Posts Tagged ‘Apostle Paul’

Joshua 5:2-12 (Part 3 of 3)

Israel Reestablishes Covenant Ceremonies


Have you ever thought about how we as the church-going general public are little babies sometimes? The 80-20 rule that you here about in the business world is so true in churches at times. You know 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people? On most Sundays, at any given church, there will be the vast majority of people who come to church and that is the only contact that they will have with the church or anything spiritual the whole week. They come to church on Sundays to get that feel good from the music and the prayers and to hear a challenging sermon. They get their spiritual high and then walk out the door and lead pretty much secular lives the rest of the week. They do not participate in small groups. They do not serve in Sunday morning assistance ministries. They do not participate in the men’s or women’s ministries. They do not participate in learning opportunities to go deeper in their faith. They do not participate in community outreach. They like the idea of mission trips but consider it too expensive and too inconvenient. And, most of all, they do not give to the church regularly and when they do it’s when they have a spare $10 bill in their wallet. They talk about the Bible based on what they have heard other people say but never read it. They may believe stuff about the Bible that is not true because they either do not have a Bible in the house or, if they do, it just sits on the shelf collecting dust.


Just think about it. Many of us have been there in our early our exposure to the Christian life before we accept Christ as our Savior or when we are less mature in our faith. Sometimes, we get in this same place when we get burnt out on church. We say we go to church but we wonder why our life is no different. We feel good on Sunday but wonder why by Tuesday that feeling is gone. We sit and listen attentively at church. We go to dinner with people we have met in church, but nothing about our lives seems any different than before we started attending church regularly. We want the life that the preacher talks about in his sermon and we walk away Sunday afternoon challenged. But as life creeps in and old sins that are our friends sing their siren song to us, we fall back into our underachieving spiritual lifestyle. We want the Christ-like life but we are not willing to change or are not willing to do the work necessary to grow.


Being a Christ follower is like when I sit here and consider why I weigh 231 lbs. There are three things at work that have caused me to be about 30-35 lbs overweight. First, I do not exercise regularly. I go through spits and spurts with it, but never do I consistently work out 20 out 30 days in a month, every month. Secondly, as my metabolism as I have moved from my 40s into my 50s, I have not reduced my caloric intake to match my new and lower metabolic rate (I still eat like I a 20 year old kid). Finally, it’s what I eat. I cannot expect to make any appreciable dent in my weight until I consistently exercise every month, month after month, until I reduce the amount of food I eat, and until I see the relationship between the types of food I eat and my weight.


It is the same with being a Christ follower. We cannot expect to grow if we just go to church on Sunday and that’s it. If we do not seek God in prayer on a daily basis, if we do not study (not just read to say you have read) the Bible, if we do not seek ways to interact with other and more mature Christians, if we do not participate in the ministries of the church, if we do not participate in community outreach, if we do not support or go on mission trips, if we do not go deeper into our relationship with God through learning opportunities or through life groups, if we do not learn to help others out of love and concern for them, we will not grow. We may sit around and wonder why we do not have the spiritual life that someone we admire at church but yet we are not willing to put out the effort. We would rather wake up in the morning and pick the manna up off the ground rather than plow the field and wait for the harvest. We don’t want to put in the work. We don’t want to watch what we expose our minds and bodies to. We want all the fun of being part of the church and being a Christ follower but we don’t want anything that requires us to put ourselves out. We don’t want to have to make any sacrifices for this Christ follower thing. And above all, we don’t want to give any money in any sacrificial way. We just want to sit around and criticize why the facilities of the church are not in tip top shape. We want to criticize why the church can’t do this and can’t do that and why doesn’t it offer this or that to me. Yet, at the same time, we give less than 2% of our income to the church, if we give at all.


We don’t pray. It seems a waste of time. We don’t study the Bible. I can’t understand it. We don’t help out on Sunday mornings. It would require me to get up early on Sunday morning. We don’t participate in men’s ministry. I might have to reveal something and then during football season it meets at the same time I go to the bar to watch Monday night football. We don’t grow and we eventually fall away. Why? Because we don’t want to work. We want the manna and not the richness of the crops because the crops require hard work. We want to be spoon-fed and never grow up.


That idea of growing up in our faith is what struck me this morning. That idea of doing our part not just waiting and complaining about what God is not doing for us is what hit me as I read through this passage one final time before we move on to the next one. Let us read this passage, Joshua 5:2-12, one more time together:


2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth.[a]


4 Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt—all the men of military age—died in the wilderness on the way after leaving Egypt. 5 All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness during the journey from Egypt had not. 6 The Israelites had moved about in the wilderness forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the Lord. For the Lord had sworn to them that they would not see the land he had solemnly promised their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7 So he raised up their sons in their place, and these were the ones Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way. 8 And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed.


9 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the place has been called Gilgal[b] to this day.


10 On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. 11 The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12 The manna stopped the day after[c] they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan.


In this passage, you will note in the final verse of the passage that the manna disappeared. God had supplied manna to the hungry Israelites during their 40 years in the wilderness (Exodus 16:14-31). In the bountiful Promised Land, they no longer needed this daily food supply because the land was ready for planting and harvesting. God had miraculously provided food for the Israelites while they were in the wilderness. Here, He provided food from the land itself. From this real life situation, we can see that prayer is not an alternative for preparation and faith is not a substitute for hard work. God can and does provide miraculously for His people as needed, but He also expects them to use their God-given talents and resources to provide for themselves. If our prayers are going unanswered it may simply be God’s timing vs. ours. However, it could also be that what you are praying for is already within your reach. In these situations, we must pray for wisdom to see it what’s already there and the motivation to step into it.


The apostle Paul told the Thessalonians that they had to continue living and not just waiting around for an expected immediate return of Jesus Christ. They should continue to work. They should continue to live. They should understand that they are secure in their salvation but every day we are here is an opportunity to demonstrate the Christ-like life to the world around us. We must strive for holiness in each day that we wait for Christ’s return. We must continue to grow in faith and in holiness so that we are pleasing to the Lord. It is the same for us. We cannot sit around and wait to be spoon fed manna. We have to participate in our relationship with God. He will provide for us but He also expects us to do the hard work of being a Christian in everyday life. We must repent of our sins. We must learn what our sins are and walk away from them as the Holy Spirit brings each one and each unholy pattern of behavior to our attention. We must be willing to live sacrificially with our time, our talents, and our resources. We must be willing to give our lives away to our fellow man. We must be givers instead of consumers. We must grow up.


We must plow the field even when its not fun or when we can’t yet see the plants grow instead of just expecting manna to fall from the skies. Yes, God is still in the miracle business but we can’t stay babies in high chairs waiting to be fed manna. We must get out there and exercise our faith and do the hard work of being a Christ follower that requires pain and suffering sometimes for not so immediate results sometimes. We must be willing to work for the harvest that God has for us later on down the line.


Amen and Amen.

Luke 18:9-14 — The timing of God is so completely awe-inspiring at times. I call it God’s synchronicity. He teaches me things in small windows of time with the same message from multiple different sources in many different ways.

Yesterday, I got to take part in honoring the life of a dear friend of mine, Marvin Williams. I was given the honor of speaking of Marvin’s life since I was his small group leader, not the main sermon but about a 5-6 minute speech about the man that I knew. The burden that was placed on my heart from the time that I knew I had to speak was the comparison of Marvin’s life to that of the Apostle Paul. The similarities are there. Paul was a highly religious man who knew Scripture frontwards and backwards. He was high up in the ranks of the Jewish religious power structure. He studied under the greatest biblical scholar of the day, Gamaliel. He knew everything there was to know about what we call the Old Testament. He was scholarly with much religious zeal. He was enamored with His own understanding of Scripture. But yet, he could not see the Messiah. He was so zealous in defense of his way of life, his power, his pride that he persecuted, literally, those who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. It took a watershed moment in his life. The Damascus Road Experience we call it. It was not until he had a vision from our Savior Jesus Christ that His life took a 180 degree turn.

Marvin’s life was similar. He was in church all his life. He knew Scripture well. He could have biblical debates with the best of them. He even taught Sunday school. There were even young men who had been in his Sunday school class that went on to be pastors. Yet, for all his doing the right stuff. He could not see the Messiah. It took a watershed moment in his life to see that all the things that he had talked about all his life were real. He had to pull his car over on the side of the road to finally see Jesus. To finally see he needed Jesus. It was until this side of the road experience that he finally accepted Christ as his Savior at age 65.

Today, in this passage, I see Marvin pre-salvation and I see Marvin post-salvation. The Pharisee was Marvin before salvation. The Pharisee did not go to the Tempe to pray but to announce to all within earshot how good he was. He wanted people to see his puffery. The Pharisee was proud of who he was and how devout he was. Aren’t many of us like Marvin. Aren’t many of us like the Pharisee. We do all the right things. We say all the right things. We go to church. We serve at church. We participate in community events held by the church. We might even help a family in need. As many of you who read my blog may already know, my wife and I are the directors of the community outreach activities of our church. At one of our events, a person at our church got mad at me for having placed her in what basically amounted to an out of sight position at a community event. It was our Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway where we giveaway complete meals to the needy in our community. They come by and pick up a turkey and a full bag of groceries so that they can have a family Thanksgiving in their own home. Since this person had not participated in any of the planning or training meetings for the event and just showed up the day of the event, I assigned her the job of helping keep the bags of groceries stocked for the ones who actually gave the bags to the recipients. This person actually got mad at me because she was not put in a visible position basically. She wanted to be seen by others. A lot of us put on a show of religiosity but do not know the Messiah. Marvin was not alone in this. The Pharisee was not alone in this. We get so busy doing the right things we mistake this for salvation. It becomes all about earning brownie points. It becomes about the heavy burden of being better than the next guy. Do you do all the right things but yet do not know the Messiah? Do you think that this is salvation? Do you know the Messiah? Is he in your heart?

What does it take to know the Messiah? The hated tax collector knew. He went to the Temple recognizing that he was a sinner. He recognized that he needed mercy. There are none of us that can do enough good things to earn our salvation. We must throw ourselves at the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. Marvin arrived at this destination on the side of the road one day at age 65. For all his churchiness before this day, Marvin realized that day that he was a sinner in need of a Savior. He had been blind to the Messiah. Now, he saw Him on the side of the road. Like Paul’s Damascus Road Experience, Marvin had his Side of the Road Experience. Like the tax collector who saw himself honestly and humbly as unworthy of the Father in Heaven, Marvin laid it all bare inside that car that day. His pride, his bravado, like that of the Pharisee in this parable, were all laid to waste. He was transformed from the prideful Pharisee to the lowly, humble tax collector. Gone was the pride. Gone was the checklist of doing the right things. Gone was the Paul-like pre-salvation arrogance. Gone was the ambition and zeal for self-serving. The reality that Marvin met with that day was that he was destined for hell because of his sin-filled nature. There was nothing that he could do to change that. All he could do was, like the tax collector in this parable, was to beg for mercy. There is the moment that we see the Messiah.

The Messiah died for our sins so that we would not go to the fiery pit permanently separated from God forever. When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are made clean. We are made a child of God. We are raised into new life. That was the joy of the remainder of Marvin’s life. It fueled his life. It changed his life. He lived a life of joy his last 7 years (even though the last couple of months were full of physical suffering to the point he was just ready to go home to his Father in heaven). He served in those last 7 years not because of duty but because it was the least he could for the Savior that saved him. Are you like old life Marvin, straining under the heavy burden of checklist religion. Are you straining under doing the right thing. Are you like pre-salvation Paul who knew Scripture and did all the checklist “right things”. Man, is that tiring trying to be the proud Pharisee. It is tiring trying to be good and making sure others see us being good even though we are sin-filled inside. We are in need. We have a need. We need a Savior. Do you know Him, really know Him?

We are all the tax collector. We need mercy. Marvin found his. He saw the Messiah that day on the side of the road. He was relieved of his burdens that day. He lived a life of joy that surpasses all understanding the rest of the way. He now rests in his mansion of glory with His Savior. Are you tired of trying to be a Pharisee when you are really a tax collector. Call out in humble honesty to Jesus that you are a sinner and no matter how good you try to be you are imperfect and always will be. Call out to Jesus and tell him that you know what your fate is without His help. Call out to Him to save you from your fate. Call out to him to take over your life and be your Lord. Call out to Him now! Marvin did, so can you!