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After the death of Moses, Joshua assumes the mantle of leadership with the children of Israel. In the first nine verses of chapter one, God challenges Joshua three different times to be stong and courageous. God is about to fulfill His promise to the children of Israel by bringing them into the promised land. God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous because he is called to lead the people into the land. They will be prosperous and successful therefore be stong and courageous. Great advice to Joshua, but what’s the source of his encouragement? The answer is found in two promises that God gives to Joshua. The first promise is found in verse 5, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU.” The second promise is found in verse 9, “Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Discouragement can be the achilles heal of the believer. It robs us of joy while questioning God’s presence in our lives. As a result we grow weary and tired. Paul speaks of discouragement in his letter to the Galatians (6:9). Paul writes, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Do not let discouragement rob you of your joy and service. Remember, God’s promise to every believer is the same promise He gave to Joshua. He will never leave us or forsake us and he will be with us in every situation. No matter what you face today, hear God’s word for us–“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous!”

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What did become of sin? Chuck Colson poses that question in his study book “How Now Shall We Live.” In today’s worldview, the idea of sin has been dismissed. As Colson states, the biblical doctrine of sin has been cast aside. Modern thinkers hold the belief that sin is an archaic and oppressive ideology. They believe man is good and given the right social conditions he will flourish in that goodness. These are the views that drive socialism and communism. The state attempts to create the right social conditions so that man may thrive in goodness.

Why does this matter to us? Because our country is moving closer and closer to that worldview. In doing so, our government attempts to create the right social conditions for people to excel. The big problem is that many see religion and the tenets of evangelical christianity as a hindrance to the development of a better social condition. Therefore, we must limit the expression of these for the good of everyone. The flaw in this view is that no matter what conditions the state or government tries to set up, sin is still present and will corrupt their attempts.

The second concern in this ideology is that of accountability. If the notion of sin is archaic then I no longer am accountable to a higher authority. God has been removed from the picture. It also means that whatever evil I do is not my fault but rather a result from the evils of society that impact me. This worldview is now rampant in our culture. “It is not my fault that I am a serial killer, it is my parents fault because they abused me as a child.” “It is not my fault that I abuse my wife and kids, my job situation is to blame because of the pressure put on my by my work and the greedy people who run my company.” 

As believers we must stand for the truth. We must now shy away from the fact that all have sinned. Our world is not in trouble because of the wrong social conditions, we are where we are because of sin. There is only one remedy for that problem-Jesus Christ!

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How do we know for sure that we have experienced genuine repentance? On Day 24, the authors provide a threefold process of change that will take place in our lives when genuine repentance has occured.When we repent our mind changes, our heart changes and our actions change.

With our minds, we agree with God’s truth about our condition. With our hearts, we grieve over our sin and return to our first love. With our actions, we turn away from sin and temptations. We begin to live the life that God had intended for us.

Repentance is not the end of the process but the beginning. As our minds, hearts and actions change, we begin to see God do something new in our lives. We begin a Fresh Encounter with Him that leads to renewal and revival. My prayer is that all believers may experience a renewed relationship with the one than knows them the best and loves them the most-our Heavenly Father!

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Solomon asked God a very important question; “Lord, if you punish Your people because of their sin and they turn their hearts back to you, will you forgive them?” God’s answer would not only affect Israel but it would affect us as well. Is there hope for us when our hearts turn away from God? When our hearts cry out for mercy and grace will He hear? The answer to Solomon’s question and to our questions is a resounding YES! If we repent and turn back to Him, He will forgive us.

Revival begins when our hearts turn back to God with a new commitment and a new resolve to love the Lord with all our heart. God has a plan and a purpose for our lives. He is ready to bless His children. “I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer. 29:11)” Thank you Lord for your forgiveness and your promise!

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When was the last time you thanked God for a Red Sea moment in your life? Revival broke out during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah when the people heard God’s word and were reminded of His faithfulness. It also convicted them of their sin which led to genuine repentance and worship.

This past week’s devotion dealt with God’s judgement against His people when they continue in disobedience and refuse to repent. We are encouraged in today’s devotional  to experience the joy that comes when repentance has taken place and we worship God with a clean heart. Joy or discipline, that seems like an easy choice. Which one will we choose?

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God takes our sin seriously, much more seriously than we do. The last paragraph of this devotion is very sobering. If we refuse to repent when God confronts us with our sin, He will increase our discipline until He gets our attention. We need to take to heart the authors’ statement “God places limits on His patience.” When God calls us to repentance, He means now. Our delay only increases the need for additional discipline.

The same principle applies to churches. God will do whatever is necessary until His people cry out to Him for help. If you need an example of God’s challenge to the church, read His message to each of the churches found in Revelation. If renewal is going to take place, the church must heed God’s call to repent.  It must start with us first.

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I have never found a child yet that really enjoyed being disciplined by his parents. Yet, when they become adults they see the benefits and wisdom of discipline administered in love.  Normal parents do not enjoy disciplining  their children but they know it is necessary at times to keep them on the right track.

Day 16 of Fresh Encounter talks about God’s need to discipline His children.  His discipline or judgement is defined in two ways: Final judgement and Remedial judgement. Remedial judgement  is discipline that is intended to correct us and point us back to a right relationship with God. Final judgement refers to punishment that ends life or usefulness because of prolonged rebellion or severe sin. I think we would all like to avoid that so let’s focus on remedial judgement for a moment.

When God disciplines us, He does so out of love. It may hurt for a while but it is intended for our benefit. As we continue to focus on the desire for personal renewal, we need to ask ourselves a few questions. Has God been disciplining me lately? What is He trying to accomplish in that discipline? What needs to change in my life right now that will help me get back into a right relationship with Him? Finally, am I willing to respond and repent? I pray that we will. “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

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Days 11 & 12 discussed the symptoms of turning away from God. When our heart is not right with God it shows up in disobedience and allowing substitutes to take the place of God in our lives. The authors give us several examples of how this may be evident in our lives. As we read through this devotion, I think we have come to a critical time in our seeking renewal. Am I ready to consider the possibility that my heart is not right with God? Some cannot fathom the possibility. They see turning away from God only in large and defiant terms and not the subtle drifting away that results in following their own path while claiming it is God’s. The need described in the devotional is for others that are backsliders or not as faithful as I am to the church. As a pastor, it has always amazed me that some equate faithfulness to the church (attendance and involvement) as the same thing as faithfulness to God. For genuine revival and renewal to take place it can’t be about someone else, it has to be about me. If we fail to examine our own lives, how do we expect God to do something new?

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“The primary reason we need revival is that we have forsaken our love relationship with God–our first love. God invites us to repent and return to our first love.” It doesn’t get much clearer than that. On Day 10 the authors remind us of the passage in Amos where God puts a plumb line among His people. The plumb line was used to make sure a wall was perfectly straight. As the authors state, “God has built His people like a straight wall–true to plumb.” It is only when we put God’s plumb line alongside our lives that we truly see where we are in our relationship with Him and His standards.

The challenge comes in our response to the plumb line. We can ignore it and continue living the way we want. We can try to make ourselves feel righteous by comparing ourselves to others that we feel have turned away from God. We can repent, which brings us back to the beginning. To experience revival we must repent and turn back to God. How will we respond?

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“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (I Peter 2:12). On Day 8 we are challenged to examine our lives to see how well we measure up to the standards of holiness as set forth in scripture. To be an effective part of God’s mission, we need to be in a right relationship with Him.

Unfortunately, God’s people and his church are not always in a right relationship. Even with all that God has done for us, we still tend to depart from him. Day 9 asks the question; “how do we begin to turn away from the Lord and obedience to Him?”  It begins with our heart. Do we love God fully? If our love of God dwindles so does our desire to obey Him. Eventually our disobedience leads us to turn away from God’s purposes and ways. 

Take time to reflect on a couple of issues today. First, do a quick evaluation on where we stand regarding personal holiness. Are we living according to God’s standards? If not, is it part of a larger problem? Is our heart totally committed to God? Second, ask God to reveal to us the things that capture too much of our love and attention, pulling us away from Him. Above all,  be honest with God and be honest with yourself. Finally, ask God to draw us back to Him. Be committed to following his instruction. Remember, God loves us and wants to have a vibrant relationship with us through Christ.

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