Category Archives: Sin

A Tale Of Two Responses To Christ

Passover and Unleavened Bread are important celebrations to Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus) and His disciples. Yeshua participated in these holy celebrations and so did his disciples. We see further, that is was important from the fact that Mark includes this explicitly in the timeline of events leading up to Yeshua’s death on the cross and subsequent resurrection. This event was an important part of the timeline for us to understand.

We also get insight in Mark14 into two very different responses to Yeshua. The chief priests, who present themselves to the people as if they are holy and set apart for YHWH’s purposes, are plotting to kill Yeshua… God Himself walking among them. Meanwhile, a humble woman, a “sinner”, comes to anoint him and honor him with very expensive perfume and her own personal time and effort.

This provides a stark contrast that reminds us to use careful discernment in clearly identifying who is following YHWH and honoring him with their lives and who is just playing a part to look holy before the people. To be sure, we should start by looking in the mirror and making sure we have the right attitude toward our Creator.

Mark 14:1-11

Death Plot and Anointing

      1Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him; 2for they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people.”

      3While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. 4But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? 5“For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. 6But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. 7“For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. 8“She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. 9“Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”

      10Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. 11They were glad when they heard this, and promised to give him money. And he began seeking how to betray Him at an opportune time.

Discern carefully who truly follows after Yeshua and learns from him, changing their lives to be more like him, and who uses Yeshua and the scriptures only to manipulate the message to their own gain and the appearance of holiness. In some cases, they genuinely fool even themselves. Do not be so foolish as to assume anyone in “church” leadership is holy and a true disciple of Yeshua, or that others who are not in those positions are not true disciples.

We all have a choice in how we will respond to Yeshua. Will we reject him entirely, will we pretend to serve him but let wickedness and selfishness reign in us, or will we humbly and faithfully serve him even when others will mock us for it?

How will you choose to respond to his offer of love and personal relationship in your life?

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Reflections On What Matters In Life… by Solomon

Ecclesiastes can certainly come across as depressing and discouraging. It helps to keep in mind the ultimate conclusion that the book is leading up to. The context is an old Solomon, wise and rich in splendor as king over his lifetime. He is reflecting back on the meaning of life. He ultimately concludes the following:

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

    13The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

It is with this conclusion in mind that it helps to drive home the meaning of the whole book as we read it. Ultimately everything falls short of real significance except fearing God and keeping his commandments.

Ecclesiastes 4

The Evils of Oppression

     1Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them. 2So I congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living. 3But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun.

      4I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind. 5The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh. 6One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind.

      7Then I looked again at vanity under the sun. 8There was a certain man without a dependent, having neither a son nor a brother, yet there was no end to all his labor. Indeed, his eyes were not satisfied with riches and he never asked, “And for whom am I laboring and depriving myself of pleasure?” This too is vanity and it is a grievous task.

      9Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

      13A poor yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction. 14For he has come out of prison to become king, even though he was born poor in his kingdom. 15I have seen all the living under the sun throng to the side of the second lad who replaces him. 16There is no end to all the people, to all who were before them, and even the ones who will come later will not be happy with him, for this too is vanity and striving after wind.

There are a collection of gems of wisdom in this chapter, all of which are worthy of reflection and prayerful consideration for application in our own lives today. Some that strike me…

  • Oppression is very bad.
  • Empty rivalry is worthless.
  • Two working together are better than one.
  • A poor wise lad is better than an old and foolish king who no longer receives instruction

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Let Scripture Define the Truth of Who God Is, Not the Teachings of Man

Let us allow scripture to inform us about the character of YHWH rather than our own assumptions and what we have learned from the teaching of man. We know that YHWH is love. For those that study the word, we also know that we do not define how to love his way. All of the law and the prophets are based on loving God and loving one another. These are not my words, but rather the words of Yeshua in Matthew 22.

Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and [a]foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

This is very different than today’s common view where loving others is taken to mean accepting them as they are in whatever sin they embrace, no matter if they rebel against God or not. That is not the truth revealed in God’s word.

God loves people, but he hates sin and rebellion against him. He is not only love, but also holy and righteous. Sin will carry with it a price. For those of us who accept Christ as savior and repent of our sins to follow him, our price has been paid. For those who reject Christ, there is no other path. Living in a constant state of unforgiven and active rebellion is not pleasing to God. Don’t assume he is ok with it just  because he may be patient in bringing it to an end. He waited hundreds of years before bringing the Israelites into the promised land to punish those living their who rejected and rebelled against him. I would say that is far more patient than any of us. However, ultimately there was a time for judgment.

Joshua 11

Northern Palestine Taken

     1Then it came about, when Jabin king of Hazor heard of it, that he sent to Jobab king of Madon and to the king of Shimron and to the king of Achshaph, 2and to the kings who were of the north in the hill country, and in the Arabah—south of Chinneroth and in the lowland and on the heights of Dor on the west— 3to the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Jebusite in the hill country, and the Hivite at the foot of Hermon in the land of Mizpeh. 4They came out, they and all their armies with them, as many people as the sand that is on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. 5So all of these kings having agreed to meet, came and encamped together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.

      6Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow at this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel; you shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.” 7So Joshua and all the people of war with him came upon them suddenly by the waters of Merom, and attacked them. 8The LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel, so that they defeated them, and pursued them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim and the valley of Mizpeh to the east; and they struck them until no survivor was left to them. 9Joshua did to them as the LORD had told him; he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.

      10Then Joshua turned back at that time, and captured Hazor and struck its king with the sword; for Hazor formerly was the head of all these kingdoms. 11They struck every person who was in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them; there was no one left who breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire. 12Joshua captured all the cities of these kings, and all their kings, and he struck them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed them; just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded. 13However, Israel did not burn any cities that stood on their mounds, except Hazor alone, which Joshua burned. 14All the spoil of these cities and the cattle, the sons of Israel took as their plunder; but they struck every man with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them. They left no one who breathed. 15Just as the LORD had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses.

      16Thus Joshua took all that land: the hill country and all the Negev, all that land of Goshen, the lowland, the Arabah, the hill country of Israel and its lowland 17from Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir, even as far as Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon at the foot of Mount Hermon. And he captured all their kings and struck them down and put them to death. 18Joshua waged war a long time with all these kings. 19There was not a city which made peace with the sons of Israel except the Hivites living in Gibeon; they took them all in battle. 20For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy, but that he might destroy them, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

      21Then Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab and from all the hill country of Judah and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. 22There were no Anakim left in the land of the sons of Israel; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod some remained. 23So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus the land had rest from war.

Perhaps the toughest verses for us to absorb are the following:

19There was not a city which made peace with the sons of Israel except the Hivites living in Gibeon; they took them all in battle. 20For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy, but that he might destroy them, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

The time for mercy had past. The Lord himself saw to it that he would make sure no other groups came in peace to Joshua, so they could be fully destroyed.

If this makes you uncomfortable, that is ok. But take care to start with an understanding that God is right and just and without error. Take care that he is also unchanging though time in his character.

Now ask him to show you how to process this truth about him in a way that increases your knowledge of his character rather than allowing yourself to just dismiss it and continue to think of him as nothing but a cuddly grandpa in the sky. Sin has serious consequences. If we don’t recognize that it is very offensive to him, we may make poor choices in how we live or encourage others to live. In the right context we must acknowledge that accepting people as they are in sin so as to avoid offending them is actually not loving them. For any of us whose lives have been transformed by Christ, we realize that it changes us in this life and brings more joy and fulfillment in addition to leading us to heaven.   Thus to encourage people to accept sin in their lives rather than repent is like encouraging people to stay in a burning building. True love and concern for them demands that we tell them the truth of God’s word, even if it offends them. Let us each seek to find an effective way to do so and pray for boldness and wisdom in how we approach it.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Do Not Re-Define YHWH In Your Own Image

Joshua 10 contains some dramatic historical records about Joshua’s conquest of the promised land. Many Christians today may struggle to understand or explain how or why YHWH instructed Joshua to wipe out all the inhabitants. What about grace? What about forgiveness? Why would God do wipe out whole people groups? 

First, let us be sure our mind is set on the right perspective. If this is what God said to do, then it was right. If we don’t understand or agree, that means we are wrong… and not God. Perhaps there is specific context which helps explain it or perhaps our view of God is wrong.

We must always take care not to redefine God in our image or the image of our modern culture. Instead, we should always be seeking to redefine ourselves in his image. While there is surely a place for grace and mercy, let us be clear that the Bible speaks volumes about YHWH also providing righteous judgment.

So if he said to wipe everyone out, then he is right to do so. If we struggle with that, then we should pray to ask him to show us more understanding and we should study more the scripture. We should not simply disregard it because it is confusing. It still tells us about YHWH even today. YHWH does not change.

We should not assume that everyone who breathes is in a relationship with YHWH. Clearly we see Biblical examples where he wipes out whole groups. This is different than when he disciplines his own people. These people did not know him. They lived ungodly lives, offensive to him in his holiness.

Joshua 10:29-43

Joshua’s Conquest of Southern Palestine

     29Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Makkedah to Libnah, and fought against Libnah. 30The LORD gave it also with its king into the hands of Israel, and he struck it and every person who was in it with the edge of the sword. He left no survivor in it. Thus he did to its king just as he had done to the king of Jericho.

      31And Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Libnah to Lachish, and they camped by it and fought against it. 32The LORD gave Lachish into the hands of Israel; and he captured it on the second day, and struck it and every person who was in it with the edge of the sword, according to all that he had done to Libnah.

      33Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish, and Joshua defeated him and his people until he had left him no survivor.

      34And Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Lachish to Eglon, and they camped by it and fought against it. 35They captured it on that day and struck it with the edge of the sword; and he utterly destroyed that day every person who was in it, according to all that he had done to Lachish.

      36Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron, and they fought against it. 37They captured it and struck it and its king and all its cities and all the persons who were in it with the edge of the sword. He left no survivor, according to all that he had done to Eglon. And he utterly destroyed it and every person who was in it.

      38Then Joshua and all Israel with him returned to Debir, and they fought against it. 39He captured it and its king and all its cities, and they struck them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed every person who was in it. He left no survivor. Just as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir and its king, as he had also done to Libnah and its king.

      40Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded. 41Joshua struck them from Kadesh-barnea even as far as Gaza, and all the country of Goshen even as far as Gibeon. 42Joshua captured all these kings and their lands at one time, because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel. 43So Joshua and all Israel with him returned to the camp at Gilgal.

It is ok to question when we get to difficult scripture. But let us always start with the perspective that YHWH is right and it is our understanding that may need to change rather than starting with the assumption that YHWH was wrong and now he has changed somehow to fit our view of him.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

What Did Jesus Say About Paying Taxes?

Mark 12 documents an encounter Jesus had with the Pharisees and Herodians as they were trying to trap Him. He not only deflected their trap, but also laid out  straightforward guidance for all of us in regards to submission to government and paying taxes.

Mark 12: 13-16

Jesus Answers the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes

      13Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement. 14They came and said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? 15“Shall we pay or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.” 16They brought one. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.” 17And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.

Clearly Jesus did not agree with everything the Romans were doing, but He still gave guidance to pay the taxes to Caesar. Some may speculate that He was just deflecting the trap question, but Jesus never provided a wrong answer just to avoid a trap. He always took the opportunity to address the trap and make a point on the right way of doing things also.

For those who need more convincing… the Bible has it.

Romans 13:1-7

Be Subject to Government

      1Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

It is ok to work lawfully to reduce the tax burden. Governments usually waste money badly. Often they spend on things which may not honor God. However, just refusing to pay is not the guidance that Jesus provided for His people.

We can also recognize that not all governments are acting as described in Romans 13. Some persecute followers of Christ openly and actively. You could perhaps debate then if you are required to pay taxes, but to what end? To give them more cause persecute you? The government was no friend to Paul as a follower of Christ as he wrote Romans. Keep that in mind.

We can debate the “why” Jesus gives this instruction. Perhaps it is as simple as the fact that He does not want Christians to be misunderstood by unbelievers as lawbreakers, unruly, selfish, greedy, and rebellious on matters that do not offend God. Maybe He does not want His people putting their freedom at risk or constantly distracted by a fear of arrest so that they live not in the fullness of joy He intends. Maybe he wants us to be content with what we have and avoid greed.

It is indeed different if the government calls us to reject our God or  His instructions. Then there well may be times where we refuse to obey as we stand for a higher authority, our Father and Creator, if there is a direct conflict between the laws of men and the laws of God.

This article was developed in partnership with GrowGodsMoney.org.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Each Of Us Should Study God’s Word Personally

Study the Word

The world pushes non-Christian and false Christian values. As Christians we are called to reject the world and seek and follow Jesus Christ. We are to be set apart for God, to be holy. To do this effectively we must develop a clear understanding of God’s word and then submit to it. This requires that we do more than just go to church once a week.

God wants us to study His word daily to know Him more intimately. He provides the scriptures, inclusive of Old and New Testament, to tell us how we should live and how we should relate to Him and each other. We show love to Him by obeying His commands. How can we obey, if we do not clearly understand? How can we understand clearly if we do not study continuously? We must also allow ourselves to be teachable, that is to accept what scripture says even when it contradicts what churches teach or culture accepts. Only in this way can we actually change our behaviors to honor YHWH more faithfully.

Jesus demonstrated personally the importance of studying scripture and He learned it well. In fact, it is a clear understanding of scripture that allowed Him to avoid  Satan’s deception when Jesus was tempted in the desert.

As a community of Christians, we can work together by sharing resources that help guide us to more deeply understand God’s word.

I have included in the subpages associated with this page books and other resources I personally recommend to help you study God’s word more deeply and to help you live in a way that honors God. It is very important to remember, however, that all we learn and study about God must be tested against the word of God in both the Old and New Testament and against the life of Jesus Christ, who was the word of God become flesh to dwell among us. All other resources, including our website, are subject to errors and must be tested against the proper interpretation of scripture.

We must not be lazy in avoiding the study ourselves, just trusting one teacher or another. Instead, you can seek out good teachers, validating them against the truth of scripture. Testing what they teach to the truth of God’s word. These are just tools to help. Ultimately only God’s word is without error.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Seeking The LORD In His Moedim (Holy Days}

Each year as Passover approaches, I am reminded to reflect on my personal journey with Yeshua. I was raised in a household that identified as Christian. We went to church weekly, but we did not study the Bible or seek to apply it in our lives actively. We watched things on TV which we should not have. There was little discernment about separating from the commonly accepted ways of the world to seek out the set apart ways of YHWH. We embraced and celebrated every common cultural holiday, apparently unaware or unconcerned about the significant pagan influence in shaping each of these holidays. In fact, holidays like Christmas and Easter often have more pagan roots and traditions than Christian.

As YHWH has continued to lead me, he has opened my eyes to his appointed times, or Moedim. They are described in Leviticus 23 and other places in scripture. Do not get tied up into the traps of whether or not they are required and if required, how “must” they be celebrated. Start by learning about YHWH’s holy days and participating in them. They look back at the relationship he has with his people and look forward to it as well. Each has meaning, not just from a “Jewish” perspective, but also from a Christian perspective. Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of these celebrations, including looking forward to his second coming. They are not “Jewish” holidays, but rather YHWH’s holy days. We can not or do not have to try to live them out perfectly as they were laid out for his people in the Torah, in Leviticus to harvest value from celebrating them.

We do not have to celebrate them absolutely according to what is now Jewish tradition. Only seek to study and better understand them so we better understand our relationship with God. Celebrate them as a great way to help teach your children as well. How much more rich than just “book learning” alone!

Here are a few resources where you can learn more about the Moedim, the Creator’s calendar (often called the “Jewish” calendar), and given this time of year, Passover in particular.

I hope you join me in a pursuit to know, love, and serve our Father more. Learning about and celebrating the Moedim is a fun and meaningful way to continue together on this journey. I invite you to start with Passover, which takes place in the upcoming weeks.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Do Not Expect The World to Be Honest With You

Do not expect the world to be honest with you. Even if they fear you, they may still try to deceive and mislead you to pull you off the path that YHWH has established for you. Often they do so for their own interest. Sometimes, it may be simply to try to make you stumble and fall and be separated from the things YHWH wants for you. As YHWH’s people, we must be wise and pray for discernment.

Joshua 9

Guile of the Gibeonites

     1Now it came about when all the kings who were beyond the Jordan, in the hill country and in the lowland and on all the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, heard of it, 2that they gathered themselves together with one accord to fight with Joshua and with Israel.

      3When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, 4they also acted craftily and set out as envoys, and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys, and wineskins worn-out and torn and mended, 5and worn-out and patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and had become crumbled. 6They went to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us.” 7The men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you are living within our land; how then shall we make a covenant with you?” 8But they said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” Then Joshua said to them, “Who are you and where do you come from?” 9They said to him, “Your servants have come from a very far country because of the fame of the LORD your God; for we have heard the report of Him and all that He did in Egypt, 10and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon and to Og king of Bashan who was at Ashtaroth. 11“So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey, and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants; now then, make a covenant with us.”’ 12“This our bread was warm when we took it for our provisions out of our houses on the day that we left to come to you; but now behold, it is dry and has become crumbled. 13“These wineskins which we filled were new, and behold, they are torn; and these our clothes and our sandals are worn out because of the very long journey.” 14So the men of Israel took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of the LORD. 15Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them.

      16It came about at the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were neighbors and that they were living within their land. 17Then the sons of Israel set out and came to their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon and Chephirah and Beeroth and Kiriath-jearim. 18The sons of Israel did not strike them because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD the God of Israel. And the whole congregation grumbled against the leaders. 19But all the leaders said to the whole congregation, “We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them. 20“This we will do to them, even let them live, so that wrath will not be upon us for the oath which we swore to them.” 21The leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became hewers of wood and drawers of water for the whole congregation, just as the leaders had spoken to them.

      22Then Joshua called for them and spoke to them, saying, “Why have you deceived us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you are living within our land? 23“Now therefore, you are cursed, and you shall never cease being slaves, both hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” 24So they answered Joshua and said, “Because it was certainly told your servants that the LORD your God had commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land before you; therefore we feared greatly for our lives because of you, and have done this thing. 25“Now behold, we are in your hands; do as it seems good and right in your sight to do to us.” 26Thus he did to them, and delivered them from the hands of the sons of Israel, and they did not kill them. 27But Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to this day, in the place which He would choose.

Just because you may be following the instructions YHWH has set out for you does not mean that you can just go blindly and assume everything will go well and easily. Many will come against you and deceive you for their own benefit or just to lead you away from what they know YHWH wants for you. Pray for wisdom and discernment and consider carefully your actions as you move ahead.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Don’t Be An April Fool

A lot of people start thinking about fooling people as a way of recognizing “April Fool’s Day”. Some find this fun and some do not. I think it provides an opportunity for us to reflect on what God says about being a fool and test ourselves to make sure we are not a fool in His eyes, in April or any other time.
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds;
There is no one who does good.
7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
      13On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found,
But a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding.      14Wise men store up knowledge,
But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.
    1The wise woman builds her house,

But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.

2He who walks in his uprightness fears the LORD,
But he who is devious in his ways despises Him.

3In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back,
But the lips of the wise will protect them.

Proverbs 14:15-18

15The naive believes everything, But the sensible man considers his steps.

16A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, But a fool is arrogant and careless.

17A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, And a man of evil devices is hated.

18The naive inherit foolishness,
But the sensible are crowned with knowledge.

Proverbs 18:2

2A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind.

Proverbs 20:3

3Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel.

Proverbs 20:5

5A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out.

Proverbs 29:11

11A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back.

Ecclesiastes 4:5

5The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh.

Ecclesiastes 7:9

9Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, For anger resides in the bosom of fools.

Titus 3:3-11

1Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. 3For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. 9But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

There is much in the Bible to help us understand how to be wise and avoid being foolish. Let us seek not to be fools, no matter what month it is!
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We Must Deal With Our Sin Before We Will Experience Victory In The Lord

Joshua and the Israelites faced defeat against Ai, as recorded in Joshua 7, due to sin and rebellion in the camp against YHWH. The sin of a single man led to defeat for Israel. Joshua dealt with the sin according to YHWH’s instructions and was once again directed by the Lord to continue taking the promised land. He then did as the Lord instructed, and those around him did as well, and the Lord granted them victory.

In a way, this serves as a blueprint for us in our everyday lives. We can not expect YHWH to give us victory while living in rebellion against his word or the Spirit. We must deal with our sin, the sins of our family, and even the sins of our nation if we are to experience full victory on the Lord’s path. That does not mean that we as individuals can not have strong relationships with the Lord even in a sinful nation… we can. However, do not expect him to grant great and lasting victory to a nation that rebels openly against him.

Joshua 8

The Conquest of Ai

     1Now the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. 2“You shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king; you shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it.”

      3So Joshua rose with all the people of war to go up to Ai; and Joshua chose 30,000 men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night. 4He commanded them, saying, “See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready. 5“Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out to meet us as at the first, we will flee before them. 6“They will come out after us until we have drawn them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are fleeing before us as at the first.’ So we will flee before them. 7“And you shall rise from your ambush and take possession of the city, for the LORD your God will deliver it into your hand. 8“Then it will be when you have seized the city, that you shall set the city on fire. You shall do it according to the word of the LORD. See, I have commanded you.” 9So Joshua sent them away, and they went to the place of ambush and remained between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai; but Joshua spent that night among the people.

      10Now Joshua rose early in the morning and mustered the people, and he went up with the elders of Israel before the people to Ai. 11Then all the people of war who were with him went up and drew near and arrived in front of the city, and camped on the north side of Ai. Now there was a valley between him and Ai. 12And he took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city. 13So they stationed the people, all the army that was on the north side of the city, and its rear guard on the west side of the city, and Joshua spent that night in the midst of the valley. 14It came about when the king of Ai saw it, that the men of the city hurried and rose up early and went out to meet Israel in battle, he and all his people at the appointed place before the desert plain. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness. 16And all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city. 17So not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel, and they left the city unguarded and pursued Israel.

      18Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” So Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. 19The men in ambush rose quickly from their place, and when he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it, and they quickly set the city on fire. 20When the men of Ai turned back and looked, behold, the smoke of the city ascended to the sky, and they had no place to flee this way or that, for the people who had been fleeing to the wilderness turned against the pursuers. 21When Joshua and all Israel saw that the men in ambush had captured the city and that the smoke of the city ascended, they turned back and slew the men of Ai. 22The others came out from the city to encounter them, so that they were trapped in the midst of Israel, some on this side and some on that side; and they slew them until no one was left of those who survived or escaped. 23But they took alive the king of Ai and brought him to Joshua.

      24Now when Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the field in the wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them were fallen by the edge of the sword until they were destroyed, then all Israel returned to Ai and struck it with the edge of the sword. 25All who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000—all the people of Ai. 26For Joshua did not withdraw his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. 27Israel took only the cattle and the spoil of that city as plunder for themselves, according to the word of the LORD which He had commanded Joshua. 28So Joshua burned Ai and made it a heap forever, a desolation until this day. 29He hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua gave command and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the city gate, and raised over it a great heap of stones that stands to this day.

      30Then Joshua built an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, in Mount Ebal, 31just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the sons of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of uncut stones on which no man had wielded an iron tool; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32He wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written, in the presence of the sons of Israel. 33All Israel with their elders and officers and their judges were standing on both sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, the stranger as well as the native. Half of them stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the LORD had given command at first to bless the people of Israel. 34Then afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law. 35There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them.

I also find it interesting that at the end of a great victory, Joshua reads the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, to not just Israel, but to the strangers living among them. It is another indication that the law of YHWH was not meant only for Israel, but for all who came to join Israel and dwell among them. One law for all, not separate law for Jews vs. Gentiles.

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