THE APOSTLE PAUL #4

07/07.2020

Paul willingly participated in purification rites along with four other men who were fulfilling their vows to become Nazarites. He also paid all their expenses. He did that to ease the tension among the Jews in Jerusalem

The questions that have to be answered here are: Do I need to defend myself and explain my actions to anyone? Is it better to be right than to be accepted?  How far am I willing to go to promote the love of Jesus and the unity of the Spirit within the church?  

In his letter, Paul said to the Ephesians – “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle: be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. .” Ephesians 4: 1-3    

“Make every effort.”  How much of an effort am I willing to make to maintain the spirit of unity in the church?  Where do I draw the line?  How high are my walls?  How thick is my pride?  How rigid is my doctrine?  How important is Jesus’ command to love one another and what am I willing to do about it?  

 Back in Acts 21, the Jerusalem Elders tell Paul they expect certain things from the Gentile believers as well.

Acts 21:25 – “As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them about our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”  

First, the church leaders in Jerusalem ask Paul to do something he doesn’t believe in.  Join in the purification rites.  Now they’re asking all the Gentile believers not to do something they do believe in. Don’t eat meat from certain animals and discontinue your life of sexual immorality.

 Let’s take a look at what Paul did.  

Acts 21:26 “”The next day took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the Temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.”     

    Paul had made it very clear that his goal and his purpose in life was to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus had given him, the task of “testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)  He had been preaching to “both Jews and  Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:21)

Participating in those purification rites and paying the expenses of the other men was Paul’s way of saying, If I have to go through some kind of traditional ritual to get them to listen to me and turn to God in repentant faith in Jesus, I’ll do it.  

Consider Jesus who, in Philippians 2:6-7, “was God, but He emptied Himself” of all His rights as God and “made Himself nothing.  Took on human form and became a slave.” 

 Paul says in 1 Cor. 9:19-22  “Though I am free and belong to no[AB1]  man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews… to those not having the Law I became like one not having the Law … so as to win those not having the Law… I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

Paul did not participate in those purification rites to make himself acceptable to the people who didn’t like him. He didn’t “become like a Jew” to “fit in” or to be loved. He did it to be effective for Jesus. He did it so that they would turn to God in repentance and have faith in Jesus. He did it so that by all possible means, some might be saved.

Paul devoted his entire life to winning people to Christ. He never compromised his faith, but it wasn’t worth it to Paul to keep his precious doctrines intact at the risk of closing the door on thousands of people who needed to hear the good news of God’s grace. 

The purpose of love and unity in the church is for the world can see Jesus in the church and know we’re His disciples.

1 Corinthians 9:23 – I do this all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in tis blessings.” That’s the prize Paul had his eyes on; sharing in the blessings of the Gospel; the blessings of rejoicing with the angels in heaven every time one sinner on earth came to accept Jesus as his Savior; the blessing of being surrounded in heaven someday by the many souls he had influenced for Christ as he gave his life for the Kingdom of God.

This is one of those situations where we’ll get criticized by someone regardless of what we decide to do. So, begore we do it, we’d better be clear and certain about our motives for doing it. Our ultimate goal must be in agreement with the Word of God and focused on pointing people to Christ.

Lord willing, next week, we’ll try to make more sense about what happened as a result of Paul’s experience in Jerusalem. Sue and I are approaching the final stages of our move to Pennsylvania. This may cause some “hick-ups” or disruptions to this blog. I apologize in advance for any confusion this may cause, but please be patient. Hang in  there with me and stay in God’s Word with Pastor Buj.


 [AB1]

THE APOSTLE PAUL #3

06/30/2020

The Apostle Paul feels “compelled by the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem even though he’s expecting to face prison and hardships when he gets there. But he feels his life is worth nothing unless he finishes his race and completes his task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:23-24)

Acts 21:17-18 “When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present.”     

This James actually happens to be the brother of Jesus.  He’s the one who wrote the Book of James and he’s a prominent member of the church at Jerusalem.  

Acts 21: 19-20a  “Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised God.”

They all praise the Lord for the work God was doing among the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry.   

Acts 21:20b – “Then they said to Paul, ‘You see , brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed and ALL of them are zealous for the Law.”

The elders tell Paul they’re thrilled about what God is doing among the Gentiles. But there are many thousands of Jews, their own people, in Jerusalem right now who believe Jesus rose from the dead and have accepted Him as their Messiah.  They believe in Jesus, but they’re all zealous; they’re all still fervently in love with the Law of Moses.  To a Jew, even the ones who believed in Jesus, the Law was their law.  They were very proud and very protective of their Law.  Jesus is our Messiah, but Jehovah is our God and the Law is our national treasure.  If you take away Jehovah and the Law, we’ll no longer be Jewish.

There are many thousands of zealous Jewish believers in this city right now who have a distorted view about what you’ve been preaching, Paul. They still remember when you were zealous for the Law and they can’t understand why you’ve changed.

Acts 21:21“They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs.”  

Just like all gossip and every other form of rumor, it’s partially true.  Paul never told Jews to stop observing the Law of Moses.  He simply told them to stop depending on that Law to make them right with God or to get them into heaven.

We know what you’ve been teaching Paul, but there are still many thousands of zealous Jews in this city right now who are convinced that you’ve been telling our people to turn away from Moses and give up our sacred customs.  They don’t like the changes you’re making.   

Acts 21:22 – “What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come.”

They all know you’re here.  There’s going to be a pretty ugly scene here tomorrow.  How are we going to convince them that what they’ve heard about you is wrong?  They are new believers, babies in Christ, struggling to accept the idea that Jews and Gentiles are now one people because of our faith in Jesus.  Remember what you told the Ephesians.  

“For He,,, has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the Law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one Body, to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility.” Ephesians 2:14-16

Acts 21:23a – “Do what we tell you.”

We value your opinion, Paul, but what you decide to do right now is going to determine how true your words really are.  Paul, if you really believe that “Christ reconciled Jews and Gentiles together by means of His death and our hostility toward each other was put to death;” if you really believe there is only one Body and one Spirit; one Lord, one faith, one Baptism; then do what we tell you.

Acts 21:23b  “There are four men with us who have made a vow.”

There are four men in our congregation who have taken vows to become Nazarites.  Those are men who vow to abstain from certain worldly influences and be totally consecrated; totally set apart for the Lord. 

Acts 21:24a “Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so they can have their heads shaved.”

In order to become Nazarites, these men need to acknowledge the sin in their lives and undergo a rite of purification to make them clean and acceptable to the Lord.    “Take these men and join in their purification rites.”  Publicly acknowledge that you also are unclean before God.  And “pay their expenses.” Buy the animals needed for the sacrifices and pay the priests to shave their heads.  Then accept the purification granted to you by the priest.

 Acts 21:24b “Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but you yourself are living in obedience to the Law.”

 Wait a minute!  I don’t believe in those things anymore. Are you asking me to compromise my faith?  Do you want me to give them the impression that I’m still living in obedience to the Law when the truth is, I’m not?

If I really believe that the blood of animals only covers our sin; it only hides our sin and only the blood of Jesus can cleanse us from our sins; only His blood can remove our sins, why should I be expected to join in their purification rites and pay their expenses? 

Remember it was the Holy Spirit who was compelling Paul to go to Jerusalem.  This was the Lord’s idea.  The Lord is using these people and this situation to help Paul finish his race and complete the task the Lord has given him to do.

Lord willing, next Tuesday we’ll see what Paul did and try to understand why he did it. I hope these postings continue to be helpful and relevant to your life. Why not invite a friend to get in God’s Word with Pastor Buj?

The Apostle Paul #2

06/23/2020:

            In this series of posts, we’re watching the Apostle Paul, paying particular attention to the people the Lord brought into his life and the situations the Lord led him into, to see how the Lord used these people and these situations to keep Paul in the center of His will.

            There are3 things to consider if we want to know the Lord’s will.  (1)  What does God want for me?  (2)  What do I want for me?  (3)  What does everybody else want for me?   We need to reconcile all three of these areas before we can recognize the will of God.

Matthew 16: 21-22 – “Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. ‘Never Lord!…This shall never happen to you!’”

Here we see –

1. The Father wanted Jesus to die on a cross and be raised up on the third day.

2.  Jesus wanted to do what His Father wanted Him to do. (John 6:38

3.  Peter wanted something else.

Peter disagreed with The Father’s plan which had already been revealed by the Old Testament prophets.  But Peter tried to tell Jesus He was wrong.  Peter thought he could come up with a better plan.  He didn’t want Jesus to die and He tried to get Jesus to change His mind.  But Jesus was doing what God’s word said He should be doing. That’s why…

Mat. 16:23 – “Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

Here in Acts 21, what does God want for Paul? 

Since the Bible says Paul was being “compelled by the Spirit,” I’d have to conclude that because the Lord wanted Paul to go to Jerusalem, He was speaking to Paul’s heart about going to Jerusalem. 

Then, what does Paul want?  Like the rest of us, Paul wants what God wants.  (Acts 20:24) 

This brings us to #3.  What does everybody else want for Paul?  What did his friends want?  What did his colleagues want?  What did the church want for Paul? 

It’s important to notice here that nobody, not Luke, his best friend; not Philip, a fellow apostle, not Agabus or the congregation in Caesarea,  nobody questioned; nobody argued about what Paul believed the Lord was calling him to do.  It was completely consistent with what the Bible teaches and with the way God works. 

If Paul had been surrounded by people who kept saying, “Paul, Think this over.  Pray about it a little longer.  We believe you’re making a terrible mistake.  This doesn’t  agree with what the Bible teaches.” If anyone had said something like that to Paul and he still refused to listen to them; if he had refused to accept their advice; if he refused to be influenced by their loving concern, he would have been guilty of being foolish and stubborn.

 If he had continued to head toward Jerusalem against the counsel of the people around him, the consequences would have been disastrous.  Nothing would have been accomplished.  Absolutely no good would have come out of it and Paul would have ended up being discouraged, frustrated, bitter and angry at God because things didn’t turn out the way he believed they were going to turn out. But nobody said, “God is not telling you to go to Jerusalem. 

No one in Paul’s life was questioning or arguing about the Spirit compelling Paul to go to Jerusalem.  They were only concerned with the consequences, the cost of going to Jerusalem.  When the Holy Spirit was compelling Paul to go, He warned him that he’d be facing prison and hardships when he got there.  Paul, this is going to be extremely dangerous.  It could even end up costing you your life.

  The same principles apply to recognizing the will of God for our lives. If we are determined to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not depend on our own understanding, the Lord will keep our path straight and direct our steps. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

If we share David’s heart when he says, “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is my delight,” (Psalm 40:48)  the Lord will plant His desire in our hearts. We’ll want it because the Lord wants us to want it.  It becomes a genuine desire that increasingly keeps growing inside us.

First, God tells me what He wants me to do.  Through His Word He puts the desire in my heart.  I think it over and I pray about it.  I work through all my fears and anxieties about whether or not I’m able to do it.  Then I tell Him whether or not I’m willing to accept it. 

While all that’s going on, you might come to me and say something like, “Have you ever thought about doing…;” or “I believe the Lord might be asking you to do such and such.”  But, whatever you say to me, you won’t be telling me something I don’t already know or haven’t been thinking about.  You’ll just be confirming something the Lord has already been discussing with me. 

The Lord will use people around us to confirm that He is or is not calling us to do something.  We need each other.  We need to be accountable to one another.  The Lord has placed us together so we can help and encourage one another so we can instruct and correct one another; to keep us from doing something senseless and disastrous to ourselves and to the Kingdom of God. 

Acts 21:15 – “After this, we got ready and went up to Jerusalem,”

Paul is going on to Jerusalem to finish his race with joy and to complete the task the Lord has given him to do and we’re going along with him. Lord willing, we’ll pick this up again next Tuesday. Encourage someone else to get in God’s Word with Pasto Buj.

THE APOSTLE PAUL #1

06/16/2020

Acts 20:16 –  Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time…in Asia for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem.”

The Apostle Paul was on his way to Jerusalem.  He knows if he stops in Ephesus, it will be hard to get away.  He helped start a church there and the congregation just loves him.  But he has something to tell them because he wants them to pray for him, so…

Acts 20: 17-19:  From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them, ‘You know how I lived the whole time I was with you…I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.’”  

Acts 20:22a –  “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem.

“Compelled by the Spirit…” The King James Version says, I go bound in the Spirit,” bound like the rudder on a ship that’s been tied down so the ship can only sail in one direction, or like the steering wheel on a car that’s been locked in place so the car can only travel straight ahead.

I am bound. I am compelled. I am focused. I am unexplainably and irresistibly driven by something deep inside me. I can’t explain it, but I know it’s from the Lord. The Lord is calling me. The Lord is sending me. The Lord wants me to go to Jerusalem.

Acts 20:22b  “I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there“ I am going…not knowing.The purpose is unclear. The future is uncertain. I’m going in faith and I believe the Lord is asking me to trust Him. 

Acts 20:23 – “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardship are facing me.” I’m sure it won’t be easy, but because the Lord wants me to do this and He is with me, as long as the Lord is in control, I know it will all be worth it,

Acts 20:24 – “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace,”

The only thing that keeps me going; the only thing that gives my life any purpose or direction is to finish the race and complete the task.  Paul saw the Christian life as a race; a long distance, cross-country marathon that required a lot of discipline, a lot of determination, patience, and perseverance on the part of the runner.  

 The Amplified Version says, “I want to finish my race with joy.” I want to sprint across that line with a big smile on my face and both arms raised in praise and victory; the way all winners finish a race. 

In this series of teaching posts, we’re going to be watching the Apostle Paul, paying particular attention to the people the Lord brought into his life and the situations the Lord led him into, to see how the Lord used these people and these situations to help Paul finish the race and joyfully complete his task.

We won’t be conducting a strict verse-be-verse study of Paul’s  complete itinerary. We’ll just be looking at a few key stops along the way. The whole objective of this study  is to learn how to recognize and fulfill the will of God for our lives. 

After saying good-bye to the elders from Ephesus,  Paul gets back on the ship and continues his journey toward Jerusalem.

Acts 21:3-5a  “After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre where our ship was to unload its cargo. Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit, they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way.”

Paul says he is being “compelled by the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem.  These disciples in Tyre are urging Paul “through the Spirit” not to go to Jerusalem.   Isn’t it supposed to be the same Spirit?  What’s going on here?     

When Paul gets to Caesarea, (21:8) he meets Agabus

Acts 21:10b-12  “A prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, in this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and hand him over to the Gentiles.’ When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.”

Paul’s response was (21:13b) “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord, Jesus.”  “For me, to live is Christ.”(Philippians 1:21)  Life only has meaning for me; life only has value when I’m living for Jesus.  Dying for Jesus is even a greater honor.

 Acts 21:14    “When he would not be dissuaded;” when he would not allow himself to be un-persuaded; when it became painfully obvious that he was not going to let anyone or anything change his mind; “we gave up.”

 Do you know who those “we” happened to be?  “We” included Luke, one of Paul’s best friends who’s writing this all down.  It included Philip, a fellow apostle, one of the original 12 apostles.  It includes the prophet Agabus and the congregation in Caesarea.  The prophet couldn’t talk him out of it.  The church couldn’t talk him out of it.  Even his best friend couldn’t talk him out of it.  He’s going to Jerusalem. “We gave up and said, ’the Lord’s will be done.’”  

Does that mean that if I believe God is calling me to do something and my wife, my friends, my pastor and the rest of the church think I’m crazy and keep trying to talk me out of it; I shouldn’t listen to them?  I shouldn’t take anyone’s’ advice.  I should just do what I believe God is calling me to do regardless of what others are saying or what others think?  Does that mean I’m not being stubborn; I’m just being “compelled by the Spirit.” 

Before I allow myself to jump to that dubious conclusion, I’d better take a closer look at what is happening to Paul here.  There are3 things to consider when we want to know what the Lord’s will is.     (1)  What does God want for me?  (2)  What do I want for me?  (3)  What does everybody else want for me?   We need to reconcile all three of these areas before we can figure out what the will of God might be.

Lord willing, we’ll get into that next Tuesday. Hope you’ll continue to follow along and find these posts to be relevant and helpful. Invite someone else to get in God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

Joshua #9 – Sharing the Victory

06/09/2020 –  The Wrong Place at the Right Time

PHASE 3 – Living out the Word of God – The battle of Jericho is underway. 

 Joshua 6:14 – “So on the second day they marched around the city once and they returned to the camp. They did this for 6 days.”  They marched around the city of Jericho for 6 days without saying a word. 

There are two things we can do when we’re marching around the city trying to be obedient when we’ve been ordered not to say a word.

(1) We can keep doing what the Lord has asked us to do.  We can keep listening to those trumpets, stay focused on Jesus, remember what He has commanded and promised, and keep marching as we’ve been told-  OR, 

 (2) We can spend the whole day thinking about what we’re doing, asking ourselves a lot of questions, and trying to second guess the Lord. 

The first few days they marched around the city were probably pretty exciting as they were thinking about what the Lord was going to do for them.  About the third or fourth day, I imagine it was starting to get a little boring.  By the end of the week, it was undoubtedly getting old. This is ridiculous.  There’s got to be more to it than this. 

By the last day, the seventh day, they’re probably thinking, this is taking too long. What are we waiting for?  We should have attacked at night and taken them by surprise.  Now they all know we’re coming.  They all know how small and unprepared we are.

Because the Lord commanded His people to remain silent the whole time they were marching, they would not be able inject their own brilliant ideas or infect each other with their own personal anxieties, doubts, and fears.  He didn’t want His army to defeat itself by creating an epidemic of negative thinking and lack of trust. 

Victory is not possible unless the Lord is in complete control. Since the day the manna stopped and Joshua met that man with the drawn sword in His hand, things would never be done the same way again.

            Every believer who’s totally committed and surrendered to Christ has to fight the battle of Jericho.  As long as we’re determined to fully live for Jesus; as long as we’re determined to stand up for Jesus in a world that worships and serves other gods, we’re going to be engaged in spiritual warfare against principalities and powers of darkness in the heavenly realms. 

As we continue to engage in that warfare, we’re going to learn that:

 (1) Every battle is different. We’re constantly coming up against new challenges and new obstacles.  Every battle is different, and we don’t fight them all the same. 

(2) Every battle has a purpose. The outcome of that battle always accomplishes something in us.  It always makes a change in us.  It always accomplishes something in the church and changes something in the church.  Every battle has a purpose. 

(3) We’ll never learn how to do this.  We’ll never master the art of spiritual combat.  The Lord will always be teaching us something new.  We’ll always have to depend on and trust in Him for the outcome.  We’ll never be able to take the lead.  We’ll always have to follow.  We’ll never learn how to do this.

(4)  We’ll never fight, and we’ll never win, any battle alone.  We’ll always be in this with the family of God.  When one struggles, we all struggle.  When one cries, we all cry.  When one laughs, we all laugh.  When one wins, we all win.

Jericho is about being in the wrong place at the right time. When we’re fighting the Battle of Jericho, we find ourselves in a  place we’d rather not be, at the time the Lord wants us to be there. We find ourselves doing what we’d rather not do when the Lord is telling us to do it. We’re fighting the Battle of Jericho when the Lord puts us in a place where we feel completely out of place. 

We’re fighting the Battle of Jericho when we feel the need to say something, but the Lord is telling us to be quiet. We’re fighting the Battle of Jericho when we just want to keep quiet and mind our own business, but the Lord keeps giving us something to say and He won’t let us rest until we say it.

  We’re fighting the Battle of Jericho when we want to be doing something, but the Lord is telling us to wait, or when we’d rather not get involved, but the Lord keeps telling us to do something. It’s always the wrong place at the right time.

Jericho is where we learn to let the Lord have control of our lives.  Jericho is where we discover we have no control of our lives.  In Jericho, things only go the way the Lord wants them to go and if we try to interfere, it makes things worse and everything just takes longer.  

Joshua 6:16 – “The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, ‘Shout! For the Lord has given you the city.”

 Joshua 6:20 –  “When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed, so every man charged straight in. and they took the city.” 

  In order for us to live the satisfying, productive, victorious, abundant life the Jesus has always intended us to live, the first wall that has to come down is the protective wall of our own independence; our defiant human will; our determination to stay the way we are; to hide behind, to continually excuse and justify our behavior; refusing to change or to be changed; insisting that it’s just the way we are and no one’s ever going to change us.  But the Battle of Jericho will change us. 

“They took the city.”  How?  By being willing to be in the wrong place at the right time.  By faithfully continuing to do everything the Lord wanted them to do the way He wanted them to do it. 

They achieved the victory; they reaped a harvest of blessing because they did not get tired of doing what they Lord had told them to do.  They did not get discouraged and they refused to give up.  Every personality trait was in submission to the will of God.  The Lord takes what we are individually, and He makes it all work together to accomplish His purpose. 

Hebrews 11:35-36: “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”    

As we’re fighting the Battle of Jericho, when the world looks at us, they won’t see us as separate, weak, imperfect individuals.  All they’ll see is Jesus.

Next Tuesday, Lord willing, we’ll be moving on to see what we can learn from the Apostle Paul about recognizing the will of God.  As always, I appreciate your comments and questions. Do you know of anyone you could encourage to get in God’s Word with Pastor Buj?

JOSHUA #8 – Winning the Battle

06/02/2020

We’re ready for phase three of the Lord’s battle plan for taking the city of Jericho, living out the word of God; taking the knowledge we’ve gained from all those Bible studies and the sermons we’ve been listening to and putting it to work in our lives.  It’s going out and doing what the Lord has called us to do.  It’s time to stop learning how to fish and just go out and actually start fishing.

Israel is setting out to possess the land the Lord promised Moses He would give them.  Their first obstacle; their first challenge was the city of Jericho.  Joshua revealed the Lord’s plan for taking the city. It sounded ridiculous, even to his most loyal and trusting followers, but the Lord is divinely serious and in order to be successful, in order to achieve the victory, everything has to be done exactly as the He wants it to be done.

Joshua 6:8-9: “When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets and the rear guard followed the Ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding.”

The Church received its marching orders from Jesus when He commanded us to “Go into the whole world and make disciples of all nations.”  (Matthew 28:19-20)  The march has begun. The church is on the move.  

Joshua 6:10a –   But Joshua had commanded the people, ‘Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices. Do not say a word.’”

When Joshua said that there were probably some people thinking; “That’s just fine with me.  I’m not a talker. I’m a doer.  I’ll do anything you ask me to do Lord, as long as you don’t ask me to stand up in front of people and say something.  Trust me, I won’t say a word.”

But there probably also people who were thinking; “Don’t say a word?  You can’t possibly expect me to march all day without saying anything. The Lord has shown me so much.  He has taught me so much.  I can’t keep it all to myself.  I’ve got to share it with others.  They need to know about our God.  I’ll do anything you say Lord, but please don’t ask me to be quiet. 

Joshua 6:10b –  “Do not say a word until I tell you to shout. Then SHOUT!

 I’ll just let the shouters do the shouting.  I told you I’m not a talker and I’m definitely not a shouter.  I’m a quiet person.  I like to keep my feelings to myself.  I prefer to keep my faith private.  I’ll go along with this for now.  But if he tries to make me shout, I’m out of here.  

Joshua 6:11 – “So he had the Ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the people returned to camp and spent the night there.”

That went well, don’t you think?  I know they were watching us.  I could hear them snickering.  Did you see the size of those walls?  They look even higher up close.  They must be thirty feet high and at least six feet thick.  Did you realize there was another wall behind the first wall and it’s at least twelve feet thick?  If we ever do manage to get past that first wall, what in the world are we going to do about that second one?  

Joshua 6:12 –  “The priest took up the Ark of the Lord,” The Ark of the Covenant represents the presence of the Lord among His people just as the Holy Spirit is present within believers and the church today.

Joshua 6:13a – “The seven priests…marching…and blowing the trumpets,”  This was definitely not meant to entertain or impress the Canaanites with how well Israel’s priests could play those trumpets. The priests were blowing “Shofars, “ or ram’s horns. Those horns were blown to unite the army and to give them confidence and courage. The horns were also intended to alert the enemy that Israel’s God was coming against them.

The Word of God calls the Lord’s people to worship. When God’s people unite to praise the Lord, it serves as a witness to everyone around them that Jesus is real, Jesus is alive, and Jesus is here

Joshua 6:13b – “The armed men went ahead of them.” The armed guard out in front represents the “Prayer Warriors” of the church; those faithful souls who devote themselves to calling on the name of the Lord for the protection, for the provision and for the victory of the church. There can be no victory without unceasing, fervent prayer leading the way.

Joshua 6:13c – “The rear guard followed the Ark…while the trumpets kept sounding.”

 The rear guard represents careful study of God’s Word guarding against false teaching, stopping the enemy’s attempt to dilute or corrupt the truth of the Gospel.  It’s another way of saying, “Don’t forget to lock the back door.” Don’t get carless in your understanding of the truth. Don’t slide into compromise.

1 Peter 5:8 –  “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Stay together. Don’t drift back. Don’t go off on your own. We need each other.

I realize that this post is a little shorter than the others. But if I keep going, the post will become too long. So, we’ll pick it up again, Lord willing, next Tuesday. As always, I appreciate your comments and questions. I hope these teachings make the Word of God more relatable to whatever you may be dealing with right now.

JOSHUA #7 – Fighting the Battle

05/26/2020 –  You’re Serious, Aren’t You?

The Bible, especially the Old Testament, is often criticized for being extremely brutal and violent. The truth is that the ancient world was a very brutal and violent place and extreme measures were needed to survive. The Bible shows us how our God, the only real God, is greater than all the other gods that are created out of the hearts and minds of a sinful world.  Our God alone can defend us, protect us, provide for us, deliver us, save us, and display His love for us. Our God alone is worthy of our love, our trust, and our praise.

The important lesson for us to learn from reading about the many battles Israel had to fight in the Old Testament, is that ALL these battles teach us something about our struggle against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”(Ephesians 6:12)  

When we study the battle of Jericho and study all the many other battles fought against the “flesh and blood” enemies of Israel, we learn the basic strategies and principles that make us victorious in our spiritual battles that we may be fighting daily.

The Lord’s battle plan for taking the city of Jericho and for being victorious in spiritual warfare, unfolds in three phases: knowing the word of God, proclaiming the word of God, and living out the word of God.

PHASE 1Knowing the word of God: learning the will and the ways of the Lord and how He gets things done.

First, the Lord reveals His will to Joshua.  The Lord is unfolding His unique and perfect plan for victory.  This is how God wants it done.  We can’t take a step without knowing the word of God, learning the plan of God, and discovering the will of God.   Doing it any other way always ends in disaster.

            Joshua 6:3-5: “March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of ram’s horns in front of the Ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.”

So, you’re telling us to march, blow trumpets and shout until those walls fall down.  Then we walk in and take the city. That’s it? That’s your battle plan? You’re kidding, right?  I know your ways are nothing like our ways, but that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.  But you’re not smiling.  You’re serious, aren’t you, Lord?  Thinking we know better, challenging the wisdom of the Lord with our human understanding is a tragic and fatal mistake.

1 Corinthians 1:19-20 – “For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate. Where is the wise man? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world?”  

The world really has no wisdom except in its own mind, but it keeps trying to convince everyone that it does.  Believe what you want.  Think what you want and laugh at me all you want.  But if the Bible says those walls will collapse when the people start shouting and those trumpets are blowing, you’d better get out of the way because those walls are coming down.  The battle begins with knowing what the Bible says.  

PHASE 2 – Proclaiming the word of God.

Joshua 6:6 –  “So Joshua…called the priests and said to them, ‘Take up the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.’”   

Joshua told the priests exactly what the Lord had told him.  This is more commonly known as “the foolishness of preaching.”

I Corinthians 1:21 – “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.”

I Corinthians 1: 23-25: “But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who God has called…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is greater than human strength.”

It’s not enough for me, as a preacher, to believe something that seems so ridiculous and foolish to the world.  Because it’s gotten me so excited, I’m determined to get you to believe it too.  I want to share what I’ve discovered.  I want to keep talking about what I’ve heard from God’s word until you can hear it too and become as excited about it as I am.

Joshua 6:7 – “Advance! March around the city, with the armed guard going ahead of the Ark of the Lord.”

 “Advance!”  Step out.  Start marching!  Jesus has told us to “Advance.”  He said go out into the whole world.  Preach the gospel and make disciples.  “Repentance and forgiveness of sin will be preached in His name to all nations,”(Luke 24:47)   The march has finally begun.

We’re ready for PHASE 3 of the Lord’s battle plan, living out the word of God; taking all the faith that our knowledge has created, taking all the information that we’ve gained from preaching and all those Bible studies and putting it to work in our lives.  It’s going out and doing what the Lord has called us and taught us to do. 

But, to keep this post from becoming too long, I think we’d better save that for next Tuesday. I appreciate hearing if these postings have been clear and helpful for you.

JOSHUA 6 – Pick a Side

 05/19/2020 – Preparing for Battle

Joshua and nation of Israel have just crossed the Jordan River and are preparing to possess the land the Lord promised Moses He would give them.  

Joshua 5:13a – “Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.”

The man was obviously a soldier.  But he wasn’t just dressed for battle, he was standing there as if the battle had already begun.  His sword had been taken out of its sheath and he was ready to use it.

 Joshua 5:13-14: “Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’ ‘ Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the Lord’s army I have now come.’ Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servants.” It’s clear from this passage that the one Joshua saw was not an ordinary man and He was more than an angel.

For one thing, in the Bible, “angels” are always referred to as “angels.” This “man” identified himself as the “commander of the army of the Lord.” That is the title given to “the Lord of Hosts,” ADONAI , the Lord God Almighty,God Himself.

Secondly, “Joshua fell face down in reverence.” He worshipped this “man” and was not rebuked for doing it. The Lord is the ONLY one who may be worshipped.

Third, Joshua calls the man, my Lord,” meaning “master,” and refers to himself as, “his servant.” That’s not something you would ever say to an angel.

Finally, in Joshua 5:15 – “The commander of the Lord’s army replied, ‘Take off you sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” That’s what Moses was told to do when God spoke to him from a burning bush. (Exodus 3:5)  “God is Spirit”(John 4:24)  Moses was in the presence of an invisible God “who lives in unapproachable light,(1 Timothy 6:16) but Joshua was in the presence of God who appeared in the flesh. Jesus is the Lord of Hosts. He is the commander-in-chief of the Army of the Lord. (Revelation 19:11-16)

WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON, ours or theirs?  “Neither.  I’m not here to take sides.  I’m here to take over.  “As commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”  God is not on OUR side. If we want to be victorious, we have to be sure we’re on HIS side. He is the Lord of Hosts, the Commander. He plans the strategy and He gives the orders.  We’re either WITH Him or we’re AGAINST Him. (Matthew 12:30)  So, pick a side. The battle is not ours, it’s His

A consecrated life is no longer MY life.  It’s completely, 100%, His life.  He bought it with a price. (1 Corinthians 6:20) A consecrated life belongs exclusively to Jesus and He really does have a plan.  He really does have a strategy.  He really does have a message for His people.  His ways are nothing like our ways and when He tells us His way, He expects us to listen.  When He shows us His way, He expects us to accept it, even though we think our way is better and it’s not the way we’ve done things before.

Joshua 6:1 – “Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.”   The city was completely shut up and locked down and it was because of the Israelites.  But the Israelites had no way of knowing that. It all seemed so terrifying and impossible to them from the outward appearance. But, everything seems terrifying and impossible to us when we fix our eyes on what we see, instead of fixing our eyes on Jesus, (Hebrews 12:2)

Israel had no idea that behind those enormously high walls and thick gates, there was a terrified army that had heard how Israel’s God brought them through the Red Sea and across the Jordan River.  They were not looking forward to finding out what Israel’s God was planning to do to them. 

Satan may not be afraid of US, but he IS afraid of the one standing in front of us with a drawn sword in His hand.  He’s there!  Don’t forget that.  Never lose sight of the fact that, whatever we’re going through, Jesus is always standing there in front of us with a drawn sword in His hand to make sure we conquer and overcome. Nothing formed against us will stand. (Isaiah 54:17)

Joshua 6:2a – “Then the Lord said to Joshua…”   The strategy for overcoming, the plan for becoming more than a conqueror rests entirely on what the Lord says.  Everything we do together has to be anchored in and faithful to the word of God, the Bible.  The word of God reveals truths to our hearts that our human eyes cannot see, and our rational minds choose to ignore.  The word of God creates a faith within us that overrides and defies all the fears and anxieties our human imagination and understanding struggles to create.

  Everything in the Bible is God-breathed, God-inspired, infallible, unchangeable, and true.  Nothing else can be trusted to produce a satisfying, productive, victorious, and ever-lasting life.  We know we’re going to win before the battle even gets started.  God’s word has guaranteed it for us, and nothing can change it.  We will not lose because God cannot be defeated.  If we’ve picked the right side, we know we’re going to win but the victory won’t come without a fight. 

Joshua 6:2b – “See, I have delivered Jericho INTO YOUR HANDS. along with its kings and its fighting men.”

The Lord doesn’t keep us from the enemy or shield us from the damage the enemy can cause.  By faith, He wants us to see that He has delivered the enemy into our hands.  We put on the full armor of God. (Ephesians 6:11) Then when we’re face-to-face, nose-to-nose, eyeball-to-eyeball with the devil and his angels, He tells us to take our sword of faith, stand firm, and “resist.”(James 4:7)  

As long as our lives are completely surrendered to Jesus, we’ll continually be engaged in spiritual warfare. We’ll constantly be fighting to possess the abundant life Jesus came to give us because the enemy wants to stop us from living it. It’s time for the battle to begin and, Lord willing, we’ll look at that next Tuesday. I hope these studies are meaningful, relevant, helpful, and worth the time spent reading them. Love hearing from you. Invite a friend to get in God’s Word with Pastor  Buj. 

JOSHUA 5 – Are We There Yet?

05/12/2020 – Come Out, Cross, and Fight

Joshua 5:1 – “Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites before we crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.”

What a shame Israel didn’t know that. Ever since they arrived in this strange and hostile new land, they’ve lived in constant fear and uncertainty about the nations around them.  All the cities had huge walls.  The armies were large and well equipped. Israel had no idea that their enemies had given up before the battles even started. The Amorites and the Canaanites weren’t afraid of Israel, but they were scared to death of what Israel’s GOD was able to do. No god they believed in was able to do those things.

It’s a shame Christians don’t know the truth about how Satan feels and what he’s thinking. How tragic that Christians continue to struggle daily with doubt, anxiety, discouragement, and fear.  They don’t realize that Satan knows he’s not going to win.  He’s no match for the Lord God Almighty and he knows it.

Satan knows his time is short and, even though he knows he can’t win, he’s determined not to go down without a fight.  He wants to take down as many believers as he can. He may not be able to change the outcome, but he’s going to do everything he can to delay the inevitable.

Joshua 5:12 – The manna stopped the day after 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.”

How can we tell if we’re in the Promised Land? When can we expect to start living that abundant life? We’ll know we’re in the Promised Land when the manna stops. Every morning, for the past 40 years the Lord would drop the manna down from heaven and the people would gather it up and eat it. It didn’t taste very good, but it kept them alive.  It was a minimum amount of nourishment that required a minimum amount of effort.

But, one day, the Israelites went out and there was no manna on the ground. When we have surrendered our lives to Jesus and we’re totally consecrated to Him; when we’re ready to start living the quality of life the Lord has prepared for us to live; He will not spoon feed us anymore.  We become accountable; we become responsible for our own spiritual diets and nutritional health. We can’t complain about “not being fed.”

 Joshua 5:12b – “They ate the produce of Canaan.”  There is a delicious, nutritious feast of great food prepared for us at the banquet table of the Lord; everything from the milk to the meat and it’s all in God’s Word.  Look for it.  Find it.  Eat it and enjoy it.  It’s all prepared especially for us by the Holy Spirit.

OK, so we’ve passed through the Red Sea. We’ve crossed the Jordan River. Are we there yet? Can we finally relax and live life to its fullest? Not yet. There’s one more detail that has to be taken care of.

From the start, Israel had no choice.  If they wanted to stay alive, Israel HAD to come out of Egypt. They were in bondage. They were forced to make bricks without straw. They were starving. They were suffering. If they had not come out, they would have died there as slaves.

Like Israel, we have to COME OUT of our Egypt TO ESCAPE our bondage to sin and the power of sin over our lives. We have to come out of our Egypt to escape God’s judgment for our sin. We come out of Egypt when we repent. We have to be willing to accept the reality of our sin and repent.  We have to turn away from that sin and turn toward Jesus. We have to come out of that old life, or we’ll remain captive to it and will eventually die in our sin. We have to accept Christ as our Savior and trust in Him alone for the forgiveness of sin. (John 3:16)  

  After coming out of Egypt, Pharaoh and his entire army were coming after them to take them back to Egypt, back to their life of misery, hopelessness, and bondage.  They had to pass through the Red Sea to live and be free. (Exodus 14)

Do I have to pass through the Red Sea?  Absolutely! It’s part of the escape from Egypt. When Israel passed through the Red Sea, all their old enemies, including Pharaoh, were destroyed. They knew they would never be slaves there again.  The Red Sea is a type of baptism. It doesn’t save us but it publicly declares that our old life is dead, and, in Jesus, we have been made new.  We will never be the slaves of sin again.

Do I have to cross the Jordan River?  Not really, it’s not a matter of life or death.  If you’re saved, you can be sure that, by grace through faith, you’ll be in heaven someday. But you’ll continue to wander around aimlessly with little fruit to how for your efforts until you’re ready to cross your Jordan River.

            We cross our Jordan River when we decide to stand firm against the powerful circumstances in our lives that have become barriers; that have become obstacles; that have become excuses for not fully serving the Lord.  We consecrate ourselves in full surrender. We put Jesus first and we move forward.  We CROSS TO OBTAIN the life the Lord desires us to live.

  But before Israel can relax, settle down, and begin to enjoy their new home, they have to FIGHT TO POSSESS; to possess the new land they’ve been given. 

Some of life’s toughest battles are fought right after we decide to stand firm for Jesus.  But, if Jesus came that I might live a full, productive, and victorious life, if the Lord wants me to enjoy my life, if He wants me to live in peace and be at rest, if the Lord wants my life to have meaning and purpose, if He’s giving me these things, if these things are mine, why do I have to constantly be fighting some kind of battle to possess them?

 The land of Canaan was occupied by people who had been there a very long time.  They considered it to be their land and they were not about to move over or move out without putting up a fight.  This world is currently being ruled by what the Bible calls, “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”(Ephesians 6:12) It’s what we, as believers, commonly refer to as “spiritual warfare.”

Satan considers this to be his world.  He’s used to giving the orders and having his own way.  The principalities and powers that rule this world are not just going to roll over or move out without declaring all out spiritual warfare against anyone who tries to stand against them.

  When the Lord gives us joy, they keep trying to take it away.  When the Lord wants to heal us, they fight to keep us from receiving it.  They’ll lie to us and tell us that the Lord doesn’t want us to have these things.  They’ll keep saying He’s angry at us.  He’s given up on us.  We’ve failed Him.  We’ve disappointed Him.  We don’t have enough faith.  Life was better before we became Christians.  That old life really wasn’t that great, but it was safer.  It was quieter. 

Living the abundant life can be a real struggle, but the rewards are worth it.  Like Israel, we fight to possess a full, productive, and victorious life.

Next time, Lord willing, we’ll watch Israel begin fighting to possess their inheritance.  Love hearing from you.  I hope you’re finding these blogs to be helpful, meaningful, relevant, and worth the time spent reading them. If so, invite others to get In God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

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