Scripture Reading: Joshua 17:1-18:28 / John 1:29-51 / Proverbs 10:31-11:8
The Flim-Flam Man was a 1967 American comedy film about a drifting trickster, Mordecai C. Jones, who made his living by defrauding innocent and gullible people. He teamed up with an Army deserter and together they traveled from town to town, running their cons while trying to keep one step ahead of the law. The term “Flim-Flam” was used to describe con artists who would swindle people by clever manipulation and persuasion.
To protect consumers, The National Better Business Bureau was formed in 1912. "Medical quackery and the promotions of nostrums and worthless drugs were among the most prominent abuses which led to the establishment of formal self-regulation in business and, in turn, to the creation of the NBBB."
In ancient days, deceptive merchants would have several sets of weights in their bag. When they were buying something, they would pull out their heavier set to weigh out what they were going to buy. That would mean they would receive more product for their money. When selling, they would pull out the lighter weight so they wouldn’t have to sell as much and would make a greater profit.
God addressed this deceitful business practice in the law and instructed Israel to have just balances as they bought and sold things. They were not to have one set of weights when buying and another set when selling. Proverbs summarizes God’s response to business dishonesty, “The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.” (Proverbs 11:1)
Business dealings are to be transacted on a level playing field of honesty. How we need to be people of fairness and truthfulness. Our business dealings are to be governed by righteous character and integrity. Actions of honesty bring honor to God but deceit dishonors Him. This not only applies to our business dealings but also to our social, political, community and family relationships.
God responds to this act of deception very harshly as it is an abomination in His sight. God finds this type of sin to be detestable and repulsive. He always responds with extreme condemnation and vengeance when there is injustice and untruth. Acts of this kind were so detestable to God that He promised to drive Israel from the Promised Land if they remained unrepentive. God will defend the innocent while bringing judgment upon the oppressor.
Unethical business practices may be monetarily beneficial but they have hidden and eternal consequences. Integrity and character are more valuable than any gain we may obtain through dishonesty. God takes great delight in our honesty and is faithful to measure out His grace, mercy, love and faithfulness in abundant proportions. God loves to give and He always blesses us… more than we deserve!
Scripture Reading: Joshua 15:1-16:10 / John 1:1-28 / Psalm 53:1-6
What do these people have in common? Woody Allen, Lance Armstrong, George Carlin, Fidel Castro, Rodney Dangerfield, Albert Einstein, Jodie Foster, Bill Gates, Katharine Hepburn, John Lennon, Bill Maher, Barry Manilow, Jack Nicolson and Brad Pitt. These people identify themselves as “atheists” or “godless”.
Today, research shows about 2.3 percent of the world's population are identified as atheists and 12% percent more (and quickly growing) describe themselves as non-believers in any deity. Science has the largest concentration of atheists and many of them are among the most brilliant in the world. There are atheists in all walks of life and throughout history as well.
Mark Twain was an atheist American writer who wrote 60 books including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. In his last book, Letters from the Earth, he ridiculed The Word of God and wrote, “It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”
Thomas Edison said, "Religion is all bunk… The great trouble is that the preachers get the children from six to seven years of age, and then it is almost impossible to do anything with them. Incurably religious; that is the best way to describe the mental condition of so many people. Incurably religious."
Even David recognized the reality of atheists and said, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 53:1) The word for fool does not refer to a person who is ignorant but one who makes a conscious choice to practice immoral behavior. It wasn’t about “unintelligent people who did not believe in God” but “immoral people do not believe in God.” A practical atheist lived as though there was no God and that God really didn’t care what happened on earth.
A fool does not need to verbally say there is no God, but will simply say or believe it in their heart. They don’t believe God exists and live as though He doesn’t exist. What we believe about God in our hearts will be acted out in our life. When someone does not believe in God, they live with no absolute truth, no divine order, no restraint to lust and no limit to passion.
An atheist cannot understand the things of God and will not accept the things they don’t understand. In reality, “professing to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22). “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:20,18) Man’s foolishness isn’t measured by their IQ but by a life of immorality, a rejection of redemption and a foolish declaration... ”There is no God!”
Scripture Reading: Joshua 13:1-14:15 / Luke 24:36-53 / Psalm 52:1-9
We like promises that result in pleasure or blessings but we certainly don’t like them if they are a promise of judgment or pain. When your mother said, “Wait till your father gets home!”… We don’t like that promise. Or a person points their finger at you and says, “I promise you if it’s the last thing I do…” we don’t like that one either. A promise we long to hear is the boss saying, “I am giving you a raise!”
Not only is the promise important but also “who” is making the promise is sometimes of greater importance. If it is someone we trust and has been proven faithful…we believe the promise. If it is a person who has given failed or broken promises…we dismiss their promise. Sometimes we’re guilty of making heartless promises, without any intention to keep the promise. Sometimes we have made hopeful promises, knowing the promise is beyond our resources, ability and control.
Jesus shares a promise with His disciples, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power for on high.” (Luke 24:49) With every promise it is important to know who makes it, to whom it is given and what is promised. Jesus said the promise was the Father’s promise to give the gift of The Holy Spirit.
This Greek word for promise is a legal term denoting a promise to do or give something. It was legal and binding. The Holy Spirit has always been present in the world as “the Spirit of God” hovered over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) The Spirit of God came upon men at certain times for tasks to be done or words to be spoken. God was about to fulfill a promise He made for the Spirit’s continual and abiding presence to not simply be with man but within man…to fill them!
God promised through Old Testament prophets that He would “pour out My Spirit on all flesh.” (Joel 2:28) It was God’s promised Holy Spirit and Jesus is the one who made the promise to send it. Jesus repeatedly told His disciples that He would not leave them alone and promised to send the comforter, The Holy Spirit. This was not an idea drafted amongst theologians but a promise, divinely designed in heaven!
Jesus said the promise of The Holy Spirit was for His followers…”upon you”. They were instructed to tarry in Jerusalem… to sit and wait in anticipation for the promise. They were to wait until they received the promise. After Jesus declared this promise at His ascension, His followers stayed in Jerusalem and waited and waited and waited… They could have gotten discouraged, overwhelmed or lost faith in Christ’s words. They didn’t leave the upper room but persevered 10 days until they were endued with power from on high – the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit! Peter refers to Joel’s prophecy and reminds us this promise was not restricted to the early church but is for those who are afar off. Don’t give up on God’s promised Holy Spirit…God keeps His Promises!
Scripture Reading: Joshua 11:1-12:24 / Luke 24:1-35 / Psalm 51:10-19
If you were old enough to remember the show, “Hew Haw”, you’re probably familiar with the famous sad song of Buck Owens and Roy Clark. They sang the song with long faces and great travail… “Gloom, despair and agony on me. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair and agony on me.” They would then tell of their comical woes and try not to laugh while doing so.
I still smile when I think about that comedy sketch but some people’s sadness is so overwhelming, they can’t laugh the sadness away. Sadness is an emotion associated with loss, grief, helplessness or sorrow. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not, often times will call a man cold when he is only sad.”
Such was the case for two disciples who were walking on the road to Emmaus. They were discussing the crucifixion of Jesus and the report of the women who said Jesus was not dead but alive. Other disciples even checked out the tomb and it was empty. They were confused, did not know what to believe, in a state of doubt and were extremely sad. As they were walking, Jesus approached them but they were kept from recognizing Him.
Jesus asked, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” Their sadness and despair was very apparent as “they stood still, their faces downcast.” (Luke 24:17) They shared the events of the last 3 days and their struggle with report of the resurrection. Because of despair, they were blinded to the spiritual realities that were happening around them. They were living in the past while Jesus was walking with them in the present!
Jesus called them foolish and “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (vs.25) They were without understanding, slow to comprehend, doubtful and unbelieving. Doubt is the state of suspense where the mind is not made up either to believe or reject whereas unbelief is a definite attitude of refusal. Jesus begins to share about the Passover Lamb in Exodus and the Anointing Sacrifice in Leviticus. He continues to share scripture and prophecy highlighting God’s divine purpose, plan and promise for His life, death, burial and resurrection.
Their hearts leaped within them and as they arrived at their house, “they urged him strongly, Stay with us…” (vs.29) They wanted this stranger to stay. Their hearts burned within them and their sadness was dispelled! Jesus was waiting for an invitation and when they ate with Him, their eyes were opened and recognized the resurrected Christ. How Christ longs for us to invite Him in our lives so He can turn our sadness into joy and our despair into hope. Jesus is always on the journey with you and is always sympathizing with you… He’s waiting to reveal Himself to you!
Scripture Reading: Joshua 9:16-10:43 / Luke 23:26-56 / Proverbs 10:21-30
Jesus spoke 7 statements from the cross. One was a promise to a crucified sinner, “Today you shall be with me in Paradise”. Another was a promised provision to His mother, “Woman behold your son, behold your mother.” He asked a question of God, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” One was a revelation of His agony, “I thirst”. He made a declaration of victory, “It is finished!” and one was a finalization of completion, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.”
There was a saying of Christ’s that was different from all the others. It was His very first words as He hung on the cross. It was a prayer… a crucifixion prayer. Jesus didn’t pray for Himself, for His disciples or for His family but for those who were participating in His crucifixion. Jesus Prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Jesus prayed for them because they “didn’t have a prayer”. Spiritually they were condemned but He asked for The Father’s mercy on their behalf. If you were the Heavenly Father, how would you have responded to those who were crucifying your Son? When Israel made the golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai, God wanted to destroy them. If God desired to destroy the Israelites for their idolatry, The Father certainly had vengeance for the stiff-necked Israelites and Romans who mocked and crucified His Son. Jesus interceded for them because The Father’s wrath was a reality. This is why Christ died…Isaiah wrote, “And He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12)
They “didn’t know they needed a prayer”. They knew Jesus claimed to be the Messiah but they did not believe Him. Had they known, they would surely not have rejected and crucified Him. Paul wrote, “Which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Cor. 2:8) Ignorance may lessen the guilt but it never excuses or removes the sin. They didn’t recognize the enormity of their actions. There are times when we are in great spiritual danger and don’t even recognize it. The greatest danger of all is the danger of dying and facing God’s eternal punishment.
We also see they “didn’t think they needed a prayer”. Jesus prayed for “them”…the soldiers, mob, Pilate, Caiaphas, Annas and religious leaders. They believed they were doing a great justice by crucifying Christ and didn’t even consider it sinful or wrong. They laughed and ridiculed the Son of God as He interceded on their behalf. Their eyes were blinded and hearts hardened by the deceit of the enemy yet Jesus prayed for them. They didn’t think they needed a prayer and didn’t know they needed a prayer. Even today, people may believe in an eternal heaven yet don’t believe Jesus is the only way to salvation. Do they have a prayer? Yes! Jesus is still praying, not from a cross but from the throne room of heaven… Let’s join Him!
Scripture Reading: Joshua 8:1-9:15 / Luke 22:63-23:25 / Psalm 51:1-9
God described David as having a heart for Him. David was a true worshipper who longed to be in the House of The Lord. He was sensitive to the ways and the voice of God. Saul physically stood head and shoulders above everyone but David’s heart was highly set on the things of God, not the things of the world. We emulate David’s spiritual commitment but the greatest enemy he would ever battle was not a bear, lion or even Goliath but himself…his calloused heart and seared conscience.
David’s sin began with adultery followed by deception, then ingratitude, injustice, treachery and murder. After David’s adulterous relationship with Bathsheba and her pregnancy, he attempted to cover up his sin and when that was unsuccessful, he murdered her husband Uriah. It is said, “It is the nature of sin to multiply itself and to draw the sinner into greater and greater enormities.” So it was for David as he set aside his undivided heart for God and followed his passion, lust and pride into deeper places of sin.
He lived a double life, concealing his sin while presenting himself as righteous. In vain he strove to maintain a form of godliness but the “secret of the Lord” was lost. Outwardly he maintained a form of godliness but inwardly he was like a troubled restless sea. Not only did he conceal his sin from man, he refused to admit his iniquity before God. His impenitent heart sought to justify and excuse his sin despite his condemned conscience. Sin had blinded, hardened and enslaved him.
David showed no signs of brokenness or repentance until Nathan the prophet confronted him. Man will often conceal their sin until it is confronted or exposed. David’s confession came from his heart and he did not make excuses for his sin. His deep internal struggle was exposed and healing and restoration was now possible. David prayed, “Have mercy on me, O God.” (Psalm 51:1) He prayed for God’s mercy knowing he didn’t’ deserve forgiveness but judgment.
He was like a soiled and foul garment so he asked God, “Wash me” (vs.2) No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t remove the sin or guilty stain. “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean.” (vs.7) Lepers were declared clean and completely pardoned from sin when they were sprinkled by a water and/or blood dipped hyssop plant. David prayed, “Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.” (vs.7) Not only forgiven and acquitted but made fresh, new and pure.
David not only came face to face with his sin, he came face to face with God. His heart was broken and he responded in bitter repentance because he sinned against a righteous and holy God. He desired right standing and that would not be secured through sacrifice because there was not an acceptable sacrifice for adultery or murder. David deserved death but God granted mercy. Thank God He loves us enough to expose the sin we try to conceal… and forgives the sin we confess!
Scripture Reading: Joshua 5:13-7:26 / Luke 22:39-62 / Psalm 50:16-23
A Sunday School teacher was discussing the 10 commandments with her 5 and 6 year olds. After explaining the commandment to “honor thy father and mother”, she asked, “Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?” Without missing a beat, a little boy answered, “Thou shalt not kill.” An insightful and profound answer…the simplicity of a child!
Joshua, unlike the little boy, didn’t have an answer for the dilemma that faced him. He went to Jericho to survey their defenses, strategize, meditate and devise a plan of attack. Of all the walled cities in Palestine, Jericho was one of the most invincible. The spies described it as a city with large walls up to the sky. The Jericho wall may have been as high as 30 feet high and 20 feet thick.
Joshua did not have siege weapons, battering rams, catapults or moving towers. His weapons were slings, arrows, spears and swords…no match against impregnable walls. Jericho could not be ignored or avoided because it was the doorway to the Promised Land. Joshua had to face his fears and in the process he faced his answer. “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. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” (Joshua 5:13,14)
Joshua recognized this was no ordinary man but it was the Lord Himself. This was a Theophany – a direct, visual manifestation of the presence of Jesus Christ. Like Abraham when he was under the oak tree, Jacob at Peniel or Moses at the burning bush…Joshua knew he was in the presence of God. The great challenge of Jericho was forgotten in God’s presence. The presence of God overshadowed Joshua’s fear. Joshua was not alone…God was there whether Joshua saw Him or not!
Not only did Joshua realize he was not alone; he discovered he was not in charge. The Lord didn’t come to take sides…He was the side! It was God’s battle and the Israelites were to follow Him. This was God’s battle but required Joshua’s faith. This would not be about Joshua’s strength or military might but about Joshua’s God. God had a plan and a purpose…Joshua’s part was to believe and obey.
The Lord was not equipped with catapults or siege weapons but a sword. It was a weapon not measured by worldly standards but was supernaturally accompanied by an angelic army and the hosts of heaven. In reverence and awe, Joshua fell on his face asking for divine direction. God’s orders for Joshua…take off your sandals. Before God can do a work for us, He needs to do a work in us. Joshua needed to acknowledge the holiness of the moment before God would unveil the supernatural battle plan. Marching around a city and shouting the walls down sounds foolish and somewhat childish. We just need to obey and believe. After all…He is in charge!
Scripture Reading: Joshua 3:1-5:12 / Luke 22:1-38 / Psalm 50:1-15
A “Know-It-All” is a person who acts as though they know everything and dismiss the opinions, comments or suggestions of others. I believe we have all been guilty of being a know-it-all at some time in our life. As a teen, maybe you had an attitude thinking you knew what was best for your life while believing your parents didn’t have a clue. We can struggle with a “know-it-all” attitude with our co-workers, boss, spouse, friends or family.
Peter displayed a “know-it-all” attitude with Christ. Jesus told Peter, “Simon, Simon, satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31,32) Peter’s “know-it-all” response, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” (vs.31) Jesus announced Peter would deny Him three times.
Peter’s response was not a reflection of his spiritual immaturity or a bold confession of faith… it revealed his pride. Just a few hours before, Peter objected when Jesus tried to wash his feet. Peter was not a spiritual slouch and was a leader among the disciples. In fact, Jesus called Peter “The Rock” because of his declaration of Christ’s divinity. Yet “The Rock” needed to be broken of his pride before God could use him.
We are no different. Spiritual pride blinds us to our true condition. Pride does not measure spirituality with God’s Word but with others, “I’m not that bad… I don’t do what they do.” The hard heart of pride is one of the most difficult things to penetrate. Those who are so “spiritual” are hard of hearing - Peter’s pride drowned out Christ’s warning and Peter had more faith in himself than Christ’s words. Jesus warned him, “You will be sifted.”
Wheat was sifted by putting it in a box with a screened top, turned over and shaken violently until the dirt and chaff shook out. Spiritual sifting is a necessity for pure faith and it is often accompanied by unexpected and violent circumstances. When we don’t think there is anything else left to shake out, more prideful chaff falls out. Peter’s spiritual pride was delivered a devastating blow and his spiritual eyes were forced open. Peter talked a lot about dying for his faith but he first needed to die to himself. Unless a man dies to himself, they can’t live for Christ.
Something died in Peter that day but something was also birthed...a humble and surrendered heart began to beat. Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. His faith did waver but it brought him to a place of repentance and restoration. Something happened inside Peter that three years of teaching could not accomplish and Christ’s warnings could not shake. He went through the fire of purging, humbling and sifting. Jesus knew Peter was safe in his sorrow and would come forth a better man. Sifting is not meant to destroy us but to restore us. Like Peter, Jesus sees something in us that is worth sifting… because we are worth saving!
Scripture Reading: Joshua 1:1-2:24 / Luke 21:5-38/ Proverbs 10:11-20
A little boy was overheard talking to himself as he strutted to the backyard wearing his baseball cap and carrying a bat and ball. He announced, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world!” He tossed the ball into the air, swung and missed, “Strike One!” he yelled. He again said, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world!” threw the ball into the air again, swung and missed, “Strike Two!” he cried. He paused, looked at the ball, spit on his hands, rubbed them together and straightened his cap. “I’m the greatest hitter in the world!” he said as he threw the ball in the air. He swung, missed and exclaimed, “Strike Three! Wow…I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!”
What a perspective! In life, we can’t let circumstances dictate our attitude but interpret our circumstances according to our attitude and resolve. Joshua was about to lead millions of Israelites into a Promised Land. They refused to enter it previously as they feared the giants and doubted God’s power to give them the land. God tells Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Three times in this chapter, God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. Moses gave Joshua the same message twice in Deuteronomy 31. To be strong speaks of an inner attitude and to be courageous speaks to an outward behavior. Joshua’s strength and courage wasn’t found in himself but in the promise of God’s presence, intervention and faithfulness.
God assured Joshua, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (vs.5) In the Hebrew, this could read, “I will not slacken my grip on you…I will not let you go.” God let Joshua know He had a firm grip on him and would not let go. Interestingly, the definition for “be strong” is “fasten onto, to seize”. To be strong means that you get a grip on God, fastening onto Him with a resolve to not let go.
Joshua would face overwhelming challenges where all he could do was “hang on” to God. Possessing the land would not be easy but God required Joshua to get a firm hold on Him and walk in the power of that strength. The inhabitants of Canaan would battle Israel fiercely; it was imperative for Joshua to remain strong in faith and spirit. He would have to fight courageously in the strength of his faith.
God spoke these words of encouragement to Joshua because he was fearful and would face discouragement. There were still giants in the land, fortified cities and a looming question of Israel’s support of his leadership. Joshua was not to be terrified because God promised to be with him wherever he went and whatever he faced. Joshua was not to look to his circumstances but to His God. Like the little baseball player, Joshua’s life would not be defined by missing three pitches. When we are on God’s team, how can we lose? After all, God is the greatest hitter… and pitcher ever!
Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12 / Luke 20:27-21:4 / Psalm 49:1-20
Dr. James Bedford, a psych professor at the University of California, was the first person to ever have his body preserved cryogenically (freezing) in 1967. He had his body frozen in liquid nitrogen with the belief that he would be revived by a future medical breakthrough. He, along with more than 70 others from around the world, are waiting for medical miracles in cancer, heart disease and a myriad of other deadly disorders.
The phrase, “I’ve never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul” cannot be said about Dr. Bedford. His son Norman has moved his body several times to different facilities via a U-Haul! Bedford believed that he would live again yet he is not the first one to have that deep conviction. Egyptian Kings and wealthy Egyptians believed they would come alive again and also enjoy their riches, provisions and status in the afterlife. Egyptian tombs of the rich and famous were filled with gold, treasures, furniture and costly garments.
Man foolishly believes they have the ability to bring themselves back to life again and that their wealth will be enjoyed in the afterlife. In Psalm 49 we read, “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.” (vs.16,17)
We can’t take our riches with us into eternity yet some are still not convinced. King Tut had thousands of wealthy items buried in his tomb. Reuben John Smith of Buffalo, NY died in 1899 and was buried in the comfort of a leather recliner with a checkerboard sitting on his lap. Sandra West died in 1977 and was buried with her car as she sat behind the steering wheel dressed in a laced nightgown.
It is futile to trust in the wealth, status and fame of this world. They are insignificant and powerless in the face of death’s certainty! “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him – the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough – that he should live on forever and not see decay.” (vs.7-9)
The world’s wealth cannot buy anyone a “pass” on death or a special “get out of hell” card. It is proven that there is a 100% death rate for man whether they are rich or poor! The size of a person’s bank account or worldly influence is immaterial in death. Man cannot redeem or ransom his own soul…no matter how much wealth they possess.
The Psalmist says, “But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.” (vs.15) The only thing that will redeem our lives from the power of the grave is the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one who has paid and can ever pay our ransom… It’s the only thing we can take with us into eternity!