Over three thousand years ago Joshua sent three thousand Israelites to conquer the walled city of Ai. But they were routed by the men of Ai.
Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. So the LORD said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? (Joshua 7:6, 10).
Once Joshua dealt with the sin issue in the camp of Israel (see Joshua 7:11 – 26) they victoriously conquered Ai.
Many Christians today are on their faces prostrate before the Lord – in repentance, prayer, and fasting. While prayer is powerful and essential, it is also imperative that we get off our faces and fulfill God’s ultimate purpose for our lives. What is that purpose? Being witnesses for Christ to a lost and dying world (Acts 1:8).
Obviously, don’t quit praying! But rise up and share your faith in Christ any way you can. Use your phone, letters, e-mail, texts, blogs, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and other forms of media. Witness to telemarketers and anyone who will listen.
God desires to bring many more to salvation before the Rapture of the Church. Perhaps He is using this current crisis to help us get His Gospel to the ends of the earth (Matthew 24:14). If the coronavirus could so easily and quickly multiply to infect so many people, how much more can believers multiply their testimonies to impact an entire world for Jesus Christ. Begin today!
The raising of Lazarus from the dead and numerous other miracles Jesus performed created an intense expectation among the multitudes. The Jewish people were eager for the Messiah (Christ) to come and defeat the Romans and restore Israel to its former power and glory under King David. So at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the crowds welcomed Him with shouts of praise as they spread palm branches, and even their own garments in His path.
During His triumphal entry, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling Zechariah 9:9. Jesus was proclaiming Himself as King (just as 1 Kings 1:32-35, 44 records that David had Solomon ride on his mule before having him anointed king). The people welcomed Him with shouts of Hosanna, and the words of Messianic Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Spreading their cloaks on the road was an act of royal homage (2 Kings 9:12, 13).
They Didn’t Understand
Less than a week after the triumphal entry, many of this multitude were shouting for Him to be crucified. Why? What happened? They didn’t understand that it was God’s plan for the Christ to die during His first coming (Romans 11:25, 26). Therefore, they rejected the Messiah and called for His death.
Numerous Old Testament Scriptures foretold the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:5-12; Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; Psalm 16:10). Nevertheless, the Jewish people and their leaders, as well as Jesus’ disciples, could not understand that God’s purpose was for the Christ to first die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Jesus foretold He was going to be crucified. It was for this purpose He had come (John 12:27). Jesus repeatedly told His disciples He must suffer, die, and on the third day rise again (Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33), but they were confused and did not comprehend what He meant (Luke 18:34; Mark 9:9, 10, 31, 32).
New Testament scholar, Dr. George Eldon Ladd, writes:
This is also why his disciples forsook him when he was taken captive. Their minds were so completely imbued with the idea of a conquering Messiah whose role it was to subdue his enemies that when they saw him broken and bleeding under the scourging, a helpless prisoner in the hands of Pilate, and when they saw him led away, nailed to a cross to die as a common criminal, all their messianic hopes for Jesus were shattered.
The Hebrew Scriptures mention a suffering servant, especially in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Scripture also tells about the Messiah coming as David’s heir and reigning as King. After centuries of suffering under the yoke of foreigners, and then being under Roman oppression, the Jews of first century Israel yearned for the One who would come and rule on the throne of David forever. Consequently, the Jews of Jesus’ day only focused on the Messiah as coming King.
Peter tried to reprove Jesus for stating that He must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and rise again after three days (Mark 8:31, 32). But Jesus rebuked Peter and said—
Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s (Mark 8:33).
The animal sacrifices in the Tanakh [Old Testament] were a foreshadow of the death of the Messiah. Hebrews 9:22 says, “…without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Whereas the animal sacrifices were regular occurrences, Christ’s sacrificial death was, “once…to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was no mistake. It had been determined before the creation of the world. The Hebrew Scriptures foretold this mystery of God which was meticulously fulfilled in Jesus Christ and majestically proclaimed to both Jews and Gentiles.
God’s ultimate sacrifice is undeniable proof of His amazing and incomprehensible love for each of us.
For the past few days, social media outlets have been inundated with reactions to this year’s Super Bowl. Whether it was Chiefs’ fans posting celebratory pictures or 49ers’ fans posting about “questionable” referee calls, Sunday’s game has certainly sparked conversation. But the biggest issue of discussion was actually not the game, or the million-dollar commercials; it was the halftime show. The show, which was seen by over 100 million people, brought a variety of responses. Some saw it as an expression of female power and freedom, others noted it was a beautiful expression of art, while others, such as Franklin Graham, saw it as the sexual exploitation of women. Regardless of where you stand, as a society we seem to be wrestling with this issue of what truly defines what it means to be a woman. This is an important issue that stands in the shadow of one headline addressing the sexual abuse of women by Harvey Weinstein, and another headline that glorifies Jennifer Lopez’ halftime show where she exposed her backside and slid down a stripper pole.
I did not watch the halftime show. Being aware of the image that Jennifer Lopez has portrayed in the past, I did not see any value in watching it myself, especially with my children. So, I will leave it up to each of you to provide the final judgment on how to view it. But as you do, I want to provide some thoughts that I hope will guide your assessment.
As a father of five daughters and one son, I take seriously this issue of what it means to be a woman. In fact, both my wife and I understand that we have been given a mandate by God to teach our daughters how to live as women who reflect Christ, and to teach our son not only how to treat women but what to look for in the type of woman he should marry.
The first step we take in this process is to remind our daughters every day that their value rests not in what they do, or what others ultimately think about them, but who they are in Christ. We want them to clearly understand that the God who created the sun, moon and stars, has created them with intrinsic value and worth. Thus, they do not need to conform to some standard of beauty defined by our fallen culture, or to feel loved by another person for how they look. In turn, I want my son to view women as image bearers of God, who should never be seen as objects for his own personal pleasure. I tell him all the time to treat women just as you would want other men to treat your mom and sisters. Added to this, we stress to our daughters that true beauty lies in the purity of their hearts that will always be reflected to some degree in their outward appearance.
This whole discussion of the halftime show has been a great reminder to me to raise my daughters to be Proverbs 31 women, and to help my son find a Proverbs 31 wife. As you read a section of this passage, allow the description to be more than an evaluation of the halftime show, but a picture of what God desires for women. A picture that, I believe, is much more powerful than anything this world can provide:
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:1, 25, 29-31).
Two distinguishing marks of committed believers are found in Acts 17:10–12:
An eagerness and willingness to hear God’s message from Paul and Silas and learn from it. (Go to church with an attitude of expectation that God speaks through His Word.)
A personal dependence on Scripture to evaluate the message Paul and Silas were preaching. (Examine everything by the Bible.)
Believers are encouraged to subject all teaching to the biblical standard. Consider the following passages: Romans 16:18; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Galatians 6:7; Ephesians 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; Titus 1:10; James 1:16; 1 John 2:26; 3:7; 2 John 7; Revelation 12:9; 13:14; 18:23; 19:20; 20:3, 8, 10.
Checking out all teaching from those who represent Christ is not being overly critical, but is – according to Luke – “more noble-minded” (Acts 17:11).
Spending more time with family, getting into shape, quitting a bad habit and getting out of debt top the list of New Year’s resolutions. We make our resolutions with the best of intentions. Early in the new year we are like runners at the start of a race: excited to begin the quest toward the finish line. However, several months into the year, our enthusiasm wanes as motivation diminishes, distractions divert us, pressures and time constraints weigh us down, and apathy overtakes us. What started as a noble endeavor, often becomes just another New Year’s resolution that will have to wait until next year to be achieved.
So, too, in our Christian walk we start out with the best of intentions. We are enthusiastic in our faith and motivated to enhance our relationship with Jesus Christ. But if we do not nurture this desire and goal, in time motivation and enthusiasm begin to wane as trials and temptations take their toll. Many give up, beaten down by guilt, struggling to get back on track spiritually. As in other areas of our life, spirituality becomes just another resolution, indefinitely postponed.
Instead of waiting for another New Year, re-evaluate your priorities and goals right now. Rather than merely making a New Year’s resolution, make a New Life resolution – a lifetime commitment, through the power of God’s Spirit, to make Jesus Christ the center of your life. The following are some simple, but profound, principles to help you:
Live a life of prayer (Colossians 4:2).
Devote yourself to the study of God’s Word:
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Joshua 1:8).
Be authentic in your walk with Christ (Ephesians 5:1, 2).
Commit to Him with your whole life:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).
Take on this challenge of a New Life resolution – begin today, and keep the passion burning throughout the year. If you notice the flame burning low, rekindle it and keep on going – until the very end!
During the French and Indian War the French incited the Indians to attack non-French colonists. In 1755, at the French fort, Duquesne, now the city of Pittsburgh, colonists suffered a bitter defeat from French and Indian forces. Then, in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, the Conestoga Indians wiped out the Moravian mission at Mahanoy. The Moravian colonists at nearby Gnadenhutten fled to the neighboring fortified village of Bethlehem.
Christmas was fast approaching and everyone in Bethlehem fully expected the Indians to attack. Night after night cries could be heard and fires burned brightly on the surrounding heights.
On Christmas Day, despite imminent attack, the colonists gathered together for worship. Fearing for their lives they sang praises to Christ with more feeling than ever before. The fighting men had hardly returned to their posts after worship when they saw the Indians break camp and leave.
When peace was made years later, the Indians told why they had not attacked. Their war council was preparing for the attack when they heard the sweet sound of Christmas carols. Those blessed tunes soothed the angry warriors. So in the songs of praise to Jesus Christ the colonists found deliverance.
– Generation to Generation: Devotional Thoughts Drawn from the Past (www.devotional.com) Used with permission.
There are three things for which I have no regrets. Ironically, they are the same three things for which I have some regrets.
First, for my faith in Christ and relationship with Him. I have no regrets for the many years I have been a committed follower of Jesus Christ. But I do have regrets for the years before I accepted Him and the choices I made, which although they did not destroy me – left their marks.
Second, for the time and relationships I have with my close and extended families. I have no regrets for the wonderful times I have had with my children, grandchildren, other family members and friends. They have blessed me in countless ways. But I do regret not having more time to spend with them. I guess I will have to wait until the Millennium and Eternity, when there will be no time restraints or hindrances for these amazing relationships.
Third, concerning my health. I have no regrets for living a life of discipline concerning nutrition and exercise. But I do regret the many years I was a junk food junkie and abused my body and health in so many ways. I am blessed to have regained my health in my 30s and hope to maintain it until I go to be with the Lord.
Before conversion we followed the ways of this world, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature. Even though we were in willful rebellion “because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ – it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4, 5). No other religion has a God like this: A God who loves His fallen creatures so completely that He gave His only Son and anyone who believes in Him shall have eternal life (John 3:16).
Recently, I was pondering some of the adverse consequences I still face from choices made as a teenager. At that time I thought I was invincible and that youth would last forever. While many of my past injuries and issues have been overcome through positive changes and a healthy lifestyle, some of the scars still remain. They have, however, helped to shape my identity and remind me from where God brought me and what He has done for me.
Since giving my life to Christ at the age of 18, countless blessings have resulted from the positive choices I have made.
Never forget, the choices made during one’s youth – and the consequences of those choices – can last a lifetime or even an eternity. The decision you make concerning Jesus Christ – to accept, reject or just ignore Him – and whether to honor or dishonor His Word will result in blessings or consequences that will last an eternity. So make wise choices.
In the previous blog, I shared with you my fifth and sixth New Life Resolutions: 5) Conform my life to the standards of God’s Word regardless of what it may cost me in this life; 6) Start and end each day in communion with God so I can know Him more and what He requires of me. Let us now examine New Life Resolutions seven and eight.
Resolution 7: Reflect in an authentic way to others the transforming power and reality of Jesus Christ in my life.
In a conversation on religion, a friend of mine, who had emigrated to America from a Middle Eastern country, told me that he would never become a Christian. When I asked him why he said, “When I first came to America, I saw Christians living like the world on Saturday and then worshiping God in church on Sunday.” Like my friend, I have heard others say similar things as hypocrisy among those who label themselves as Christians has become one of the main reasons people reject the Christian faith.
This reality is why I want what to resolve to live out my faith in Jesus Christ in an authentic way. Living this way does not entail perfection, as all of us will fail in this life. What it does entail is allowing God to be Lord over every area of our lives, striving to be consistent in how we live both in public and in private; seeking godly repentance when we fall short (2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 1:9); and reflecting a transformed life marked by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). As we live in a fallen world, may we all take to heart these words by the apostle Peter:
Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world (1 Peter 2:11, 12).
Resolution 8: While I should grieve over the wickedness in the world, I will still approach non-believers with the same love and grace that Jesus has shown me.
We serve a holy and righteous God (Revelation 4:8) who grieves over the wickedness in the world, and one day He will come back to judge all that are ungodly (1 Peter 4:5, Jude 14b, 15; Revelation 20:12, 13). Therefore, we also should grieve over the wickedness in this world, and not find entertainment and pleasure in it. However, we also serve a loving and merciful God, who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for our sins (John 3:16). This reality should make all of us stand back in awe and wonder at the depth of God’s love for us.
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God (Ephesians 3:18, 19).
Recognizing the depth of God’s love for me has helped me view unbelievers not as my enemies but as my mission field. This is the case because their ultimate need is no different than mine, which is we all need a Savior to set us free from our sins (Romans 3:23; 1 John 2:2). In fact, as Paul reminds the Corinthians, the very behaviors that sent Jesus to the cross, were once practiced by them, but now they have been cleansed, made holy and right with God through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Once we experience the grace and mercy of God, which we do not deserve, we should feel empowered to show the same grace and mercy to others. The most effective way to demonstrate this is through the same love that God has shown us. In fact, love is the most powerful way for us to show others an authentic and transformed life.
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
In the next blog we will examine the final two New Life Resolutions. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.