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Learning to Embrace Peace (Jerusalem) 3 of 31

peace-on-earth-handsAnd the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7.

As word was spreading of Israel’s conquest, many of the surrounding people began to fear for their own lives and cities. Adonizedec, the king of Jerusalem (see Joshua 10) gathered around him the kings of Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon to fight against Israel. They were hoping to join together and prevent God’s people from taking their land. Yet Joshua 10 tells us about the mighty victory Israel gained against these kings and their armies. We see a fascinating image of Joshua personally dealing with the kings in this manner:

And it came to pass, when they brought out those kings unto Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said unto the captains of the men of war which went with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them. And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the Lord do to all your enemies against whom ye fight. And afterward Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees: and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening. And it came to pass at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded, and they took them down off the trees, and cast them into the cave wherein they had been hid, and laid great stones in the cave’s mouth, which remain until this very day.   Joshua 10: 24-27.

Jerusalem means “teaching of peace” and that is exactly what this victory was. As the enemy had tried to join together and cause intimidation and fear, God brought a great victory and taught His people to be at peace. Peace is a powerful key to victory. When you can learn to be at peace even in the midst of attack or turmoil, you are able to be victorious even before the battle is over – a person at peace is confident of the outcome.

Philippians 4: 7 says it is a peace that “transcends all understanding.” In our own minds and understanding, the things God has called us to may not line up or make sense. As we trust Him we don’t lean to our own understanding (see Proverb 3: 5-6). And here He calls us to have a peace beyond understanding. God wants us to learn to have and walk in His peace.

One caution is to not mistake relief for peace. Many times we can feel relief and assume it to be peace, but they are not the same. Consider the definitions of each (taken from dictionary.com):

  • Peace is the cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension.
  • Relief is the alleviation, ease, or deliverance through the removal of pain, distress or oppression…
  • Relief can be deceiving in that you feel better just because the feeling of pain, distress or oppression is gone.
  • Peace is a genuine condition of the heart and spirit that can be present even if the pain, distress or oppression remains.
  • Relief may be the “removal of” these feelings or conditions, but peace is “freedom from” not only the conditions, but also the strife that accompanies the conditions.

The peace of God does not allow conditions and circumstances to have place over you.

As the children of Israel gained victory over Jerusalem they learned a valuable lesson on peace. Years later, during the reign of King David, Jerusalem became the capital of the united kingdom of Israel (see 2 Samuel 5) and is the site of the temple built by Solomon (see 2 Chronicles 3-7). Where God taught His people peace is where He chose to have His House built and to have His presence dwell. Jerusalem also is the site of the crucifixion of Christ (see Luke 23). The place where peace was taught and established became the birthplace of our salvation. God has always established peace as a key to our inheritance.

Peace is God’s gift of wholeness or when all essential parts are joined together. My prayer today is that in all of our lives we would enjoy God’s gift of wholeness. I pray there would be peace in your home and family as you join together as one to fight against the attacks of the enemy. I pray that in your churches, precious time and resources would not be wasted by fighting against one another, but instead that you would join together in peace to see the Kingdom of God advance. As Paul taught the Colossians, may the peace of God rule in our hearts (Colossians 3: 15), and may it do so in every facet of our lives.

 

Understanding The Renewal Of God (Ai) 2 of 31

800-Joshua-08-Ai DefeatedFollowing the dramatic victory over Jericho, the children of Israel came to a small area known as Ai. Joshua sent some men to spy the land and the report was that Ai was small, and that it would only take a portion of the army of Israel to defeat them. Joshua sent only some of the fighting men against Ai; yet surprisingly the children of Israel found themselves defeated by this inferior army. The reason for their defeat was that Achan had taken some things from Jericho when God had clearly told the entire camp not to do so (see Joshua 7).

In the last message we focused on the importance of breaking away from darkness (Jericho) and not taking or keeping anything as a token or trophy from that place of victory. We see in the battle against Ai why this is so important. By the choice of one man, Achan, an entire army was put into a precarious position and thirty-six men lost their lives. Until Israel fully distanced themselves from the darkness, they were unable to progress and thus possess their inheritance.

After the sin had been dealt with, however, they gained victory against Ai: which means “a heap of ruins.” Oftentimes after a person overcomes darkness and sin, they are confronted with a life and circumstances that appear to be a heap of ruins. How many times have you asked, “What can God possibly make of or do with me?” In order for us to march forward and possess what God has for us, we must overcome our own perspective. A person is not defined by where they have been. God defines a person by where He wants to take them.

The enemy would love to convince you and me that we are a heap of ruins and that we have no potential to be used by God in any way. But we must deal with that lie in the same way that Joshua dealt with the city of Ai.

And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap forever, even a desolation unto this day. Joshua 8:28

God wants to take you to great places in Him, to put you into a position to do great things for Him. Do not allow the enemy to deceive you into believing differently. Ai is located next to Bethel. In Key Sixteen we will discuss Bethel, which means house of God. The heap of ruins was near the house of God. Isn’t it interesting how the enemy often tries to get us to give up when we are so close to where we need to be? The enemy fears that we will realize who we are in Christ and wreak havoc on his kingdom. May our hearts be awakened today with the truth and knowledge of who we are in Christ. I am not a heap of ruins. You are not a heap of ruins. We are exactly what God is looking for to use in His Kingdom.

While the enemy is working hard to convince us that we are nothing, that we are a heap of ruins, God sees us differently. If we make ourselves available to Him, there is nothing that He cannot do in and through our lives. Listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. Isaiah 1:18-20

God has made the “good things of the land” available to you and me, if we are willing and obedient. Not only are we not a heap of ruins, but in Christ we are made a heap of blessings – both blessings that we can enjoy from the Lord as well as those we can be for the Lord.

Overcoming the Darkness (Jericho) 1 of 31

battle-of-jericho4Many have heard the story of the fall of the walls of Jericho. God had given instructions to Joshua and the children of Israel to march around the city in silence one time for six days in a row; and to march around the city seven times on the seventh day, shouting and blowing the trumpets on the seventh time around. When they did what God had told them to do, the walls of Jericho fell down flat and the children of Israel went into the city and destroyed it. With that the conquest of the land had begun (see Joshua 6).

But why was Jericho first? Is there any significance other than geographical as to why Jericho was the first city of conquest? The name Jericho means “city of the moon,” which depicts night and darkness, a time of limited activity and limited vision. Jericho was first spiritually, because darkness is the first thing any of us must overcome in order to possess our true inheritance.

Inability to get beyond the darkness will keep you from obtaining what God has for you. I see this as the primary reason for Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Christ. He was unable to get beyond the darkness. Scripture points out, Jesus answered,

“It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.  So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night (John 13:26-30).

Judas stepped out into the night to betray Christ. He wasn’t able to get beyond the darkness. There is a darkness or iniquity within each of us, and it will manifest itself in and through our lives if we do not overcome it. Jericho had to be defeated first so that the children of Israel could begin to walk in the light of God’s inheritance.

Remember too, that Jericho and everything in Jericho were to be devoted unto the Lord (see Joshua 6: 17). I would encourage you to write down what you sense the Lord speaking to you about in terms of darkness in your life. Along with that, write down some action steps you can take to see your own walls of darkness fall. I heard it said that the children of Israel marched around the walls of Jericho so they could get a full view of the wall they were facing.

Today’s challenge is for us to get a full view of the darkness we are facing in our lives, and then do as Paul instructed the Romans:

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.   So let us put aside the deeds of darkness   and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh (Romans 13: 11-14).