Study with me – This is the Gospel

Study with me – This is the Gospel

Good morning friends,

As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t do it all and don’t have it all together. Every day I punish myself with guilt for not being able to take my life by the throat and make it what I imagine it should be. And on top of that, it’s Monday – which intensifies the need to set the entire week off on a good foot.

But I can’t do it all on my own. I need grace from the outside in, but I also need to give grace from the inside out.

What am I talking about? I want to write original content for you, reader. I want to create beautiful things in Jesus’s name. I want to put everything I have into this work of my dreams. But ticking clocks, household chores, waking babies, and full-time work preoccupy my mind and energy. Limits.

The poor widow felt this too.  Luke 21: 

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

This is important: She gave out of her poverty, not because she was trying to compete with what others were able to give, but because her heart desired to honor God.

Does my heart really desire to honor God? Then what I can do, he will accept and cherish.


I’ll be going through This is the Gospel by She Reads Truth study for the next 14 days. Each day’s reading is available for free here. You can also download the app here for iOS and here for Android 

I hope you will join me and find rest in the Good News of GRACE. Love you, friends!

Joshua 24

Joshua 24

Joshua 24

“Choose today whom you will serve”

As his last recorded discourse, Joshua recounts once more all that God has done for their people, starting all the way back with Abraham and ending with the present day situation. After many years of conflict, slavery, war, exile, and wandering – during which God did not fail to deliver, I might add – they are now comfortably settled in towns they did not build, eating from fields they did not sow, drinking from vineyards they did not plant. All because of our Lord’s faithfulness and love for our welfare.

Take a moment to look back over the journey God has brought you so far – over victory, difficulty, danger, illness – whatever it may be. Acknowledge the distance you have come and recall His provision among the events of your life. He loves us so much that he will stop at nothing to provide deliverance.

The Israelites had come to a point in their journey where things seemed to be going very well for them. They have just come out of success after success and were now slaves to no one and free. Joshua challenges them next.

“So now: Fear God. Worship him in total commitment. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped on the far side of The River (the Euphrates) and in Egypt. You, worship God.

“If you decide that it’s a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you’d rather serve—and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country beyond The River, or one of the gods of the Amorites, on whose land you’re now living. As for me and my family, we’ll worship God.” (Joshua 24:14-15).

Make the decision today about who you choose to serve. God has already proved that he is trustworthy. But just like the Israelites, we live in a place where not everyone worships the same God. Our friends, neighbors, colleagues worship and live for different things. We are not exempt from the temptation of turning our trust towards what is around us.

Our culture upholds ambition, success, pride, fame, money. Our friends who do not believe the same way, live their lives in search of these things. But as followers of Jesus we are called to a different lifestyle.

We are to seek God and imitate His ways, in order to become more holy like Him. Our goals are different. And our focus becomes diluted when we allow our hearts to wander over to the world’s view of success. This is why there are so many self-proclaimed Christians whose actions and attitudes have no resemblance whatsoever to the Gospel.

However, there is hope. Jesus chose only imperfect people to  be his disciples. That includes you and me. We are ALL subject to abandon love and take advantage of others. We are ALL able to be seduced and misled by the sparkly promises of YouTube stardom and loads of cash.

Joshua’s warning here is timeless – make your choice. If you want the world’s way of living, chose that and commit. If you would rather worship the Lord, chose that with all your heart and do not waver from it.

Jesus says in Revelation that he would rather we be “hot” or “cold” in regards to our faith, not lukewarm. And take heart – there is time while your heart still beats:

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:19-20)

Only choose something and stick to it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

 

 

Joshua 23

Joshua 23

Joshua 23

“If you disobey the Lord will no longer fight for you”

In Joshua’s last warnings to Israel, he repeats two concepts several times. The first, to remember what the Lord has done for them, in fighting for them to conquer many peoples and give them the land He promised them. None of the successes Israel experienced would have been possible without God being on their Side. The second, to strictly obey the Lord’s will. Without constant acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty and turning from sin, Israel would be bound to lose their tight connection with God and ultimately get tangled up in their own folly.

The Message puts it plainly:

 “Now, vigilantly guard your souls: Love God, your God. Because if you wander off … know for certain that God, your God, will not get rid of these nations for you. They’ll be nothing but trouble to you—horsewhips on your backs and sand in your eyes—until you’re the ones who will be driven out of this good land that God, your God, has given you.” (Joshua 23:11-13 MSG)

And this isn’t the first time the people of Israel have heard this warning – see also Leviticus 26, where Moses delivers sobering warnings that they will fall out of the Lord’s favor if they are disobedient.

Thankfully we are not under the same law that Joshua and the Israelites were at this time. For those of us living today, we have Jesus. Because of Jesus, it is possible for God to keep fighting our battles even when we mess up. We don’t need to take part in ritual sacrifices anymore now that the ultimate sacrifice was already made. 

“But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded? Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.” (Romans 3:31 MSG)

No, for us living today, our job is to stop trying to save our own souls with our own human power and sincerely pursue relationship with God. He is the one with the wisdom and power needed to sanctify our lives. His glory is meant to reflect off us and into our dark world.

Joshua 22

Joshua 22

Scripture

“As a memorial… it is a reminder of the relationship both of us have with the Lord”

Observation

Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, was allotted land on the East side of the Jordan river. This was too far away from the original altar at Shiloh where the rest of the tribes of Israel lived. However, they had such a strong commitment and need of easy access to a place of worship that these outlying tribes decided to build a new altar at Geliloth.

Application

How important is the habit of meeting for worship together, really? Is it required, or just an extracurricular?

It’s a good question and I wrote all about it here–>> Is it a sin not to go to church?

There are some who believe that since God is everywhere, and the individual’s salvation is based on a personal relationship with God, church must be secondary, or even unnecessary. They think, If I have direct access to God, why even bother with church people? 

And it’s true – God is everywhere, but let’s not forget the founder of the Church universal Himself. While we don’t get “good points” for sitting in a room with other believers once a week,  we have been deliberately created to need each other for growth, support, and encouragement. We were not meant to live alone.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:2-25

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12

 

 

When we look further into scripture, God makes it abundantly clear that to follow Jesus is to also be part of his church. Each and every one of us are necessary for mutual edification of the Body.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the example of these faithful men and women. May we be convicted to attend church, not to “earn” favor with you (which is impossible) but to take up our position as part of the body of Christ and be functioning and active members of it.

Joshua 21

Joshua 21

Scripture

43 So the Lord gave to Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them, for the Lord helped them conquer all their enemies. 45 Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.

Joshua 21:43-45

Observation

The last to receive their allotments of land were the members of the tribe of priests, the Levites. Verses 1-42 of Chapter 21 outline the different towns given to the many clans of Levi by the other Israelite tribes. In this way, priests were peppered (or salted if you like) among the settlements of Israel so that all the people had access to religious events and activities.

The last three verses (Joshua 21:43-45) declare that all of God’s promises were fulfilled to completion. These promises were:

  1. The descendants of Abraham would possess the land of Canaan
  2. Rest and peace in Canaan
  3. Success and victory in their wars

All these things came to pass and the so the people experience God’s faithfulness. As Matthew Henry says eloquently “God’s word and his works mutually illustrate each other”. His promises show his blessings, and his blessings prove his promises.

Application

Have you ever questioned God’s faithfulness because he doesn’t seem to answer you?

Take a moment to close your eyes and answer honestly. Sure, it’s easy to say pretty words like “God is faithful, God never fails”. But do we really believe that in a practical way?

I used to believe that if God did not answer my prayers, it was because he didn’t understand, didn’t see, didn’t care. I treated God as though he had the same capabilities as a human – indifferent and prone to failure. The Israelites also had a problem understanding God’s faithfulness. Even though they experienced his provision and miracles over and over again, they still vacillated between trust and skepticism constantly.

However, as I have grown up in my faith by genuine prayer, seeking, and studying God’s word, he has given me the special understanding I needed in order to trust Him. Meditate on the following verses and ask God to show you his faithfulness in a personal way.

If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
2 Timothy 2:13

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Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,
Deuteronomy 7:9

~

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13

Prayer

Lord, you are faithful. You always keep your word, even though we don’t see it at the time. Help us to continually seek you in the confusing and dark places so that we will have wisdom for moving forward.

Joshua 20

Joshua 20

Scripture

The Lord said to Joshua:

“Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses.” ~Joshua 20:1-2

Observation

God provided not only for their ease (as in the allotment of land) but also for their safety in times of trouble. If it were ever to happen that someone caused an accidental death, the deceased’s family might seek out the guilty party and exact revenge by killing that person without a fair trial. God gave the Israelites the privilege of asylum in certain cities where they might expect a fair trial and essentially exile themselves until the current high priest’s death.

Application

As Christians we also have an eternal refuge in Jesus. Matthew Henry says:
“We cannot think these cities of refuge would have been so often spoken of or so much care taken about them, if they did not typify the relief which the gospel provides for poor penitent sinners and their protection from the curse of the law, which no one could ever perfectly obey.”

Take a moment to read Romans 8:1-2 and meditate on the result of believing in Jesus, which is the ultimate refuge for our eternal souls:

The Solution Is Life on God’s Terms

1-2 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

Prayer
God thank you for your Word. You provided for your people back then, as you continue to provide for us today. However we are even more blessed than they were because we are able to know the fullness of safety and provision you have for us through Jesus – a real refuge, even better than a refuge protected by law.

31-39 So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? 

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

Romans 8:31-39

Joshua 19

Joshua 19

Scripture

In obedience to God’s word, they gave Joshua the city which he had requested, Timnath serah in the hill country of Ephraim.

Joshua 19:50

Observation

Joshua was the eldest and greatest man in Israel at this time. He could have put aside the best lot available, and he could have settled himself first before seeing to it that all of Israel was settled. However, he did not seek his own best interest first. He was content to be unsettled until his job was finished. He is an example of true Godly leadership.

We read that the children of Israel are said to give the land to Joshua (v. 19:49). This shows his humility, that he would not take it to himself without  the people’s consent and approbation. Joshua would not satisfy himself, just as Jesus, who came in down in poverty came to provide for us all, not even having a place to lay his head.

Application

Joshua wasn’t in this position for the status or the perks, but genuinely performed his calling. Also note that Joshua did not do this from his own power, but because God had been preparing and equipping him for his whole life.

What kind of calling do you hear on your conscience from God?

What act of obedience is required of you to fulfill it?

Prayer

Lord, Thank you for the example of Joshua. with your help by his side, he carried out all that you commanded and saw it through to the end. We pray for the same courage and obedience to perform whatever calling you place on our hearts.

Joshua 18

Joshua 18

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Bible study tip of the day:

Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary is SO helpful and it’s FREE.  I highly recommend checking it out. Although the language is a bit archaic (He lived from 1662-1714) it’s not unreadable, and you will be absolutely blessed by the insight he offers.

 

 Scripture

Then Joshua asked them, “How long are you going to wait before taking possession of the remaining land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given to you?

Joshua 18:3

Observation

Matthew Henry compares them to the Babel builders, in that they did not want to be “scattered abroad” but quite liked the safe community they had been living in.

To obey God’s calling required their precious time, comfort, and effort. They found plenty of reasons to delay: first there was the distance from here to there, then the whole logistics of moving thousands of people with all their livestock, children, families, homes. Next, they always had to be on guard in case any enemies happened to attack them. And then even if they arrived all safe and sound, the cities often had to be rebuilt and repaired due to the destruction from driving out the previous inhabitants. They’d have to start all over again – new city, new region, new everything. It really makes me rethink my complaint about having to put on pants to go outside.

God by his grace has given us a title to a good land, the heavenly Canaan, but we are slack to take possession; we enter not into that rest, as we might by faith, and hope, and holy joy; we live not in heaven, as we might by setting our affections on things above and having our conversation there. How long shall it be thus with us? How long shall we thus stand in our own light, and forsake our own mercies for lying vanities?

-Matthew Henry Commentary on Joshua 18 vv 2-10

Application

The Israelites were lazy and reluctant to respond to God’s grace. (Grace means undeserved favor.) In the meantime, the remaining Canaanites were hiding, recovering, regaining strength and planning to attack again. Israel’s slowness and disobedience was only hurting themselves, thus causing them to miss out on God’s best plan for them.  What good thing in your life are you reluctant to take hold of due to the trouble (perceived or actual) involved? How will you respond to that grace?

Prayer

Lord, thank you for laying the path to salvation at our feet. Help us to recognize your gifts so that we do not miss out on any of the blessings you have planned.

Joshua 17

Joshua 17

Scripture

The men of the tribe of Manasseh complain about the size of their allotment of land. Their people were too numerous and there was not enough room for all of them to spread out. Joshua’s response is to point them to the forested area in their midst which had not yet been subdued. Joshua also reminds them of God’s command not to be afraid when outnumbered, but to courageously take what was theirs.

Observation

When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.

Deuteronomy 20:1

This was based on God’s power and faithfulness which had already been proven by Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (John MacArthur Study Bible).

Application

They already had what they needed but did not value it because it required effort and they wanted it fast and easy. However, they were now at an impasse – unable to spread their population any further without doing a little work.

Bicycles were the preferred way to get around on my college campus. Bike paths sprawled along the pedestrian paths and in the early mornings it was a bike version of a traffic jam. I remember there was one central area both bikes and pedestrians could pass through and lining it were all the tables for this and that clubs. Well, have you ever tried riding a bike and trying to read a sign at the same time? I have. and guess what? I gradually drifted out of the bike lane and ran over someone’s backpack that was sitting on the ground. Oops…
Your focus affects your direction.

The tribe of Manasseh had large pockets of land in the forest but they had avoided it until now because it was inhabited by Canaanites with “iron chariots”. They were focused on 2 things: 1. They didn’t believe God had given them “enough”, so they spent their time complaining and grumbling. 2. They were afraid of the advanced weaponry and danger of trying to overtake them. They were more afraid of failing than they were confident of God’s promise. I can relate.

Prayer

Lord, let us not be blinded by fear, but to focus all the more on your promises which are true. Distractions constantly vie for our attention, but

Joshua 16

Joshua 16

Scripture

A description of the land given to the tribe of Ephraim. We learn that they did not drive out the Canaanites from Gezer as God commanded, but instead allowed the Canaanites to remain as slaves to Israel (Joshua 16:10).

Observation

Here we see the first mention of the fatal mistake of failing to exterminate idolatry in their midst (John Macarthur Study Bible). Unlike our buddy Caleb who believed God’s promise and courageously drove out the inhabitants in his land, the Ephraimites failed to drive out their inhabitants.

Allowing Canaanites to remain in their land, even as slaves, did not exterminate the worldly influences of idols and false gods. To compare it to today, this would be akin to a believer in Jesus marrying an atheist – an unequally yoked arrangement which makes a faithful life difficult. The presence of false teachings and idols in the mixed culture would eventually make its way into the accepted way of living of Israel. This is also what Paul warned us of when in Romans 12:2 he said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” God’s command wasn’t meant to give them undue trouble – His will is always for our good and well being. God was trying to protect his people from influences that would distract them from Himself.

Application

The exact reason Ephraim refused to attempt a total takeover is anyone’s guess. It may have been fear of the unknown or carelessness, but we know one thing for sure (from experience, no doubt!) that the number one reason we fail to obey God’s precepts is that we simply don’t believe it’s the best thing for us.

Have you ever received clear direction from God before? How did your respond?

There have been plenty of times when I’ve heard clear direction from God regarding a decision. Sometimes I reply with obedience. Yes, Lord, and move forward. Like when my husband proposed. Easy yes. But some things are not as easy to accept and respond with obedience. Like when I was convicted to quit grad school, which I had worked very hard to get into. I heard God tell me one day, this isn’t the place for you. I had it in my mind that I needed to pursue a certain program and ran ahead of my Lord without consulting him first. the command was so authoritative I absolutely knew Whose voice it was. It wasn’t easy, but I knew it was right. Needless to say, that Yes, Lord was a little less enthusiastic than getting engaged… It took serious work (read: prayer and wrestling) to submit to but in the end it was either that or risk stepping outside of His will.

Actions begin in the heart. If we believe what God says is true, we will take the necessary steps to complete that faith. “I will show you my faith by my works” James 2:18.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for speaking to us through your Word and our prayers. We desire to be directed by you and hear your answers. Sometimes I wish you would just flash a giant neon arrow in the direction I should go but you are more subtle than that. You require us to be still and listen for you. Help us to take heed of the Ephraimites’ story of disobedience and not make the same mistake. And even when we stumble, let us hold onto your promises and allow you to set us back on solid rock again.