua recounts the history of the Israelites, what part did God play? Consider your own history – where has God been at work to bring you to where you are today (both during your lifetime and your ancestors)?
  3. What other ‘gods’ (popularity, addictions, wealth, power, affection, leisure, hobbies, security, or a significant person) have you been tempted to serve? When have you made a wrong choice?
  4. What do you choose today? Why? What can be a reminder of your commitment?

Nothing is Impossible with God

Joshua 10

February 25

The people of Gibeon heard of the victory at Jericho and quickly created a peace treaty with the Israelites. This ruffled the feathers of the 5 surrounding nations and their kings declared war on Gibeon.

The king of Gibeon cries out to his new ally – come help us. With God’s direction and encouragement, Joshua gathers his best fighters and comes to the rescue. The passage tells us that he surprised the armies and with the help of God’s hand they push the enemy back. 

Joshua sees that victory is at hand but fears that the enemy may be able to escape in the night. So Joshua looked up to the sun and told it to stand still, and miraculously, it did! 

Verse 14: There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!

I would suggest it is rarely (possibly never) a good idea to give God instructions. God is capable to do what we see is impossible. That does not mean we can tell him to provide us with all of our desires and entertain us with cool magic tricks. To be clear, that is not what Joshua did. God has already given the order, promised he would be with them and would hand over his enemy. Joshua was looking for God to provide him an opportunity to do what God already said He would do. 

God will do miraculous things in our lives. Especially when we ask Him to do things that he already wants to do. If there is calling in your life that seems impossible to you, know that your God wants to help you fulfill what he is calling you to do. What may be impossible to us – is not for God!

-John Wincapaw

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. There is an interesting story in the previous chapter (Joshua 9) of the Gibeonites deceiving Joshua in order to create a peace treaty with the Israelites. Why do you think Joshua – and God – still fought to protect them?
  2. If social media had been around at the time, what would those who witnessed the sun standing still post?
  3. What does it mean to you that the Almighty and All Powerful God can and has used His powers over His created world to influence or control an outcome?
  4. Is there a job you think God wants you to do that you feel you need more time for? How can you better order the rest of your day and projects to give the required time to God’s project?

Do we learn from our past mistakes?

Joshua 6

February 24

The Israelites’ failures in the desert can be summarized simply down to disobedience. Even though God was leading the way, they stubbornly chose their own. Will the new generation do the same? 

Once they have crossed the Jordan, the people have dedicated themselves to follow and obey. God quickly puts that to the test. He promises them Jericho but he tells them to take it in the most unorthodox way. He is going to show them that it will all be done by his power and not theirs. 

Imagine being excited to fight for God! He has proven he is with you. You are ready to go out on his behalf and the order comes down the command chain that we are not fighting but instead we are marching. Talk about a let down. You get to come back to camp and tell everyone of your great triumphs – err, a few miles walk around a city wall. And it gets worse. They have to do it for 6 days without seeing any results. 

I’m sure there was plenty of confusion and likely complaining. But on day 7, it was different. They got to walk around 7 times and wait for it, SHOUT! Talk about a warrior’s perfect picture of their first battle. I’m sure this tugged on all their desires to take this in their own hands and do what they were trained to do – fight. 

They were faithful – and after the 7th trip on the 7th day, they let out a shout and the wall collapsed and they finally got to fight. Although they did not understand God’s way in the beginning or during the process, it made sense in the end. They were able to go in and take the city without loss. Had they tried any other way, this level of success was unattainable. 

Most had learned that following God’s way (even when you don’t fully understand) was the best path. If interested in finding out again what happens when they disobey, you don’t have to look far, just read the next chapter. 

-John Wincapaw

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. When would God have you be silent? How well do you do this? When would God want you to SHOUT? How well do you do this?
  2. In what ways does God’s battle plans today seem crazy to a world that does not follow and obey God?
  3. Why was Rahab and her family spared (see Joshua chapter 2)? How can we be involved in saving lives from the coming destruction?

Prepare Yourself

God is going to do wonders among you!

Joshua 3

February 23

It is finally time. The Israelites are finally getting to go into the promised land. The years of wandering are over. The last day starts very similar to the first. They are standing in front of a large body of water that needs to be crossed. God once again shows that a large body of water is not an obstacle too big for Him. 

God gives Joshua the plan and again lets him know that he will be with him along the way. He gives him the words to say to get the people to follow. Joshua prepares the people for the miracle that is about to happen. Different translations may say cleanse, sanctify or prepare – but essentially get ready, God is going to do something awesome. 

The directions are to have the spiritual leaders carry the Ark of the Covenant (signifying God’s throne and presence) and the people were to follow. They were to take a couple steps into the water and stop. 

I love this! How much easier would it have been if God separated the water before they started moving. No faith required. Instead, they had to trust God would do what he said he was going to do. The waters begin to separate after their feet hit the water. 

Again, the Israelites get an amazing miracle to help them remember their God is with them and for them. Once everyone made it to the other side, God asked Joshua to set up a memorial. They were to set up another reminder for the generations to come to remember the events that took place. 

-John Wincapaw


Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Everyone wants God to work in their lives, but are you ready for it? Is there something in your life that may be stopping God from doing something great? What might God be asking you to do to prepare, sanctify, consecrate or purify yourself?
  2. The Israelites had to get their feet wet before the water parted. Is there an obstacle in front of you? Describe it. To overcome it, what is a first step you can take in faith?
  3. When God does something amazing, it is important we set up ways to use it to tell others about his greatness. What has God done in your life that you could share with someone else? How will you share it? With whom? When? Where?

Be Strong and Courageous!

Joshua 1

2-22-22

After the death of Moses, Joshua had some large shoes to fill. Not only did he have to follow after Moses, he had the responsibility to lead the people into their promised land. 

Joshua had to be terrified. Maybe I am reading into how I would have responded with such a hard task but look how many times God assured him as they are getting started. Verses 3 and 4 – I will give you the land. Verse 5 – no one will stand against you – I will be with you and will never leave you. Verse 6-9 – multiple times He tells him be strong and courageous. 

God knew Joshua had a daunting task in front of him. He did not want Joshua to be overcome with fear. So He gives Joshua the best support and encouragement possible – I will be with you!

Notice how he doesn’t say it will be easy. This is something I think we all need to hear. Some get the idea if we follow God, go to church, get baptized…etc. that it will be easy. But still we all face difficulties, hardships and battle fear. We can be immobilized by fear or move on in strength and courage. 

I believe the promise given to Joshua is for us as well. No matter what stands in front of 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.”

After embracing this promise we see Joshua step up and lead the people. He then had the opportunity to share that courage with the others who also saw the difficult task ahead. When they saw his strength and courage they vowed to follow him the same way they followed Moses. 

Others will see when you courageously face difficulties. It may give you an opportunity to share where your strength and courage comes from. Be ready to share that the presence of God can help us through anything. 

-John Wincapaw

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In Joshua 1:6-9 we hear God tell Joshua three times, “Be strong and (very) courageous.” What else does God tell Joshua to do in these 4 verses? How is this related to building his strength and courage? Why is it still important today?
  2. Who do you admire for their Christian strength and courage? Ask them what their secret is.
  3. How has surviving through a past fearful situation helped to grow your strength and courage? What are you facing now or in the future that will be easier with an extra dose of strength and courage? How can you exercise those qualities today?

Celebrate and Remember

Deuteronomy 16

February 21

Chapter 16 begins with the reminder to celebrate the Passover. It was a time that was set aside to remember how their God saved them from Egyptian slavery. More specifically from the angel of death that passed over those Jewish people who placed the blood of a lamb on their door posts.

We also see the reminder of the Festival of Weeks (celebrating the harvest/first fruits) and the Festival of Tabernacles (remembering the years of wandering). Each were given specifications as to how and when to celebrate. 

Each of these celebrations was to be a reminder of where they came from and to celebrate God’s provision. God provided a way out, he provided the harvest and he provided for the Jewish people in their 40 year wilderness wandering. 

Knowing that God will provide in all life circumstances should give us joy and help encourage us in difficult times. God has been there before and he will be there again. He provides, always!

We all should set up reminders to celebrate the way God has worked in our lives. The reminders can help us remain thankful and never take for granted what God has done, is doing or what he will do in the future. 

-John Wincapaw

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Make a list of how God has provided for you. How will you express your thankfulness to the Lord? What reminders do you already have in place, and what reminders can you add to your home, your routine, and your calendar to ensure that you remember and thank God for the way He has provided?
  2. What is the danger in not being intentional in remembering what God has done and provided?
  3. What is your favorite holiday? Why? How do you celebrate it? What might God want you to remember as you celebrate? How could you do that better?
  4. Each of the three festivals decreed in Deuteronomy 16 included bringing a sacrifice, gift or offering to the Lord. “No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.” (verses 16b & 17) What can you give to the Lord so you do not come before Him empty-handed?

Blessing or Curse?

Deuteronomy 11

February 20

Verse 26-27

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse—the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today;  the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods.

Chapter 11 is a constant reminder for obedience. We see multiple reminders to be careful – which to me shows how easy it is mess up. If we are not paying attention we can easily fall. 

The Israelites are about to finally leave the wilderness and go into the land that was promised. Before entering they are given some instruction to help them not fall away like those before them. It was focused on obedience to the law and commands that were being given to them. 

We often think of obedience as a restriction from the things we would like to do. But here we are reminded that God desires blessing for us and those blessings are for those who make the choice of obedience.

Obedience isn’t just knowing God or about his commands. It is making the choice to follow them. Making the choice to have them be a priority in your life. Surrounding yourself with reminders to do what is right so you are not tempted to fall away. 

It is a choice! We are not forced to do anything. God did not create humans as robots. He gave us the choice to obey or not. We make a choice everyday and that choice is tied together with love. If we love God we will obey him! 

Those that love God will obey God. Those that obey God will be blessed by God. 

-John Wincapaw

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. When have you experienced God’s blessings for obedience?
  2. Can you think of a time you may have experienced God’s punishment or curses because of a time of disobedience?
  3. What have you seen of God’s power and might with your own eyes? How can you pass this along to those younger than you who did not experience what you did? Why is that important to do?

The Blessing of Your Priesthood

Leviticus 8-10

Leviticus 8 23 NIV

The next couple chapters we see the ordination of Aaron and his sons. They are anointed to become the first priests of Israel. They are cleansed, had anointing oil placed on them and then also the blood of a ram sacrifice.

Once we get past how awkward this seems, I was interested in 8:23-24.

23 Moses slaughtered the ram and took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 24 Moses also brought Aaron’s sons forward and put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet.

He took some of the blood and placed it in 3 specific areas on both Aaron and his sons; the ear, thumb and big toe. Each seems to have a pretty obvious connection.

The ear: Listen – They needed to listen to God’s commands so that they would be careful not to disobey Him.

Thumb/hand – Actions – We use our hands to carry out most of our actions. I think God was telling Aaron and his sons that they were not merely to listen, but to act on God’s commands. (Kind of like James 1:22 – be doers of the word)

The Big toe/foot – Our walk and where we go – I have read that the big toe carries the most weight and gives the foot balance when walking. Without big toes we could not run or even walk straight.

Possibly God is reminding them to walk straight and stay committed to the path God has set before them.

1 Peter 2:5 – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We are all called into a similar service.

So may your ears be blessed to hear the command of God for your life. Bless your hands to act upon that calling and command. Bless your feet so that wherever you are and wherever you may go you stay committed to the path the Lord has for you.

You are blessed so that you can be a blessing!

John Wincapaw

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+8-10&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Leviticus 11-13 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Confess

Leviticus 5-7

Leviticus 5 5 NIV

Confession – yesterday we talked about Christ’s sacrifice replacing the Old Testament offerings. I also mentioned how we often take for granted the fact we no longer have to make the sacrifices. In those sacrifices, it was just that, a sacrifice – the people had to give something that they could have enjoyed because of their sin.

Even though there was a loss, the people had no clear way to alleviate the weight of guilt and find forgiveness in their lives. God has provided another way to help with that – Confession.

Confession is something that is hard to do. Many lie, deny and push blame on others just to avoid confessing. It is something that God asks of us not for his benefit but for ours. I remember being told often as a kid the only way to fix a problem  is to realize there is one. And that is what confession is.

Further, confession gives a proper view on sin, God and ourselves.

The punishment for sin is death – we need a proper view of sin. I have often heard of people talk about their sin as “Not that big of a deal.” Sin is just that, SIN. If it is wrong, we shouldn’t do it. Sin that is not confessed and not repented of leads to missing out on the Kingdom.

God cannot be in the presence of sin – we need a proper view of God. Our God is a holy God. He expects purity not just in our actions but also our hearts. (Matt. 5:8 says the pure heart will see God.)

We cannot do it on our own – we need a proper view of ourselves. We often try to fix our problems on our own. Sin is not something we can fix on our own or earn enough to repay the debt. We need a savior and Christ is willing to step in on our behalf.

A couple tips on confession:

Confess immediately – when you know you have done something wrong do not push it off. It is easy to push it off.

Confess specifically – I hear a lot of prayer that vaguely ask for all sins to be forgiven. Make it personal and specific.

Confess honestly – Take it serious and do not make promises you know you will not keep.

Confess to someone else – this is something I push in the church. For some reason people are afraid of letting others know about their sin. Most will acknowledge they are a sinner but would never discuss their struggles for fear of other’s judgement. Find someone you trust and create an open discussion and ask for accountability.

John Wincapaw

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+5-7&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Leviticus 8-10 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A Perfect Sacrifice

Leviticus 1-4

Leviticus 4 35b NIV

In the first few chapters of the book of Leviticus, we see 5 different types of offerings. God had already redeemed the Nation of Israel; the offerings were God’s way of providing the people an opportunity to regain and keep fellowship with Him.

Fortunately for believers today, we no longer need to keep up with these. For a deeper dig check out Hebrews 10.  Quick summary: Christ’s sacrifice covered it.

I assume most appreciate Christ’s sacrifice but I bet most also take it for granted. Imagine having to make a sacrifice each time we sinned. Instead, we can thank God for his offering. He gave his son so that all can retain and keep fellowship with him. A single sacrifice once for all.

A super quick summary of the 5 offerings:

Burnt offering – the worshipper would bring an animal sacrifice that atoned sin.

Grain offering – an offering that is a response to God’s grace. Part of the best of the worshipper’s produce.

Peace offering – a free will offering that was optional – but above and beyond what was expected.

Purification offering – this was asking for forgiveness for unknown sins or sins of ignorance. It was a way to keep the tabernacle from human defilement.

Guilt offering – this was an attempt to repair the damage done for the sins committed. Not just forgiveness but also restoration.

John Wincapaw

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+1-4&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Leviticus 5-7 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

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