But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Daily Readings – Joshua 23-34, Mark 6, Psalm 66

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua 24:15

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

What a beautiful verse. There is power in a public declaration that your house will serve the Lord. This is a verse that has become one of the most popular verses in modern Christianity. If I had to guess, I bet this single verse can be found hung proudly in more Christian homes than any other verse in the Bible.

When reading the entirety of Joshua 24 today and the surrounding verses, something struck me today. As beautiful as this verse is, and as much we like to profess it as Christians in America on decorations we hang by our doorway, it is also a good example of what we tend to do with the Bible in general in America.

We tend to water it down. We have a tendency to pick isolated verses that give us the warm and fuzzy version of faith we desire and not dig into the rest.

Here are verses 16-22

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”

Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”

But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”

Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”

“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.

When Joshua was making this bold proclamation and the Israelites were recommitting themselves to follow the Lord, he did not pull any punches. When we declare that we are turning our life over to God, he expects us to honor that. There are consequences when we don’t.

We are human and will always fall short in moments of human weakness. God knew this and, in his divine wisdom, sent his son to pay the price for our sins so that we could still have a relationship with him and inherit eternal life. We serve an amazing father in Heaven that gives us more grace than we deserve!

Even if we truly turn our lives over to Christ, there will be moments of weakness.

However, what we see throughout the Bible is that there is a difference between momentary human weakness, and turning sin into an idol that we worship.

We see this again in Psalm 66:16-20 today.

Come and hear, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!

Our natural tendency is to want to focus on verses like, “Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” 

It is less exciting to think about the verse immediately before, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

Again, there is a big difference between, “If I had I sinned…” and “If I had cherished sin in my heart…”

One speaks to momentary weakness; the other speaks to idolatry.

The combination of these verses really stood out to me today, because I think we have a tendency in the American Church to preach a gospel of confession without repentance. We have a tendency to put out there a message of, “Believe in Jesus and your sins are forgiven and you have punched your ticket to heaven!”

In the Bible what we actually read is that even demons believe in God and shudder. What separates Christians is acting upon those beliefs. When we gloss over this portion of the gospel, we do a massive disservice to those we are doing life with. If someone has given over their life to Christ, there is fruit in that person’s life. You can see a change. That is spoken of over and over again throughout the Bible.

These changes are not the reason someone is saved. You cannot do enough good deeds to earn your way into heaven. That is why Jesus came. Life change is not the way into Heaven, but it is the evidence that someone has genuinely given their life over to Jesus and not just simply believed in him.

I love what Joshua did when the Israelites said, “We are in! Sign us up!” He didn’t leave it at that and celebrate. He didn’t treat it as if the sale had been made, his motivational talk had worked, etc. He challenged them. He told them what they were committing to truly meant.

If we profess to be Christians, have we done this for ourselves? Have we looked inwardly and asked God to reveal any strongholds in our hearts? Have we asked him to show us any metaphorical altars we have built in our lives that are taking the place where he is meant to dwell?

I want to have the type of faith that produces fruit. I want to constantly be asking God to refine me. I want my family to truly serve the Lord and not just have the pretty artwork hanging by the front door.

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Is that something we are willing to declare today? When Joshua goes on to challenge us about what that is going to take, are we willing to reaffirm that statement?

Thought to ponder

What altars have I erected in my heart? What sin do I not only succumb to, but also actually cherish, that may be keeping me from experiencing full life in Christ?

Speaking truth in love

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 31-32, 2 Corinthians 7, Psalm 55

I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

2 Corinthians 7:4, 8-11

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he did not pull any punches. He was extremely blunt in telling the church at Corinth the ways in which their actions were counter to their proclaimed faith in Christ.

Reading this passage today made me start to think through my life and consider the times where I might have had the opportunity to be Paul writing back to the church at Corinth, but chickened out. I started to think about people in my life right now that could use some truth spoken into their lives, where I have the strength of relationship and credibility with them necessary to deliver the message in love, but where I am just more comfortable sitting on the sidelines, praying for change, but not wanting to rock the boat.

I have always strived throughout my life to be someone who is unafraid of speaking truth in love, but there are always people in my life, at any given time, where I feel myself pulling back. I don’t want to cause strife in the relationship. I rationalize that they are not at a point where they would be willing to hear the truth. I don’t want to cause sorrow.

…yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

So true!

True friends tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear. I want people in my life that are willing to be Paul and challenge me if they see me living a part of my life that is out of step with the life God has called me to live. And I want the courage to be Paul when necessary.

Being Paul starts with forming strong relationships. Paul spent significant time with the church at Corinth pouring into them. He built the church from the ground up. He knew the people and they knew him. There was a bond.

If we desire to be marketplace missionaries, in whatever profession God has called us, it starts with building genuine relationships and not just surface level ones. If we desire to have an impact for the Kingdom, it takes time and effort to build the type of relationship where you can grab coffee with someone and say, “Listen, I love you, and because I love you I have to tell you…”

Then we have to be unafraid to speak the truth in love even if it causes temporary sorrow, knowing that this temporary sorrow is frequently needed to bring long-term repentance.

Eternity is worth it.

In our moment-to-moment, fast paced world, not only is eternity impossible to comprehend, but it is frequently hard to even conceptualize five years from now! And yet, truth spoken in love can have a massive impact on that person’s life here on earth for the next 5, 10, 20, 50 years, as well for an eternity. And yet I occasionally find myself pulling back, unwilling to cause sorrow for a week, month, or six month period, in order to help a true friend gain lasting freedom.

Freedom is worth it. Freedom from the lies Satan tells us. Freedom from the bondage of the sin issue that we have fallen into and believed we are unable to kick. Freedom from the rationalizations we have told ourselves in order to believe that maybe, just maybe, God wasn’t all that serious in his word when he said _________.

I want to be surrounded by Pauls in my life and I want to be unafraid to be one as well. Without the willingness to speak truth in love, we also lack the ability to experience the overwhelming joy that comes from walking with a brother or sister in Christ as they come out the other side changed, free, and back walking the path they were designed to walk. While afraid to speak the truth, we lack the ability to have the full impact we were built to have here on earth for God’s Kingdom.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.

I want no regrets, when thinking back on conversations that could have been had, when this life ends.

It is worth it.

Thought to ponder

What is one courageous conversation I have been conveniently avoiding with a friend that I can have this week? Do I value their friendship enough to have it?

A thorn in our side

Daily Readings – Numbers 33-34, Psalm 45

On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes.

“‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”

Number 33:50-56

As we will see throughout the Old Testament in coming months, the Israelites would have been well served to follow God’s command. Instead they did not clear out the lands that God had prepared for them and it ended quite poorly. The inhabitants in their land truly did become barbs in their eyes and thorns in their sides, ultimately leading to the Israelite’s exile.

It got me thinking this morning, how many times have there been in my life where I conveniently set aside a command of God’s and then dealt with the challenges for months and years to come?

It is easy to have a mindset that we will see throughout the Old Testament, where we want God to swoop in a remove any negative repercussions from previous decisions the moment we turn back to him. We want God’s grace to be accompanied by instant removal of any lingering consequences.

The truth is that God is a loving father who is waiting there with open arms ready to welcome us back home when we turn back to him. His love is infinite and the grace he gives us is all encompassing. However, like all loving fathers, that doesn’t mean that there is not still discipline required.

With virtually any sin issue in our lives, there are almost always self-inflicted challenges we have to deal with on the backend. These challenges may be with our health, finances, career, emotional health, trust with others, etc. Sin issues in our life almost always leave behind some “inhabitants” in our lives that we are forced to deal with as thorns in our side.

When we are out of line with God’s commands, but eventually choose to turn back to him, it typically takes patience and effort to fully remove the thorn. It takes truly accepting the grace we have been given through Christ on the cross and walking out of our new identity. It requires not allowing that identity to be shaken when we are pushing through these negative repercussions.

It takes remembering who God has said that we truly are. We are sons and daughters of God. We are loved more than we can ever imagine.

Fortunately, when we are walking closely with God, there is so much more peace in our lives, even when dealing with the negative repercussions of previous actions. God will be there every step of the way with us as we trudge through these challenges.

When my daughters misbehave and I can tell they truly are sorry, every ounce of me wants to immediately remove the consequences we have set for those actions. I want to immediately say, “Never mind! I know you are sorry! Let’s go back to playing games!” However, I know that it is important that actions have consequences. I tell them how much I love them, that I only want the best for them, and that I am really excited to go back to having fun soon, but there do have to be consequences.

How much more loving and wise is our Father in Heaven?

So when you are living out repercussions, remember that this is not God being mad at you. Once you have turned back and repented of this sin issue, God is overjoyed. That doesn’t mean the ramifications immediately evaporate, but if we walk through those challenges with Christ at our side, the yoke is easy and the burden is light.

Thought to ponder

What thorns in my side still exist from current or previous times where I was not walking in line with God’s will? Have I given that area of life fully over to God?

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