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Showing posts with label Joshua. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joshua. Show all posts

Monday, July 1, 2019

When Life is Good, God is Good


Intro
As we get ready for vacation Bible school at my church on July 8-12, I have been sharing a series of messages based on the same themes. We've been studying the Exodus, when God delivered the Israelite out of slavery in Egypt. God is good all the time. And all the time, God is good. When life is unfair, scary, or when it changes, or is sad, God is good. And today, I want to say that when life is good, God is good.


Nehemiah 4:14b
“Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious…”
  

Remember…
God is good. And Nehemiah commands us to remember. God's plans are for our life, but also span over generations. We must make a point to remember all the good that God has done over the span of generations. Sometimes the good we experience today is built upon the work God was doing hundreds of years ago. And perhaps the good He will do in generations to come is built upon the things He is working in our life today (and we may never see the full fruit of it).

Remember what God did in the Exodus all started way back in Genesis with a man named Abraham. God told Abraham, "Leave your homeland and go to a country I will show you, a land flowing with milk and honey. And I will make you the father of many nations. Your descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky." This seemed impossible to Abraham because he and his wife were already very old. But they trusted God and God was faithful. They had a child named Isaac. And Isaac had Jacob. And Jacob had twelve sons. One son was named Joseph and his brothers were jealous and sold him into slavery down in Egypt. But when life was unfair to Joseph, God was good. Joseph was able to interpret Pharaoh's nightmare about the future and thus saved Egypt from a terrible famine. He saved not only Egypt, but also the nations around Egypt who came and bought food from Egypt during the famine. Even Joseph's brothers came and bought food and were saved. And so the Jacob's descendants (the Israelite) came to live in Egypt for 430 years. They multiplied and became so many the Egyptians felt threatened by them and forced them to be slaves to try and wipe them out. However, God was good and the Israelites only grew stronger. And so God sent Moses to deliver the Israelites from Slavery in Egypt. Through 10 scary plagues, God convinced the Egyptians to capitulate and let the Israelites go. God parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could walk through on dry ground. God is good.

Then Moses sent 12 spies into the Promised Land to see if it was a good land and if the Israelites could take it. Two spies--Joshua and Caleb--returned to say it was a good land and that God would help the Israelites take it. But the other ten spies were afraid and said the Canaanites were like giants and would defeat them. So God was disappointed by the Israelites' lack of faith. He decided no one from that generation would enter the Promise Land except for Joshua and Caleb. So the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years until everyone from that generation had died, except Joshua and Caleb. The Joshua became the leader of the Israelites when Moses died and he was ready to lead the Israelites across the Jordan river into the Promised Land. Again, with mighty power, God parted the waters of the Jordan River so the Israelites could walk across on dry ground. And Joshua wanted the people to never forget the mighty power and goodness of, so they set up a memorial. Listen to the story.

Joshua 4:1-7
1 When all the people had crossed the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua,2 “Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe. 3 Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight.’”

4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. 5 He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. 6 We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”
How Can We Remember Not to Forget?
When Life is Good, God is Good. Unfortunately, when life is Good, we tend to forget God. And when we forget, life loses it’s joy. And when we forget God, we stray off course and head toward trouble. It is part of human nature that when life is good, we tend to forget God. It starts out small, maybe because we think we don't need God as much when life is good. Soon we start to question if God is even real or just a superstition. We may get irritated that God has so many rules to follow, etc. We forget that the good life we enjoy came about because of the goodness of God. And when we stray, we start to run into all kinds of trouble. So, how can we remember not to forget? What can we do to help us not forget God?
Celebrate
Who doesn’t like to celebrate? It's fun. But let your celebrations be memorials to remember the goodness of God. That way, you are less likely to forget the goodness of God and that the goodness in your life comes from God. It helps you guard against forgetting, which will steal your joy and ultimately lead you into trouble. The Israelites set up 12 stones so they would always remember how God had been good to them as they crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. Even generations who never lived through it could look at the memorial and remember.

We have our own memorials too. Don't forget what they mean. This week in America, we celebrate the fourth of July when our nation won its independence. We often celebrate with fireworks. Are they just loud, colorful displays? No. They are meant to remind us of the rockets and artillery used in the war of independence when so many gave their life in the struggle for our nations freedom. America was just a bunch of backwater colonies with no army. How did we stand up against England, which was the most powerful military at the time? Could it be that God helped us win our independence against overwhelming odds. Shouldn't we remember this every time see fireworks, so that we never take our freedom or the goodness of God for granted? Celebrate in such a way that you never forget.

Worship
Worship is a verb. Through worship we adore and honor God. It’s what we were made for. And it helps us keep God at the center of our focus so we don’t forget. We worship on Sunday and then all throughout the week we meditate on the Word from worship. It helps keep us centered so we don't forget. Then when the week is over, we return to worship again. This spiritual discipline of weekly worship helps keep us focused. When our worship becomes sporadic, we lose our focus and begin to drift. Soon, we find we are headed towards all kinds of trouble because we forgot that following God faithfully is what brought us blessings to start with. So be faithful to worship the Lord regularly each week. Even during the summer, when you are away on vacation, consider how you can be faithful to worship. It will make your vacation even more meaningful.

Tithe
Tithing helps us to trust God and remember that all we have belongs to Him. It puts our faith in God’s providence and Lordship into practice. Tithing is giving 10% of your income to the Lord through His Church. So, if you earn $200 on your paycheck this week, you would give $20 to the church. That would be your tithe. If you earned $500, $50 would be your tithe. If you earned $1,000, $100 would be the tithe you give to God at church. BUt most people struggle to give a tithe. They think, I don't want to give God 10% of my money. And their we see their error in thinking. You see, it all belongs to God. It is not that God is asking you to give Him 10% of your money. He is letting you keep 90% of His money. Tithing is a challenging discipline that reminds you very vividly that God is good and you owe all your blessings to Him so you won't forget.


Serve 
Serving helps us remember it’s not all about us. God loves everyone and wants to help everyone. God chose the Israelites as His special people to be a royal priesthood. That's why he saved them from slavery. He wanted them to be a light to the gentles; in other words, He wanted them to help all people find a relationship with God. Unfortunately, the Israelites corrupted this original purpose to think they were better than everyone else. They thought God loved them and hated everyone else. But we know this is not true, because as John 3:16 says, "For God so love the world that he sent His only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life."

America is the greatest nation in the world. Miraculously, through God's providence, we gained our independence from England and grew from nothing to the most powerful country in the world. Is this because God loves us more than He loves the rest of the world? Some people in America think so; others live as if this is the case. But the Truth is, God loves the whole world. He doesn't love Americans more than anyone else and we aren't better than anyone else. God blessed America so that it could be a blessing to the whole world. I you were born or live in this great nation, it is not so you can just indulge your selfish desires. God wants you to use your freedom and privileges to help others grow closer to God.

Serving others help you remember that this life is not all about you. God loves everyone and serving helps us refocus our attention away from ourselves on the people around us that God loves.
Make a Commitment 
When Life is Good, God is good. Now is the time to make a commitment to remember the goodness of God:

Commit to Celebrate – in ways that recall all the good God has done in your life

Commit to Worship – summer is a time when many slip away from worship. Reinforce your commitment to worship each week, even while on vacation.

Commit to Tithe – give 10% of your income to the Lord through His Church

Commit to Serve – how can you serve God and the people around you?

The most important commitment of all – Commit to follow Jesus as your Savior and Lord. I hope you will make that commitment today.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Whose Side are You On? part 1 - Joshua and Jericho

Introduction
When we go through tough times, we want to know God is on our side.  Whether we’ve lost our job, are facing a serious illness, have a financial problem, or a spiritual crisis, whatever the problem is, we want to know God’s got our back.  That’s why people are more likely to pray when they face serious troubles.  And they ask others to pray for them.  Even self-proclaimed atheists start praying when they’re in a serious crisis.

Over the next two weeks, I want to show that we’ve got it all wrong.  We’re looking at life, our problems, and our relationship with God all wrong when we go begging Him to fight our battles.  Now stick with me on this.  Don’t tune me out just yet.  You’ll see what I’m saying if you hear me out.  And maybe, just maybe, it could completely change the course of your life, for the better—maybe even your eternity.

This will be a two part series.  We will look at two different stories about two different men getting ready to enter two different cities.  One story is from the Old Testament—Joshua and the city of Jericho.  The other one is from the New Testament—Jesus and the city Jerusalem.  Today, we will look at the Old Testament story of Joshua and the city of Jericho.

Background
·       Joshua took over leadership of the Israelites after Moses died.  You may remember the Israelites (AKA the Hebrews) were slaves in Egypt.  They cried out to God to save them, and God who had promised their ancestor Abraham He would bring Abraham's descendants into a land "flowing with milk and honey" heard their cry.  God sent Moses to lead them out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land.  God chose the Israelites to be is special people--a royal and holy priesthood designed to lead all the people of the world toward God.  However, the Israelites were a stubborn, rebellious, and faithless people.  They constantly complained and they did not trust God could defeat their enemies (the Canaanites who inhabited the Promised Land).  Even Moses got frustrated with God.  Therefore, God decreed that no one from that first generation of Israelites would enter the Promised Land, except for Joshua and Caleb (who were the only one's who proved they had faith in God).  The first generation of Israelites left Egypt and wandered in the desert for forty years until everyone except Caleb and Joshua died.  Then, Joshua took over leadership of the Israelites.

Now, there are some interesting facts you need to know about Joshua’s name.  The Jewish way to pronounce Joshua is Jeshua.  And Jeshua is another way to pronounce the name Jesus.  Joshua means Yahweh saves (I.E. it means God Saves).  Jesus also means Yahweh saves (IE Jesus means God Saves).  (Yahweh is the name God gave when Moses asked for His name.  It means simply, I Am.)  So Joshua and Jesus are the same name (sort of like Elizabeth and Lisa and Liza and Beth are all really the same name in English, just said differently).

Joshua is leading the Israelites into the Promise land, but the Canaanite fortress of Jericho stands in the way.  God promised the Israelites He would destroy the Canaanites because of their sin and give their land to the Israelites.  That sounds pretty harsh to us today.  We wonder, "Is that really the way God is?"  We have to have faith God is holy and righteous and just and merciful and good.  And when we understand some things about the Canaanites, we begin to see God was right to destroy the Canaanites.  Let's consider the character of the Canaanites.

First of all, the Canaanites knew about the God of the Bible but rejected Him in favor of false gods.  As Romans 1:21 says, “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God…”  When they didn't like living the way God commanded, they rejected God and invented their own pretend gods that would only tell them things with which they agreed.  We see this kind of attitude in our day and age all the time.  You ask someone today, "What is God like?"  They will say, "I think God is like..." and they will give you their opinion about their version of what God is like. Now, nine times out of ten, their opinion of God is not based on Scripture.  It's only based on their own ideas or the ideas they've heard from others that they like.  People who base their ideas about God on their own ideas or public opinion generally dismiss stuff that doesn't fit with their ideas about God.  In essence, this is just inventing a god according to your own imagination.  And if you go down that road long enough, you end up with some truly crazy and sinful and perverted ideas.  But God said His name is Yahweh.  As He told Moses, "I Am Who I Am".  We don't get to decide who God is.  Our opinions about Him don't change who He really is.  He just is.

The Canaanites tried to make God into who they wanted Him to be and it led them into all kinds of terribly sinful behavior.  Specifically, they worshipped false gods and idols.  Adultery and sexual promiscuity was rampant in their society.  The gods they invented actually encouraged sexual promiscuity as part of their worship.  They hired prostitutes to have sex with worshipers in their temples as part of the worship service (now there's a perverted way to increase worship attendance!).  This is how perverse their view of holiness had become!  It went further.  They accepted homosexuality and even incest and bestiality!  Now you may wonder how anyone can think having sex with animals (beastiality) is acceptable.  That's just gross!  Well, guess what: fifty years ago people in America thought homosexuality was evil and disgusting; however today, homosexuality is increasingly accepted in our own society.  When you start going down the road to making god and morals according to your own designs, you end up with incredibly wicked behavior and people think it is normal and good and even holy.  The Canaanites were sexually immoral and they raped and murdered.  They even sacrificed children as part of their worship because they thought that's their gods wanted.

But Yahweh is good and holy and righteous and just and patient and merciful.  He is not quick to dish out punishment by destroying a whole people.  The Canaanites' sins had continued for nearly 700 years--from the time of Abraham all the way through to Joshua.  And in 700 years, you know God sent many people to call the Canaanites to repentance, but they would not.  So you see, God would absolutely have redeemed them if only they would have surrendered and turned from their sins and turned to God, but they would not.

Furthermore, the Canaanites knew what God could do and that His people were coming to bring
judgment for their sins. In Judges 2:11, we read about some spies Joshua sent into Jericho.  While there, the spies met a  Canaanite prostitute named Rahab who explains, “We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites...”).  So, the Canaanites in Jericho knew God was powerful and He was sending His people to destroy them, but they still would not surrender.  God was willing to save those who surrendered and repented, but most would not (except for a few exceptions like Rahab).  And it's quite revealing to see that God would save a person like Rahab.  Rahab was a prostitute.  So it's not like God was saying, "They are too far gone, what they've done is just too bad and unforgivable."  No.  God was willing to save Rahab.  And the fact that Rahab's great, great, great, great... grandson is Jesus tells us God was willing to save and honor anyone who turns to Him.  Unfortunately, few of the Canaanites did.

Joshua faced formidable resistance.  Jericho was a fortress with walls six feet thick and as tall as ten stories! And it was full of armed soldiers who would rather fight to the death than surrender and give up their sinful lifestyle.  Think about the obstacles in your life that seem like an impenetrable fortress as you read the interesting thing that happened to Joshua as he face Jericho.

Joshua 5:13-15
13 When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”
14 “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.”

Actually, the original Hebrew (according to Rev. James Michael Smith) is actually just “No.”  Joshua says, "Are you friend or foe?" and the commander of the Lord's army simply replies, "No."  It's like the commander of the Lord's army is saying, "You aren't even asking the right question.  No."

At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?”

Joshua is a man of God.  He knows his place.  “I am at your command.  What do you want me to do?”  This is the right attitude when you come face to face with the commander of the Lord’s Army or any true representative of God.

15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told.

Facing Jericho
Joshua had a monumental task ahead of him. Jericho was not just a city. It was a fortress. When you find yourself facing your own Jericho, what do you do?  Most of us want to make sure God's on our side.  Abraham Lincoln was a truly godly man--perhaps one of the godliest presidents America has ever had in one of the most difficult times in the nation's history.  The northern states and the southern states were at war over the issues of slavery and states rights.  The southern states were praying, "Lord, help us defeat our enemies in the south!"  The southern states were praying, "Lord, help us defeat our enemies in the north!"  It is reported that Abraham Lincoln once said, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”

We want to make sure God is on our side. Maybe that’s the wrong attitude. Maybe, we ought to make sure we are on God’s side, because God’s side is always right and will always achieve victory in the end.

Make Sure You’re On God’s Side
Well then, how do you make sure you are on God's side?  First of all, you have to surrender.  Notice what Joshua did when he recognized he was face to face with the commander of the Lord's armies.  He immediately surrendered.  He went from a demanding attitude to falling on his face in reverence and saying, "I am at your command.  What do you want your servant to do?"  When we come to the realization that God truly is Lord and He made us for His purposes, the very first act should be our unconditional surrender.  We must fall on our face before Him and say, "I am at Your command.  What do you want Your servant to do?"

Second, we must walk humbly with our God every day so we stay in tune with His ongoing commands and will for our lives.  How do we do that?  First, we go off by ourselves to be alone; and then we realize, we are not really alone at all.  God is with us.  Perhaps that is how Joshua was able to notice the commander of the Lord's army in his midst.  Joshua was a man with the tremendous responsibility of leading thousands of people.  He was under tremendous stress.  Perhaps he stepped away for a moment to be by himself and in doing so realized he was not alone at all.  How about you?  Do you ever step away from the hussle and bussle of life long enough to be alone and realize you are not really alone at all?  God is with you, right there.  And then we begin to know what He wants of us.  We can all find a little time to be alone--even if it's just a few minutes while we drive alone in the car and we turn off the radio and just drive in silence.  Or maybe it is when you are alone in the bath or in the shower.  Make that intentional time with God.

And if we are going to stay in tune with God so we make sure we are always on His side, we need to rediscover the spiritual disciplines our culture has so often forgot--prayer, fasting, meditation.  You know, Jesus said, "When you fast..."  He didn't say, if you fast; Jesus assumed His followers would fast.  But how many people in our day and age fast as a regular spiritual exercise?  We need to rediscover this discipline.

And we must immerse ourselves in God’s Word.  We must stop basing our ideas about God on our own personal opinions and the things we heard from others.  God has told us who He is and what He's done and what He wants us to do.  It's all right there in the Holy Bible.  Most people in America own multiple copies of the Bible, but they do not read them.  We are biblically illiterate.  We must read, study, and obey God's Word in the Bible.  This should be a regular part of our daily habits.  It must be if we are to stay in tune with God and make sure we are always on His side.

And when we know we are on God's side (not that He is on our side), we will worship and serve Him.  We will make the Kingdom of God our first priority and we will live and die for God, however He commands.  We will join with Joshua who said, "I am at Your command.  What do you want Your servant to do?"

We must change our whole perspective on life.  Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters.  For you will either love the one and hate the other or you will hate the one and love the other."  So we must ask the question in every area of our life.  Is God my Lord or not?  Is He first?  We often say He is Lord and He is first, but then we find we are really serving some other lord or some other god or some other thing or ourself, and God is only tagged on as something extra.  He is not really our master.  We only want God to be on our side.  And He says, "No.  I am Yahweh.  I Am Who I Am."  

What’s Your Jericho?
From time to time in life, we all come up against a Jericho and we want to know, "Is God on our side?"  It's time we stop thinking that way.  It's the wrong question.  Instead, we must strive to be on God's side.  For God is always right and good and holy and just.  And in the end, God's side always wins.  I want to be on God's side.  Don't you?

Check back with me next week as we look at another story about another man in another time who was about to enter another city--Jesus and the city of Jerusalem on the day Christians celebrate as Palm Sunday.