JOSHUA 5:13-15: “When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua approached him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied. “I have now come as commander of the Lord’s army.” Then Joshua bowed with his face to the ground in worship and asked him, “What does my lord want to say to his servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did that.” CSB

OBSERVATION: How do I prepare for the battles of life? As I face great difficulty or struggle, what are the first things I should do? As the children of Israel miraculously crossed the Jordan river, prepared for battle against the Lord’s enemies, it is insightful to see what God called them as a nation to do, and what He called Joshua as their leader to do.

If you have your army in full battle array, the last thing you would do is take the entire army out of service in a way that would render them ineffective to defend the nation. Yet, this is exactly what the Lord did. He called Joshua to separate all the men and circumcise them. This is the account from Joshua chapter 5.

  • “At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelite men again.” So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelite men at Gibeath-haaraloth. This is the reason Joshua circumcised them: All the people who came out of Egypt who were males — all the men of war — had died in the wilderness along the way after they had come out of Egypt. Though all the people who came out were circumcised, none of the people born in the wilderness along the way were circumcised after they had come out of Egypt.” Joshua 5:2-5 CSB

Can you imagine what they might have thought? If every man in the nation of Israel was circumcised, how could they defend against the enemy if the enemy attacked while they were in pain and recovering? This seems like a strange battle strategy indeed – to the natural mind. Yet, the most important thing we can do before entering into any battle of life, or as we face great struggles and difficulty, is to circumcise our heart. Repentance, acknowledging the covenant of God, and setting ourselves apart from the flesh and the world is the first and most important step we can take.

  • “Yet the Lord had his heart set on your fathers and loved them. He chose their descendants after them — he chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today. Therefore, circumcise your hearts and don’t be stiff-necked any longer. For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe.” Deuteronomy 10:15-17 CSB

The physical sign of circumcision was the sign of Israel’s covenant with God as His chosen people. The circumcision of the heart, repentance and faith toward Christ, is the spiritual equivalent and the sign of the New Covenant. We are called to separate ourselves from sin and consecrate ourselves to God. It took faith to lay down their weapons and go through a painful procedure in obedience to the Lord’s command. It takes faith to lay down our own understanding, our presumed righteousness, and our will, in repentance before the Lord. Circumcision of the heart is the first preparation for battle.

The second is the natural response of true circumcision of the heart. As Israel recovered under the protection of the Lord’s mighty hand, Joshua encounters a man with a mighty sword drawn. Joshua does not understand what he is seeing so he naturally asks – “Are you for us or for our enemies?” The response Joshua receives is quite unexpected.

  • “Neither,” he replied. “I have now come as commander of the Lord’s army.”

Joshua’s response to this, and the commander of the Lord’s army’s reply is important to note carefully.

  • “Then Joshua bowed with his face to the ground in worship and asked him, “What does my lord want to say to his servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did that.”

There is nowhere in the Bible where an angel receives worship. In fact the Scriptures are replete with the warning not to worship angels, for they are merely created beings as we are. The fact that Joshua worships this man, and that this man receives his worship, tells us that Joshua was encountering the per-incarnate Christ. And both Christ’s call to Joshua, and Joshua’s response, speaks volumes.

Repentance must always be followed by worship. Repentance acknowledges our sin. Worship acknowledges our Savior. Repentance reminds us that the battle is not ours, it is the Lord’s. Worship proclaims that our victory is not in our human effort, but in the power of His grace. In fact, He goes before us, with sword drawn, and leads us from victory to victory. Our victory in life is not won in the battle field. It is won on our knees in sincere repentance and worship. It is won as we take off our shoes and realize that standing in His presence is our greatest weapon.

Israel had to lay down their weapons to be circumcised. Joshua had to take off his shoes to worship. We are called to do the same. Yet, when our spiritual eyes are opened, when we realize that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is going before us, we joyfully and willingly lay down our weapons and surrender our hearts in repentance and worship. We, like Mary, realize that this is where our victory is won. Anything that follows is simply reaping the fruit of His grace at work in our life.

Over the past few days I have faced a battle that was impossible for me to win in my own wisdom and strength. There was nothing I could do. Like David, all I could do was cry out to the Lord. Over and over, continually from my heart, I humbled myself and called upon the Lord. I prostrated myself in worship, and placed my trust in the One who alone can move the mountain. And the mountain has begun to move. It has not been through my actions, but solely by His grace. And I am reminded this morning that He is no respect of persons.

Whatever you might be facing, He is standing before you. His sword is drawn, positioned for victory. He calls out to you to circumcised your heart, and to prostrate yourself in worship. And as you do, He fights your battles for you. And, day by day, moment by moment, He gives you the very next step to take. We do not march to battle, we crawl to victory on our knees. Lord, help me to remain on my knees, in humility and worship, as I witness Your victory in my life.

In Jesus Name!

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JOSHUA 1:7-9: “Above all, be strong and very courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” CSB

OBSERVATION: What is the most courageous thing you can do in life? Is it to fight the battles of life? Is it to follow your dreams? Is it to live up to your full potential? All of these require great courage. Yet, they are not the most courageous thing that you can do in life.

Joshua was faced with an ominous task. Moses was now dead, and it was his job to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. Their call was not simply a journey. It was a conquest. The minute they set their foot on the other side of the Jordan river they would begin to enter into battle with the enemy, with those who opposed the Lord. Joshua needed much more than simply knowing he had succeeded Moses. Joshua needed courage.

The Lord speaks personally to Joshua several times with these words of exhortation – “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous.” Joshua needed to hear these words and take them to heart. However, how was Joshua to fulfill this command? Was it simply a pep talk by the Lord? Was the Lord asking Joshua to stand up straight and muster up the courage to enter into battle? Or, was the Lord asking Joshua to do something that would require even greater courage?

The call to be strong and courageous to Joshua was not a call to face the battles ahead without fear. As we read the text we discover is was focused on something entirely different. The battle without was already won. The Lord promised Joshua that He would go before him. However, it was the battle within that the Lord was calling Joshua to win. It was the battle within that would take strength and courage to win. It was the battle to abide in God’s Word, to meditate upon it day and night, and to walk in obedience to it every moment of every day!

  • “This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous?”

This is the true battle that is raging against our souls. The enemy knows that if he can win this battle all the remaining battles will be easy to win. Jesus gave the same call to His disciples that was given to Joshua. The call was given for the same purpose, to overcome the attack of the enemy. It was not a call to personal strength. It was a call to fidelity to His Word.

  • “Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 CSB

A life that is surrendered to the truth of God’s Word, that seeks first the Kingdom of God by viewing all of life through the lens of Scripture, is a life that is strong and courageous. It is a life that will walk in personal and moral freedom. It is a life that will prosper in all that the Lord is calling and desiring to do.

  • “Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Psalms 1:2-3 CSB

Today, we don’t need strength and courage to fight the battles that have already been won. If you read the end of the Book you will find – the Lord wins! There is no doubt that Jesus is and will be victorious. However, we need strength and courage to abide in His Word. We need strength and courage to meditate upon His Word. And we need strength and courage to obey His Word. And here is the wonderful truth. He has promised to give it to those who ask!

  • “But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:6-10 CSB

Lord, this morning I hear Your call to be strong and courageous. I humble myself before You and ask you for greater grace. Greater grace to submit to You. Greater grace to abide in Your Word. Greater grace to meditate upon it day and night. And, greater grace to obey it and to walk in its truth. By Your greater grace I will obey the call,

  • “Be strong and courageous!”

In Jesus Name!

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DEUTERONOMY 27:11-16: “On that day Moses commanded the people, “When you have crossed the Jordan, these tribes will stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. And these tribes will stand on Mount Ebal to deliver the curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali. The Levites will proclaim in a loud voice to every Israelite: ‘The person who makes a carved idol or cast image, which is detestable to the Lord, the work of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret is cursed.’ And all the people will reply, ‘Amen!’ ‘The one who dishonors his father or mother is cursed.’ And all the people will say, ‘Amen!’” CSB

OBSERVATION: What are the two foundational elements of any society? Like the foundational beams of a building, if these two elements are neglected they will cause a society’s demise. This is also true for our personal lives. We gain some needed perspective from this portion of Scripture in Deuteronomy.

Moses is giving the children of Israel his final instructions before they cross the Jordan into the promised land. He has just finished reviewing their covenant with Yahweh, and he know gives them instruction on proclaiming the blessings and curses of the covenant once they cross the Jordan. Six tribes were to stand on Mount Gerizim to pronounce the blessing, and six tribes were to stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce the curse.

The responsive reading of the curses is quite a bit longer than the two that are listed in verses 11-16. However, it is interesting that the first two follow the basic outline of the 10 Commandments. They are the foundational principles of any society. They are the love of God and the honor and respect of our parents, and all authority for that matter (as our parents represent all authority). The 10 commandments follow this same outline. The first 3 commandments are about our worship of God. The 4th commandment is about honoring our parents. It is the only commandment with a promise.

  • “Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12 CSB

When a society dismisses the God of creation, when it begins to worship other things in place of God, it opens the door to all sorts of evil. However, the first sign of a society that is off the rails is the dismissal of respect for authority. It is this disrespect for authority that is first seen in the home, and then is manifested in the society. It translates into a disrespect and distrust for anyone in authority. It challenges the parent, the teacher, the law officer, the employer. It elevates the position of one’s own choosing and dismisses the wisdom of those who have lived before.

We live in such a society today. Someone has wisely observed that all great societies that have collapsed have done so first by collapsing within. This is certainly true of the nation of Israel. They did not fall prey to their enemies because their army was smaller. They fell prey to their enemies because the Lord withdrew His protection and blessing from them. He did this because they forsook their worship and devotion to the Lord, and they rejected all authority that He had established.

Now, I want to preface this next statement and admit it will sound like an older guy ranting about the past. However, I feel it is worth the risk. When I was a child I was not allowed to call another adult by their first name. We had some hip adults in our neighborhood that wanted us to call them by their first name. However, my parents would not allow this. To every adult it was Mr., or Mrs., or Miss – and then their last name. I was taught to honor and respect my elders, my teachers, the police, and those in authority over me. This translated into my respect for my employer and in general my fellow man.

Yet, this value was not taught in a vacuum. It was taught in the context of my Christian faith. We honored the Lord in our home. We prayed before meals. We went to church. We looked to the Scriptures as the Word of God. It was this foundation that led us to the latter. We first learned to honor and respect the Lord. This naturally led us to honor and respect our parents and authority. We were reminded of these principles every time we prayed the Lord’s prayer.

  • “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-10, 12-13 CSB

There was a time when the citizens of the USA were proud to proclaim that they were “…one nation under God…”. I remember that day. Is it any wonder that we have such anarchy in our society today when we have taken such great strides to remove God from every public place in our society. When you remove God, the very next thing to go is respect for authority. When there is no respect for authority there is anarchy. And anarchy leads only in one direction – to destruction.

Is there hope? I believe the only hope that is left is for each believer in Jesus Christ to let their individual light shine. We cannot turn a huge ship that has traveled off course with the snap of our fingers. However, we can begin to live our lives modeling what it means to honor God and to honor our parents and all authority. If we allow our light to shine in the darkness, if we stand up for the principles that foster respect, if we vote for our values, we can see a shift in the course our nation is taking.

Granted, it will take the sovereign intervention of the mighty hand of an all merciful God. Yet, when Christians united in prayer and purpose in the past, the Lord poured out the winds of repentance and revival upon our land. Lord, move in the hearts of Your people to cry out to you once again. Pour out Your Spirit upon our nation. Bring a mighty revival that will turn the tide of a ship that has gone far off course.

In Jesus Name!

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DEUTERONOMY 22:9-12: “Do not plant your vineyard with two types of seed; otherwise, the entire harvest, both the crop you plant and the produce of the vineyard, will be defiled. Do not plow with an ox and a donkey together. Do not wear clothes made of both wool and linen. Make tassels on the four corners of the outer garment you wear.” CSB

OBSERVATION: Can I be a Christian and dabble in the things of the world? Is the call to purity in life just an archaic notion of the past? Can I pick and choose the parts of the Bible that I like and dismiss the others that I find difficult or inconvenient to my life? All of these questions are answered by some practical advice given to a farmer.

In the midst of some very strong moral instruction in the book of Deuteronomy, the Bible suddenly gives some practical farming instruction to the agrarian nation of Israel. Israel was a farming and livestock community. The chief industry of the nation was managing livestock and planting crops. And it is in this context that the Lord gives them some very practical advice that also speaks volumes to their (and our) spiritual lives.

The basic instruction is the same.

  • Don’t mix your seed, or it will contaminate your harvest.
  • Don’t plow with an ox and a donkey, or it will impede your production.
  • Don’t wear clothes made of both wool and linen, because it will cause you discomfort.

These instructions are very practical, and yet they hold some powerful spiritual truth.

We cannot mix a little bit of the Bible with the wisdom of this world. The wisdom of God comes from above, and the wisdom of this world comes from beneath. All truth is God’s truth, but the wisdom of this world seeks to pervert the truth of God. It challenges the revelation of God’s Word. It is the seed that chokes out that which the Lord desires to grow in our lives. It produces the opposite of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. If I want to know if I am mixing the seed in my life, all I have to do is check my fruit.

We cannot mix our friendships in life. This does not mean that we cannot be friendly with everyone. However, it speaks to the intimacy of our friendships. The Bible is clear – the wrong friendships affect our morals. When we are growing with fellow believers, our faith is growing, and we are becoming more like Jesus. When we are finding the intimacy of friendship with those who do not believe, we find our faith growing weaker, we find our attitudes slipping and changing, and eventually we find ourselves doing things that we once viewed as wrong. You cannot plow with an ox and donkey and expect something beneficial to come from it.

We cannot clothe ourselves with the wisdom of this world. To stand strong in the faith takes a life of commitment and purpose. We are called to abide in His Word, to meditate upon His commandments day and night. We must take every thought that rises against the knowledge of God captive in obedience through Jesus Christ – by His Word. If we don’t, if we begin to look at life through the lens of this world, we will find ourselves growing more and more discontent. There will be a struggle within that will not stop. It will be the flesh warring against the spirit. The flesh is always trying to keep us from growing in the spirit. For a Christian this will be as uncomfortable as putting on a wool suit in the heat of August!

There is one more instruction.

  • “Make tassels on the four corners of the outer garment you wear.”

This instruction seems strange to us, as we no longer wear the type of clothes the Israelites wore. Why the four tassels on their garment? What was the significance of this instruction?

  • “The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, and put a blue cord on the tassel at each corner. These will serve as tassels for you to look at, so that you may remember all the Lord’s commands and obey them and not prostitute yourselves by following your own heart and your own eyes. This way you will remember and obey all my commands and be holy to your God. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the Lord your God.” Numbers 15:37-41 CSB

This was not a new fashion statement. It was a call to remember the commandments of the Lord. It was a call to walk in purity and devotion to the Lord. It was a call to be His own peculiar people. Why? Because the Lord desired to bless them, to protect them, and to provide for them. He knew what sin would do to their life and their nation. And He knows what sin will do to our life if we give it an entrance, even in the smallest way.

I am not going to run out and start adding tassels to all of my shirts. However, I am going to take practical steps each day to remember the commandments of the Lord in all that I do. I am going to put His Word before my eyes each day before I start the day. I am going to listen to music that will lift my heart in worship. I am going to cultivate friendships that will strengthen my faith and challenge me in my growth. I am going to spend time in prayer and allow the Lord to transform my heart.

Then again, maybe tassels would look good on a Hawaiian shirt 🙂

In Jesus Name!

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LUKE 14:25-27: “Now great crowds were traveling with him. So he turned and said to them: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, and even his own life — he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” CSB

OBSERVATION: What is the cost of discipleship? It is interesting that we don’t talk much about the concept of discipleship in the church. We speak of making disciples. However, most of the time we think of simply leading someone to believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. Yet, in the New Testament, and to Jesus, the issue was not simply believing, it was becoming a disciple.

These three verses in Luke are some of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible. Some will view them as offensive, as they ponder Jesus’ call to hate his own father, mother, wife and children. And others will view them as merely a tactic of Jesus to shock his hearers. Yet, if we look closely at these verses, and the examples that follow, we will see that it was all about counting the cost of discipleship. What is the cost of being a true follower of Jesus Christ?

The context of this teaching is Jesus addressing a large crowd that was following Him. Why were they following Him? They had seen Him heal the sick, cast out demons, and feed the hungry. They were in line for their blessing. They desperately wanted a Messiah who would reestablish their nation’s sovereignty, and who would provide them with all they desired. It was in this setting that Jesus made His call to discipleship clear.

Jesus called them to hate everything else, including themselves, before they would follow Him. It is important to note that Jesus included oneself in the list He is identifying as those who are to be dismissed in place of being His disciple. The word “hate” in the Greek is translated as – “…to detest (especially to persecute); by extension to love less…” (Strongs). So, in essence, Jesus was not calling them to hate others and things, but to love them less than they loved Him. He was calling them to the First Commandment!

  • “Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides me.” Exodus 20:1-3 CSB

The crowd was not seeking Jesus for forgiveness or salvation. They were seeking Jesus for the benefits He could provide. And Jesus made it clear, His call meant relinquishing everything, taking up one’s cross, and following Him. This is the true definition of discipleship. It is counting the cost of self denial before beginning the journey of discipleship. It is a strong call. However, it is the only call that leads to eternal life. In the New Testament it is antithetical to believe and not to follow. You cannot be a disciple and still hold on to selfishness and the things and values of this world.

These verses do not mean that everyone who becomes a disciple must quit their jobs, sell all their possessions, and live the life of a monastic hermit in the desert. This does not match the Biblical record, or even the life of Jesus Himself. However, it does mean that we must be willing to lay down anything that Jesus calls us to lay down. We must be willing to forsake everything, including family, possessions, and most importantly our own plans and desires, as we answer the call to discipleship!

What I have found is that the Lord usually does not make someone quit their job and go to the mission field. He might, but most of us are called to follow Him in the calling and locale that we find ourselves in. Yet, we are also called to have no other gods before Him. We cannot worship God and the pursuit of money and success. We cannot claim to be a disciple and walk in unforgiveness and selfishness. We cannot hold tightly to the things of this life at the same time we are holding onto our cross!

  • “In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple. “Now, salt is good, but if salt should lose its taste, how will it be made salty? It isn’t fit for the soil or for the manure pile; they throw it out. Let anyone who has ears to hear listen.” Luke 14:33-35 CSB

Lord, this morning, help me to honestly search my heart. Am I counting the cost of being Your disciple today? Am I seeking You simply for who You are, and not for what You can give me? Is my life an example of true worship? Lord, grant me the grace to love everything less than I love You, including myself.

In Jesus Name!

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DEUTERONOMY 6:12: “…Be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.” CSB

OBSERVATION: Be careful not to forget the Lord! This warning should cause everyone to pause. Was the Lord talking just to the Israelites, or is He speaking these words directly to my heart?

The context of this warning is the Lord’s instructions to Israel as they were preparing to enter into the Promised Land of their inheritance. Moses was reviewing the Law and the Commandments that Lord had given His covenant people. He was also warning them of what lay ahead on their journey and conquest. They would need to fully trust and obey the Lord at every turn to insure their continued victory and blessing.

When we face great trials most of us turn to the Lord. Someone has wisely said, “There are no atheists in a foxhole during battle.” However, what happens when the battle is over? What happens when our prayers are answered? What happens when the struggle is replaced by rest, the battle is replaced by blessing, and the cries of our heart are answered by the sovereign and loving hand of the Father?

In reality, this is where we are most susceptible to falling away from the the Lord. This is the preface of this important warning in Deuteronomy.

  • “When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that he would give you — a land with large and beautiful cities that you did not build, houses full of every good thing that you did not fill them with, cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant — and when you eat and are satisfied, be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.” Deuteronomy 6:10-12 CSB

It is natural to be on guard when we are in the midst of the battle. However, when the battle is over, we tend to let our guard down. Our fervent times of prayer are no longer needed (so we think). Our struggle is replaced with rest, and we can easily become distracted from our devotion to the Lord. In fact, we can even begin to convince ourselves that we had something to do with the victory the Lord has given us. It is when we are at ease and are satisfied that we need to be on alert. We must never let down our guard! We must never forget the One who has won the battle in our lives!

The sobering truth of life is that when one battle is over, the next one is right around the corner. If we allow our devotion and walk with the Lord to slacken during the times of rest, we will be totally unprepared for the coming battle. And worse than that, if we allow pride to replace humility in our lives, we will be at risk of losing the favor of the Lord at our moment of need. It is not that God will forsake us. Rather, it is that we will have forsaken Him, and in essence attributed His glory to ourselves. We will not meet the provision of the Lord in the next battle if this is our attitude. Instead, we will meet the hand of His loving discipline (Read Hebrews 12:3-12).

This is why the Scriptures call us to humble ourselves. God loves His children. He knows that pride leads to destruction in our lives. Therefore, He calls us to humble ourselves. If we do not, He will lovingly allow us to go through times of struggle that will bring us to humility and repentance. We always have this choice before us. When we humble ourselves before the Lord we do not escape the battle. However, He pours out His grace upon our lives so that we are victorious in all the battles of life. His mighty hand upholds us and sustains us through His greater grace!

  • “But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:6-10 CSB

I humble myself when I realize that I need the Lord as much in the good times as in the bad times. In fact, in the good times I need Him more! I need to seek the Lord with all my heart when I am sitting by the still waters, not just when I am faced with the raging storm. I need to acknowledge and give audible praise to the Lord as the one who has saved, redeemed, delivered, and kept me from the power of sin, death, and the devil. He alone is my victory. He alone can sustain me.

Lord, this morning I want to acknowledge that You are my life, my victory, my only source of grace and help in time of need. You are the one who has blessed me, provided for me, and sustained me. Today I choose to humble myself before You! I choose to stand against the pull of the world, the flesh, and the enemy through the powerful grace You supply. Today, I choose to worship You!

In Jesus Name!

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LUKE 12:4-7: “I say to you, my friends, don’t fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will show you the one to fear: Fear him who has authority to throw people into hell after death. Yes, I say to you, this is the one to fear! Aren’t five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. Indeed, the hairs of your head are all counted. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” CSB

OBSERVATION: What is my concept of God? In a class I have taught over the years on the Bible I began with this statement,

“Your concept of the Bible will determine your concept of God. Your concept of God will determine the depth of your faith. The depth of your faith will determine your quality of life.”

In these four verses from the Gospel of Luke we see all of these points in play. Jesus was speaking to those who held the Scriptures to be the Word of God. Yet, He was distinguishing between two concepts of God. One was the Judge of all the earth who held the power to sentence one to eternal damnation. The other was a loving Father who cared for His children, who valued them so much that He counted even the hairs on their head.

Will the real God please stand up?

Without a full revelation of the Word of God our concept of God will be incomplete. If we see the Bible only as a rule book, or as a means to work our way to heaven, then we will see God as the ultimate Judge who is waiting to punish us. Rest assured, He is the Judge of all the earth. And those who refuse His amazing grace will one day meet His divine judgment. It truly is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).

However, this is not the heart of God. If it was, He never would have sent Jesus to take our place on the cross. We were all destined for eternal punishment, yet Jesus took upon Himself the sin of the entire world, and He bore the wrath of God against this sin. This shows the heart of the Father. He loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have eternal life (John 3:16).

So, we have a choice in how we approach God. We can approach Him as the Judge we are to fear. Or, we can approach Him as the Father who cares for us more than He cares for the sparrow. The sparrow was sold in the marketplace as food for the poor. It was the least of all food sources. Yet, the Scripture says that the Lord did not forget even one sparrow of His creation. And He does not forget us. He even numbers the hair on our head. In the Old Testament this was viewed as God’s protection. In essence it was proclaiming that nothing could befall one of God’s children apart from His approval and care.

What changes our view of God? It is faith. Faith in Jesus Christ opens up our eyes to the mind and heart of the Father. When we believe in Jesus Christ, when we place our full trust in His atoning sacrifice, when we commit our lives to following Him – the scales of our eyes are removed. We see a loving Father who sent His Son to die in our place. We see a providing Father who meets all of our needs through Christ Jesus. And we see a protecting Father who watches over us just as He watches over the sparrow.

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. We can fear God as the Judge of all the earth, or we can reverence God as our Lord and Savior. The first position leaves us in bondage, the latter leads us into His freedom and provision.

Lord, help me to walk in the fear of the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, Healer and Provider, and Soon Coming King!

In Jesus Name!

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