Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sermon--Joshua--Are You Sure?

Unfortunately, we were not able to get the audio of this message. We had a special guest musical group playing for us, called Corban. They led in praise and worship and were great. However, the switching around of computers didn't allow us to get this sermon recorded. It is better listening to it--it's mostly outline below.

We’ve been looking the last few weeks at Joshua and the Israelites. Starting back on July 1st, we looked out how we need to Make a Declaration of Dependence on God for Strength & Courage, for Doing Amazing Things, and for Victory. We’ve looked at how Joshua had been prepared to take the lead from Moses and was mentored for over 40 years. All of this is leading up to the Moment of Crossover. It was just a month or so after Moses died. How can we replace the Legend? It was after the generation that had seen God deliver them from Egypt had died off. Most of those still alive had vague memories of those acts of deliverance at best. They had seen 40 years of wandering in confusion, 40 years of wondering… how long are we going to be stuck here? When will we ever move forward and have a future of our own? After growing up in the desert—now they were on the verge of the Promised Land—just one little river stood between them and the parcel of land that their parents had feared and turned away from.

With good reason, they had many things they were not sure of. If you were a reporter and could go up and interview some of the Israelites in that moment, I believe you would hear things like this:

We’re Not Sure of the Way to Crossover—

We’re Not Sure We Can Do Great Things—other people, yeah maybe, but not me…some of us are pushing 60 years old

We’re Not Sure about Our Leader—the new guy can’t possibly live up to what Moses did

We’re Not Sure It Will Be As Good as the Past—it’s been a while since God has done things like that

We’re Not Sure Anyone Will Care or Remember—since we couldn’t remember what God had already done, we wouldn’t trust Him for the future

To all of those concerns, worries and uncertainties, God has an answer.

You’re Not Sure of the Way to Crossover—I Will Show You

READ Joshua 3:1-4

Follow the Ark—The Symbol of My Presence Among You—let it lead the way

By Following His Presence—You will know the Way

John 14—“I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.”

Wherever He Leads I’ll Go

Crossing over into God’s Promise means you are following Him

Admit you don’t know the way

Acknowledge that He does

Trust that He will lead you faithfully when you don’t know the way

You’re Not Sure You Can Do Great Things

I Will Do Amazing Things Among You

READ vs. 5-6

They had been seeing the same miracle every day—the manna, the quail—so much so it became routine—they no longer saw the majesty of the miracle in front of them.

Wondering What God can do that’s not so routine—God does those with other people, not with us.

I’m sure the apostles thought the same thing. No one expected, when they were sent out to be able to deliver demons in the name of Jesus. That’s why they were so surprised when they came back and told Jesus. No one expected Peter to be delivered from Prison. No one expected the Gentiles to receive the same Holy Spirit

No one knew that faith in Christ would outlast the Roman Empire

We always seem to be Surprised by God working Among us. But why?

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

You’re Not Sure about Your Leader—3:7

I Will Raise Him Up

No Longer in the Background

Only God can exalt him, no one else has the ability

In the Eyes of My People

So they May Know

I am With You—same promise as in Exodus 3:12

As I was with Moses

But not even Moses was able to get us there! Not even Moses was allowed to enter the Promised Land—How will this guy be any different?

This generation no longer thought of themselves as slaves

No more talk—a lot more Action

I need to hear those types of encouragements—Be Strong and Courageous—many days I don’t feel very strong, I don’t feel very courageous. I question how God would use me as your pastor. I question—‘how could God do great things in me?”

So pray for me—lift me up before Him—I need it.

You’re Not Sure It Will Be As Good as the Past—I Will Part the Waters—3:14-17

The people must have wondered…Can it really be better than it was in previous generations? Are we going to be used like Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, like those that were delivered from Egypt?

Maybe better isn’t the right word—can God really use us in the same, powerful way that He used the generations before us?

Flood Stage—fast Moving, powerful water, the kind of waters that would pick up your car and deposit 20 miles away—the kind that moves houses—the kind that kills.

Their Feet Touched the Water’s Edge—I’ve heard of smelly feet before but never so bad that water wouldn’t go near them! Somehow I don’t think that was the issue.

The waters piled up about 20 miles away

I hope you believe that He can! I hope you believe that He WILL! I hope you are willing to not only be used by Him, but willing to do whatever it takes!

We’ve heard stories of the parting of the Red Sea, the Fire Consuming the Altar—and we almost long for those days—saying “God… do those again!”

But let me assure you, that it is just as great if not greater a miracle every time you see someone made into a New Creation in Christ. That moment shapes eternity and shakes the gates of hell. Satan himself has to say… “great, we lost another one. I wish these Christians would leave my property, my slaves alone”

You’re Not Sure Anyone Will Care or Remember—I Will Show You How to Remember—4:1-7, 19-24

It is vital to remember—to make a memorial of What God has done—so they didn’t forget

A sign among you

Future generations—your children—the will ask

So that all the peoples of the earth may know—vs. 24

So you might always Fear the Lord Your God

Our Response to God’s Responses

Will You Follow, even if you don’t know the way?

Will You attempt Great things, even if You don’t know the outcome?

Will you pray for your pastor and lift me up before God?

Will you Look with expectation on our church’s Future and not just with nostalgia on it’s great past?

Will you be a part of things worthy of Remembrance that future generations will know that God worked among us today?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sow, Reap then Plow?

I shared this in response to a question a friend of mine asked. Kiki (see her link to the right) had asked people to share about what God is teaching us lately. Here's what I said.


Here's something I noticed today. I've been reading "Downpour" by James MacDonald. At one point, he had me look at Hosea 10:12--"sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes and showers righteousness on you."

Now, maybe I'm missing my farming analogies, considering I'm not a farmer, but don't you want to break up your unplowed ground before you sow any seeds? Isn't it necessary to do that before you're able to harvest anything?

And yet the order is, Sow, then Reap, then Break Up. So it got me to thinking, that if, in the areas of our lives that are "awake" and devoted to God, we are willing to plant and even see the harvest of righteousness, then we had better get more of our life ready for His abundance.

IOW, if we are willing to let God's righteousness to shower us--and produce a crop of righteousness in our lives--it will overflow our own system of levees and dams and flood the "unplowed ground" that we want to hold off for ourselves and not devote to Him.

When that happens the reaping is even greater. Land/Life that was previously unused will become fruitful and abundant in the blessing of God.

That is what I pray for myself today. That God's righteousness will shower my life and bring it to life. That this abundance and blessing will spread to those parts of me that I'm not letting Him use, that I'm holding back.

Lord, God, I don't want to hold anything back from You.

Lord Reign in me
Reign in Your power
Over all my dreams
In my darkest hour
You are the Lord
Of all I am
So won't You reign in me Again!

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Any thoughts or questions?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

M. Night Shyamalan's "Unbreakable" and Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven Life"--Connected

“It’s a scary thing, to not know your place in this world.”

That is one of the lines from Mr. Glass, played by Samuel L. Jackson in M. Night Shyamalan’s movie, Unbreakable.

I watched the film again last night with my father in law, who had never seen it. It was another one of those movies that you have to see more than once to really figure it out and even more to really appreciate what’s going on in it.

One way I can describe the film is that it is the essence of Rick Warren’s, “Purpose Driven Life” set to film—especially the seeking of purpose and meaning and the desperate steps some are willing to take to find and/or manufacture it. And especially the search for purpose or meaning apart from God.

Men, from my perspective (which includes myself) especially have a hard time identifying what they are doing as worthwhile. Does it matter? Am I making a difference?

With me, I work in the realm of ideas—much of my work is communicated in a sermon on Sunday mornings or during study times. Other parts of what I do is influencing people’s lives, ministering when they are hurting, counseling, praying. There are few little tangible things I can point to and say, “I did that.” It’s hard to say when I have accomplished or finished something.

This film really explores that subject. Each morning, the main character, David Dunn wakes up sad—because he’s not doing what he’s supposed to be doing—he’s run away from his calling in life and it is eating away at him, making him a poor husband and father.

I understand what the character is going through. For years I denied being called as a Pastor. I tried to do anything else, but God wouldn’t let be happy or satisfied doing anything else. Even though I’m now doing what I’m supposed to be doing, some days are more difficult than others.

The Mr. Glass character is desperate to find an explanation for his existence and his condition—his bones break easily because he doesn’t produce an enzyme well. He is scared, terrified to consider that there is no reason or explanation for it. That he is a cosmic accident. Even though his mother tries to pass on a faith and trust in God, he clearly finds it unsatisfying. And so—SPOILER ALERT-- he is willing to do anything, even mass murder, to find something that will satisfy and remove the cold, pit of darkness and purposelessness that has been haunting him.

Just finding his “meaning” is enough to satisfy and makes even being incarcerated in a mental institution worth it. "Now that we know who you are, I know who I am", he says. A brilliant mind is desperate to find meaning.

The popularity of Rick Warren’s book would seem to suggest that there are many people desperately searching for meaning. The second chapter is titled, “You Are Not An Accident”. Maybe Night should write in a future story someone giving him a copy of PDL!!!

Several themes are important in the film which I would recommend (only a couple incidents of profanity). Here’s a few that stand out to me.

Our Desperate need for Purpose—which only God can supply—every single person has a place of significance in God’s plan—we miss out on life when we refuse to participate. And when we try to find it apart from God, we spiral into brokenness and destruction

Ordinary Heroes—the men and women God uses are not the best, most popular, best looking, wealthiest—He uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. Those the world considers ordinary can, in their faithfulness, have a cosmic impact. Philip Yancey’s book, “Disappointment With God” has a chapter called, “A Role in the Cosmos”. In it he says, “the faith of a single human being counts for very much indeed. Job affirms that our response to testing matters. The history of mankind—and, in fact, my own individual history of faith—is enclosed within the great drama of the history of the universe.

Unfulfilled Purpose affects your role as Husband and Father. David Dunns marriage is in shambles, he keeps his wife and son distant, his son desperately wants a reason to connect with his father.

Have you seen the movie? What do you think? Any other important themes?

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Joshua's Concern & Moses' Dream--Numbers 11

Joshua—A Mentored Man—Pt. 2—Joshua’s Concern and Moses’ Dream

I remember a time from my childhood when I lived in southern California. We lived on a little circle that had a lot of boys. And like a lot of boys, they occasionally got in fights. Even with their next door neighbors. On one occasion, I was in a fight with my next door neighbor, Steve. He was a year older than me, and at that age, it made a lot of difference, so I didn’t have much of a chance.

Thankfully, my brother was there and came to my aid. He, being 4 years older than me, had an advantage over Steve. Well, then Steve’s brother came running out… you can see how this situation escalated.

I was glad that someone came to my defense. Normally, as with most brother relationships—we fought with each other—but when someone else, not of the family tries something, the usual combatants become a united front. In that moment, it would have taken more effort on my brother not to run to my defense than to intervene. We have a wired in mentality to protect the ones we love and care for. It is perfectly natural to come to someone’s aid, physically and publicly.

We get to see that natural tendency today in the life of Joshua. If you remember from last week, we learned that:

Joshua looked up to his mentor Moses; he was Joshua’s example, his leader and his friend for over 40 years. Last week we talked about how Joshua learned that:

The Battle Belongs to the Lord--Without God, the best army or strategy could not defeat the enemy. Joshua saw Moses’ hands raised when they were winning and lowered when they were losing.

Passion for Righteousness—when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the 10 Commandments, he saw the people of Israel combining idolatry and adultery in one big party. Joshua got to see Moses’ passion for righteousness and chose to follow God

Joshua also grew in his Passion for God’s Presence by being mentored by Moses. And we saw that when Moses left the Tent of Meeting, Joshua was the one who stayed behind in order to be as close to the Presence of God as Possible.

Moses was Joshua’s Mentor. He looked up to Moses. But this week we’ll see that that this caused a problem for Joshua, one that needed correcting.

Numb 11:16-17, 24-30

Let me set this up for you a bit. Moses is overwhelmed with the number of Israelites he is leading, upwards of 2 Million people. They complained about everything--for food, for meat and water and Moses doesn’t know how to provide it. But he goes to the right place.

16-17, 24-25—God told him to bring the 70 elders to the Tent of Meeting so the Spirit of God will fill them and take the burden off Moses.

They did prophesy, but as we read in v. 25—“they did not do so again”, so it only happened once.

They prophesied only once, but they continued to minister to the people as the Spirit enabled them--

But during that event, something unexpected happened in v. 26 that disturbed Joshua. READ 26-28

Joshua hears of these 2 in the camp and sees others filled with the Spirit and tries to stick up for and defend Moses, just like any good brother.

I’m sure that Joshua wanted to keep the proclamation of God’s Word orderly and proper, but also to protect his mentor, his leader, his friend—to keep everyone looking to Him b/c of his special relationship with God. Joshua had already seen people complain about his leadership and where he’d taken them, he had seen them look for other leaders and some had even challenged Moses’ right to lead, these challengers wanted the position for themselves.

“Moses, my lord, stop them!” Don’t let these things go on, they are out of order—as he stands there holding his copy of Robert’s Rules of Order. You Moses, are supposed to be the person the people look to for prophecy from God. If these men keep this up they may look to them instead of you.

But in v. 29 we get to see Joshua learn something else about his mentor, what it means to have a true relationship with God and what it means to be a good leader. READ 29-30

Moses says, “NO, I’m not going to stop them.” Moses sees Joshua’s concern to defend his leadership and asks, “you aren’t jealous for me are you, Joshua? Do you think I’m threatened by them prophesying? Do you think I am weakened in the eyes of the people?”

Joshua thought Moses was weakened by this display, but Moses wasn’t worried about it—he knew people fully led by God were his greatest help. What’s more, Moses authority in leadership did not come from Public approval but from God’s approval. God’s approval matters most Moses was confident in God’s call, His approval, His authority

People living, serving and using their gifts for God’s glory is a Thrill for me as your pastor to see. Little excites me more than God at work in your life—when God lays something on your heart, when you are bringing ideas of service and ministry, when you are testifying to conversations with friends or family, or when you have the privilege of leading someone to Christ. When was the last time you were excited about something God was doing in you, or through you that you just couldn’t wait to tell someone in the church? We need more of that Don’t We—Amen?

Moses was not threatened or worried about his role or his position b/c it never depended upon his education, not about experience, not about the ability to speak, not about being the tallest, the shortest or anything else.

This was a demonstration of Moses’ closeness to God. Moses showed Joshua that he didn’t want to keep God all to himself; instead, he wished that everyone would have as close a relationship to God as he had.

“I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit on them!”

I am thankful that Moses was not willing to accept Joshua’s protection from competition. Instead Joshua was able to see that Moses didn’t want to keep a close relationship with God to himself, but desired that all the people shared that same blessing. Joshua saw the passion of Moses, but also his humility in leadership.

Joshua learned that the more that are following the LORD the better in Moses’ eyes. Moses knew that a people that are led by the Spirit of God are more manageable than one person led by their passions and lusts.

Remember The circumstances were that the people were complaining about not having meat to eat—and how they were better off back in Egypt—anybody want to guess what these 70 elders were prophesying about? Stop Complaining—Stop Insulting the God who delivered you and provides all you need. Sometimes you need to hear the message from somebody else—sometimes you tune out the one who has been saying the same thing for a long time.

I love the thought that Moses wanted everyone to be filled with the Spirit of God. He wanted them to have that close relationship with God,

He wanted all of them to know God as he did, to be able to hear the voice of their Shepherd and recognize it and follow it—to allow their lives to be used of God for His glory—to embody His Name, to use His gifts and His power—to display the Fruit of the Spirit for the world to see..

This is my heart for each of you as well—when you are used in powerful ways by God! It is my prayer for you!

The Thrill for a Pastor

People growing, living, and using their gifts for God’s glory

People led by God serving one another

People led by God being bold witnesses for Jesus

But there is a problem—not everyone, not all of the people received the Spirit—and the Spirit of God did not remain forever on someone. Only 70 received the Spirit out of hundreds of thousands. The Spirit was not upon everyone.

In the OT, the Spirit did not permanently dwell in or rest on someone. The Holy Spirit came for shorter periods of time and then would be taken away.

Like Samson, who was given strength by God so long as he did not cut his hair (which was a sign of his commitment to God)

Why did the HS not fill Everyone? Why not remain in the hearts of God’s Chosen People?

Because their sin had not been atoned for. Sin still had a hold on them—sin reigned in their mortal bodies. Their hearts were not suitable, permanent dwelling places for the Holy Spirit—no one’s is until they are washed by the Blood of Jesus.

See, Moses, Joshua and those in the OT did not have the blessing we do today as believers. Moses did not get to witness the desire of his heart: that all the people would be permanently filled with the Spirit of God.

That dream was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. 50 days after Easter Sunday. It is a day that witnessed the birth of the Church, because this was the day the Counselor and Comforter that Jesus promised—the Holy Spirit— came to Permanently dwell within all believers.

Turn to Acts 2:1-4, 6b, 11b, 38-41

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

Draws us to Christ

Opens up the meaning of Word of God

Helps you Resist Temptation

Convicts of Sin and Calls to Repentance

Makes you More Like Jesus by growing the Fruit of the Spirit in your life

Prays with You and for You

Reveals the Will of God to You

Is not just About you nor just For you

Gifts to Strengthen the Church Ephesians 4:11-13--It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Prepare for Works of Service, Build up the Body of Christ, Grow us into Unity as believers

Fulfills Jesus’ Promise of the Counselor

Fulfills Jesus’ Promise of Power

Provides Confirmation that their Sins are Forgiven

Provides Power to be His Witnesses (Acts 1:8) and to Add to their Number

Had Moses been alive, he would have witnessed the desire he expressed to Joshua, this desire that the Spirit of God fill every believer. Do you realize that we live in the day he was looking forward to? That you, as a disciple of Christ, with the Holy Spirit inside thrills him in eternity.

We live in a day when everyone who puts their faith in Christ is filled with the Spirit of God—not just a few. From the moment you put your faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence. That doesn’t mean you have jump up and immediately start prophesying or speaking in tongues, it does mean that you begin a new life with the Power and Presence of God right here, in your hearts.

Why are we not changed? What is stopping you? What is stopping me? Are we afraid of God really taking control of us? That we will be ridiculed or seen as fools? What is wrong with being bold for Jesus Christ? What is wrong with being a fool in the eyes of the world, but being pleasing in the sight of God?

The Spirit of God is a fulfilled promise—His presence also means you have a responsibility to live in that power—to fulfill your calling, to use your gifts to strengthen the body of Christ.

And you don’t have to worry about the Holy Spirit ever being taken away.

As Ephesians 1:13-14—“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.

The Holy Spirit is an Unbreakable Seal, a Deposit that guarantees our inheritance with God. He cannot and will not be removed because the guarantee is based on the Promise of God not on your behavior. You have accepted and applied the Promise to your life—He will uphold it. You have been changed and made into a New Creation that cannot revert back to the old creation—that reality should not give us excuse to sin it up—but to really live and die in this world with supreme confidence of God’s Love. Our security in Him should inspire us to greater acts of faithfulness!

Here’s the catch that comes with the Presence of the Holy Spirit that most of us never realize. We no longer have any excuses. We don’t have any more excuse

For Keeping God at a Distance—because He is permanently in our hearts.

For giving in to temptation—because the Word promises He will strengthen us and give us a way out of temptation

For being afraid & unwilling to be bold witnesses—when it comes to witnessing be wise, look for opportunities—you don’t have to be obnoxious or talk of nothing else, but by no means use fear as an excuse—you have the Presence and the Power of Almighty God—Creator of the Universe in your life—what can harm you—who’s opinion matters?

All we can say now is that “I didn’t allow the Spirit to lead me. I chose not to take the way out the Spirit provided for me from that sin yesterday. I chose to live by the flesh and the sin nature instead of choosing to Live by the Power of the Spirit that is within me.” I chose to be afraid of this person laughing at me, rejecting me—acting like this person was more powerful than God—rather than being a bold witness for Christ.

In Christ, WE NO LONGER LIVE IN A WORLD OF EXCUSES! Because Jesus Christ is more powerful than your upbringing, abuse, socio-economic status, or mental disability, more powerful than any desire, attraction—more powerful than what your parents did or didn’t do, more powerful than how some guy or girl hurt you, more powerful than any drug or alcohol, more powerful than any of the excuses we hear so often today.

For the rest of the world, those apart from Christ—those excuses are valid—because they have no power to overcome them—not so for you in Christ. The only reason we have for not fulfilling the Will of God in our lives is our choices!

Romans 8:9-12—“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. RO 8:12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16

We don’t have to be a slave again to fear—fear of going back to Egypt—dead in our sins, Fear of doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, messing up so bad that God won’t love you anymore—in Christ, you are a child of God

Romans 8:16—“ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ”—You will never be written out of

Did you catch that? The very thing that Joshua was upset about was the very thing that Moses’ words were anticipating and was the very thing fulfilled by the Holy Spirit.

And because of that Day of Pentecost, we don’t have to be afraid, we don’t have to give in to sin. Instead we can have a close, personal, intimate and passionate relationship with God. The kind that is even closer than Moses had, because even though he could go oto the Mountain of God and into the Tent of Meeting, he still had to go somewhere else to meet with God.

Listen to me, you don’t have to go anywhere to meet with God. He is HERE within our hearts for All who have put their faith in Christ asked Him into their life, to forgive their sin.

God desires that all His people are filled with the Spirit of God—it can start for you right now. It needs to start in the life of someone you know by You being a bold witness for your Savior.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Old Testament Accuracy Demonstrated?

Here is another article from London--this time about an Assyrian cuneiform tablet bearing the name of a minor figure in Jeremiah 39. See the article for yourself, here.

This is a picture of the small clay tablet.

This quote from the article puts the discovery in the proper perspective.

"This is a fantastic discovery, a world-class find," Dr Finkel said yesterday. "If Nebo-Sarsekim existed, which other lesser figures in the Old Testament existed? A throwaway detail in the Old Testament turns out to be accurate and true. I think that it means that the whole of the narrative [of Jeremiah] takes on a new kind of power."

And perhaps the entire Old Testament as well.

I love the fact that my faith is based on people and places that are real--we're not talking about Atlantis, Valhalla, a lost Jewish empire in America or even Never-Never Land.

So the question becomes, if accuracy is demonstrated more and more in matters such as these, what does it say about the greater accuracy in its understanding of God?


Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Article--How children lost the right to roam in four generations

Here's a sad and telling article coming from London about kids and their ability to roam around without their parents knowing where exactly they are.

I can definitely see this here in America as well. My parents allowed me to go all over on my bike (of course, you probably had no idea... sorry), but I don't see how I can do that for my own kids. To the best of my ability, I want to know where they are.

Here's the opening statements:

"When George Thomas was eight he walked everywhere.

It was 1926 and his parents were unable to afford the fare for a tram, let alone the cost of a bike and he regularly walked six miles to his favourite fishing haunt without adult supervision.

Fast forward to 2007 and Mr Thomas's eight-year-old great-grandson Edward enjoys none of that freedom.

He is driven the few minutes to school, is taken by car to a safe place to ride his bike and can roam no more than 300 yards from home."

What's really scary is how many of the comments left on the article mention somebody trying to attack them as they walked around town or to school.

Now, why has this happened? What is it that has moved parents to be so paranoid about their kids whereabouts?

Any ideas?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sermon--7/8/07--Joshua: Laying the Foundation for Crossing Over to Victory

Laying the Foundation for Crossing Over to Victory

How many of you have ever read something about a famous person like an article or a biography? Which would you rather read about: “A Man of Victory: How One Man Changed the Course of a Nation” OR “A Man of Mediocrity: How One Man Went Unnoticed for 58 Years”. What draws us to read about someone’s life is their fame or extraordinary accomplishments. Any biographer will tell you that you won’t learn very much about a person if you only read about their life after they became famous. It is vital to discover the background of a person before their fame or fortune.For Example—If all I wanted to learn about George W. Bush or Bill Clinton what happened to them after they became President, I would be missing a great deal of who they are, what kind of person they are or what values they have. I’d miss what made these men into the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.

What is it that makes people great leaders? What is it that makes a person come up from obscurity to leading a great nation?

Too often, when you or I want to learn about people like Joshua we make the mistake of turning to the book of Joshua and begin there. Yes, I said mistake.

If you wanted to know what kind of man Joshua was, you need to look at his life before he became the leader of Israel. Joshua didn’t just appear out of nowhere to lead the people of Israel

. He was in the background for over 40 years.

What helped make him into a great leader and passionate servant of God was the fact that he was Mentored.

He was able to learn what it meant to be a leader by watching and being close to Moses.

Moses laid the groundwork in Joshua’s life that allowed Him to Crossover the Jordan later. He learned that all the Battles belong to the Lord—he learned that he needs a commitment to righteousness and holiness because it’s so easy to drift from it—he learned to desire a Passionate relationship with God above all else. Moses deliberately kept Joshua close and invested in him for over 40 years. Joshua would not have been the great leader that we read about without Moses’ influence

For us to Crossover, for us to experience the victory in our lives and in our church—we need to learn these lessons ourselves.

Joshua got to see Moses at his good times and at his bad. He probably saw him wake up in the morning with bad hair, if his beard was anything like Charlton Heston’s—imagine what that would look like after a rough night up on the mountain.

Joshua would have seen Moses walk all around the desert and stub his toe, seen him get frustrated and tempted to take it out on someone else, seen him lose his temper, seen him accept God’s discipline. In all those things, Moses was Joshua’s mentor; laying the foundation for future victory even in the little things. How Moses responded to all the daily situations with his faith taught Joshua as much as any deliberate teaching or sermon

William George Jordan-“Into the hands of every individual is given a marvelous power for good or evil-the silent, unconscious, unseen influence of his life.”

Moses had that influence on Joshua’s life.

So let’s take a look at Joshua’s life before he became the leader of Israel

First Meeting—

The first time we meet Joshua in the Bible is when the Amelekites attacked the Israelites. READ Ex. 17:8-16. Joshua was obviously old enough and respected enough to become a military leader of the people. He was at least over 20 years old. Joshua obeyed Moses’ order and fought back.

But the victory was not won because of Joshua’s strength or tactics. The Israelites won only so long as Moses was able to keep his hands raised in Prayer and Praise of God. I’m sure Joshua noticed when he was losing and when he was winning. It’s not as if Joshua had nothing to do with the outcome of the battle, but early on in his service to the nation, Joshua realized that a physical battle must be won by the power of God, not just tactics or numbers. The battle is as much a spiritual conflict, a spiritual issue. Joshua saw first hand by the ministry of Moses that success is based upon a relationship with the One true God.

Have you learned that lesson? We face battles everyday; physically-when friends, family, co-workers make life difficult, maybe finances are causing pressure, maybe someone is lying to you, pressuring you to make a decision. These physical battles wear even on our spirit.

And there are unique spiritual battles as well—temptation is the most common--the temptations from Satan and the flaming arrows of the evil one. He also tries to make us afraid, to silence us, to distract us, to keep us busy, sometimes Satan attacks those we love. The spiritual is often the where the true battle is being fought because our struggle “is not [just] against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

I know that each one of you have had times of victory and times of defeat. I have too. There are times when we need to learn from each other, younger believers need to learn from more mature believers and how they have come through hard battles. Older believers can learn from younger the new battles they face or even how they should have faced a battle years ago but chose the wrong path.

Those of you who have come through many battles can all probably testify that their times of true victory is when their hearts were raised to God in Prayer & Praise and they were given over to Him.

Only then can the battles we face in life be won.

Joshua learned this and became a Man of Action because he was Mentored by Moses, he witnessed that the Battle Belongs to the Lord by watching him in times of adversity.

Second Meeting-- Ex. 24:13, 32:17, 33:11

The Second Time we meet Joshua is in Exodus 24. According v. 9, we see that Moses, his brother Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the 70 elders of Israel went and met with God on Mt. Sinai. But they were to worship at a distance and only Moses was to approach. In v. 12, God calls Moses and says… “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction.”

I had always thought that Moses made this trip by himself

And then we see something telling in v. 13-“Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God.” Joshua had graduated from a military leader to the personal aide of Moses. Aside from Moses, no one else was able to ascend the mountain. Moses was meeting with God face to face and somewhere nearby was Joshua.

I don’t believe that Joshua went as far as Moses but clearly, Joshua went further than anyone else. And he did go far enough with Moses not to be able to see or understand what was going on down in the Israelite camp at the base of the mountain.

Look at ch. 32. During the incident of the Golden Calf while Moses was on the mountain for 40 days, the people engaged in all kinds of “revelry” as v. 6 states. From his vantage point, Joshua could hear people shouting but could not figure out why.

That is why he described it in v. 17 as, “there is the sound of war in the camp.” But Moses knew otherwise, “it was not the sound of victory nor the sound of defeat, it is the sound of singing that I hear”. They were having a party, combining adultery and idolatry together.

Joshua was allowed to be close to Moses and the Mountain of God. He also got to see how quickly people can fall into wickedness and depravity. He had a choice that day, to welcome the depravity or to choose God and His standards of righteousness and freedom.

When Moses said in v. 26-“whoever is for the LORD, come to me.” Joshua still had to choose what he was going to do in that moment. He could have walked away and joined in the revelry. But he saw something in Moses—he was among those that chose God. He was able to see in the life and passion of Moses a commitment to God, a commitment to righteousness and a commitment to holiness.

Without a commitment to righteousness and holiness, we will quickly abandon both. This world makes it so easy.

And from that experience, we are able to see Joshua’s growing passion to be in the presence of God. He wanted to remain as close to the Glory of God as he could.

To see that growing passion to be as close to God as you can, let’s look at the Third Meeting found in ch. 33:7—READ 7-11

Moses would go and speak to the LORD, “face to face as a man speaks to his friend.” But notice that when Moses left the Tent of Meeting to return to the camp, Joshua did not leave the tent.

Many would argue that Joshua stayed so he could guard the Tent of Meeting, this may very well be true. But I have a hard time believing the Israelites, who were afraid to touch the foot of a mountain would be willing to violate the Tent. I believe Joshua’s greater desire was to stay at the Tent of Meeting so he could stay as close to the Presence of God as possible.

This was where the action was—the Presence of God—it is where the whole course of the universe is set and laid out—it is here from His mind that we are let in on the plan and direction and purpose of God. Worship and Prayer take us into God’s presence—I read this week that one of the greatest hindrances to hearing from God is the fact that we’re not praying—“those who talk with God most, usually hear God best. And those who do not talk to God often usually do not hear him at all.”—Transitions pg. 35—we are opening the door of conversation in our praises and our prayers.

We have unlimited access to the Throne of God through the blood of Christ—but do we take advantage of it? Do you want to be as close to God as you can? Are you even willing to give up things that you might find enjoyable so you can spend time with God? Can people see that passion to be in God’s presence when they look at your life?

When you value a relationship, you spend as much time as possible cultivating it and making it grow. Grandparents, how many of you when given the chance go out of your way to spend time with your grandkids? I know my parents in Palestine, TX are almost sick that they are so far away from Gabriel & Moriah.

Joshua did not want to leave the Tent of Meeting. He wanted that relationship and that closeness to God to grow and mature because nothing else in this world could satisfy his heart like God could. He saw that in the heart of his mentor, and he wanted it to be a part of his heart too.

Please keep in mind that your passion for God, or lack there of is contagious. When our desire for God is not what it should be, everyone can tell. If you have kids in the home, no one will be able to see your desire better than they do. Even without trying, we are still mentoring because people are still watching.

The question I have for you today is how do you want to influence people? If you knew that someone looked to you and would never grow more in their faith or have a greater passion for God than you, would you be excited or ashamed?

If your passion for God is not what it should be—if our church’s desire for Him is lukewarm—if I feel like it-- I implore you to come to this altar and ask God to place the desire for His presence in your life.

If you truly desire Revival in Macomb, in your life, in the life of UBC, then it must begin with you. Any Victory we hope to have is fully and completely dependent on God to move and work and act on our behalf. We must also have a commitment to Holiness and Righteousness in our own lives to the point that we rail against the sin in our own lives more than we do the sins and struggles in others. And we must have a burning desire for the Presence and Movement of God. I hope it is your desire to see God move in a powerful way in your life, in the life of those you love, and in our community.

Joshua went to a high mountain when he first followed his Mentor into the Presence & Glory of God. But we don’t have to climb a mountain to be in His presence, we have to go down on our knees and open our hearts to Him. There is No Higher Calling than to be in His Presence.

Let the Presence of God draw you to Him. Come this morning and let God know you are serious about your relationship with Him. Ask God to use you and to show you where He wants to use you.

Follow His lead in Baptism if you never decided to do so—follow His lead in joining this church if He is calling you. Surrender to His calling, surrender to His love. Come and allow Him to place His arms around you, come and meet Him face to face.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Song--My Jesus by Todd Agnew

This is truly a convicting song of the nature of true Christianity and who we are not to avoid in order to make our church a "nice place".

Too often, we only want those like us, only want those who are already cleaned up, to worship with us. That is so backward--it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick--Jesus came to call, not the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

What would a church look like that was truly filled with sinners or those whose lives have truly and radically been changed by the power of Christ.

I've been longing for more of that after reading "Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire" by Jim Cymbala, the pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle.

Anyway, enjoy the song--please allow it to move you.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Moses Radiance? Could it Be?

Exodus -34:29-30 says something strange:

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.

What if Moses was the original and founding member of...

I would run too! What do you think?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Sermon--6/1/-7--Declaration of Dependence

The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. I remember going out to the lake, sparklers, staying up past bedtime to see the fireworks, cookouts, homemade ice cream. Good times.

Independence Day is a great day in world history because it marks something new and powerful that exists to this day. In our heritage as Americans, our forefathers were willing to stand up against the world’s strongest superpower and say enough.

"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

"That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

They were willing to stand up and make these bold statements, knowing full well the potential consequences of their actions of striking out on their own—to govern themselves, go their own direction, to defend their own interests using their own strength, power and ability.

While this day should be greatly remembered and celebrated… it’s not the first time human beings made a declaration of independence. It didn’t take us long to do it. The first Declaration of Independence occurred in Genesis 3. By ignoring and breaking God’s one restriction—Adam & Eve declared their independence—believing the lie that Satan told them that their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness were hindered by their relationship with God.

While we’ve been living with the privilege of the Declaration from 1776, humanity has been suffering with the curse of the first declaration much longer than that.

Last week the people of Israel approached the Jordan River, a few of them crossed it, looked around and refused to cross over. Now, after 40 years in the Desert, the people of Israel are back at the Jordan River—

Joshua 1:1-2

The question remained for the people of Israel—would they continue to wander the desert in their Independence, or would they make a new declaration of dependence upon God? They had to make this declaration in order for them to Crossover the Jordan and experience true Victory.

In many ways, we are at a similar crossroads. Are we, you and I going to remain in the desert or are we going to cross over into the Victory and advancing of His Kingdom that He has promised?

I say that because I believe that God is laying the ground work for blessing right now. Last week, Phil shared that he felt we were “on the cusp” of a powerful working of God.

In order to be ready for that, we need to make a new Declaration—not one of Independence but on of Dependence—because so many things are impossible for you and me—it is the things that are impossible for you and me are exactly the kind of things that God wants us to be a part of—because nothing is impossible with Him.

As a recap—it was impossible for Israel to escape from Egypt. It was impossible for hundreds of thousands of people to survive the desert. And in the same way, it was impossible for this rag tag collection of people to cross over the Jordan and take the land that was before them, to defeat the powerful cities, that had better tactics, better weapons. Without a dependence on God 40 years earlier—the Israelites did exactly what we would have done—they ran.

So when we Declare our Dependence on God, the first few chapters of Joshua give us an idea of some areas that we must Depend on God for if we are going to Cross the Jordan as the People of God and as a Church

1. Depend on God for Strength & Courage—vs. 1:5-9

a. Left to ourselves, we would have no strength, we would have no courage. I would not have the courage in myself to be preaching without the Holy Spirit compelling me. When we truly rely on God; declare our Dependence on Him—He will give us the strength and courage we need. 2PE 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

b. When we see the Power of God at work in the life of the early church and the apostles—it was to help them confront a world that had no influence of Christian morals or principals with the Good News. They had to depend on God for strength and courage to face the persecution, to face the jails, the lions, the demons that stood in their paths. They had to have the strength and courage that came from the Spirit within them—they had to have the power to endure, to overcome, to confront, to free those in bondage to the demonic.

c. Along with the Holy Spirit, a source of our strength and courage is the Word of God—vs. 8—it must be a part of our daily life. The Word and the Spirit are our source.

d. Without God—Independent, they wouldn’t have any of the strength they needed, they wouldn’t have the courage, they wouldn’t have the power.

e. In order for us to Cross the Jordan, we must renounce our declaration of Independence and Take up our Declaration of Dependence—dependence on God for Courage & Strength. We must also be willing to…

2. Depend on God for Amazing Things—Joshua 3:1-5

a. We are not the source of our strength nor our own courage. We are also not capable of doing what is necessary to advance the Kingdom of God without the Power of God at work in our lives.

b. This consecration that the people were to do—this setting apart for service of God—making themselves Holy and dedicated to Him was their Declaration of Dependence.

c. Are you willing to consecrate yourself to God—to set yourself apart to Serve Him and for His Glory as opposed to your own? If we are not willing, we will wander without any direction.

d. And when the people were willing to do this, depend on Him even when the future seemed impossible, God promised that…

e. He will show the Way even though we’ve never been there. This is a very important promise to those who had spent the last 40 years wandering through the desert.

f. Wherever He is taking us, He knows the way—we can try to strike out on our own, but we aren’t likely to end up in the Promised Land—we have never been to the places God can take us. We don’t know where we’re going. We cannot magically arrive at our destination our own knowledge.

g. God is willing and CAN Do Amazing Things In Us & Through Us

h. EPH 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

i. It is for His Glory that He is willing and able to do Amazing things among us. Things we cannot even imagine. We cannot out dream or imagine God. The Israelites could not have imagined getting out of Egypt the way they did. They couldn’t have imagined the Red Sea parting for them, the daily food nor cloud and pillar. Because the Israelites consecrated themselves to God—He parted the Jordan River for them and let them walk over on dry land.

j. In the same way we have no idea the places God desires to take us. We have no concept of the amazing things He can do to get us there—the most important thing for us to do is Hold On. What can God do in our church? What can God do in Macomb? How many kids can we have in Vacation Bible School? How many will Trust Christ as their Savior? How many families and parents will come to know Christ because of it? Do you believe God can do it?

k. The book the deacons just finished reading had a powerful line that said, “I am afraid of the possibility of living our entire life without seeing a powerful move of God.” I also live with that fear—don’t you?

l. We must depend on God to do amazing things—we cannot manufacture them, only God can do them in and through His people that are willing to Depend totally and completely on Him.

m. And if His people will Depend only on Him even for the Amazing things—you and I must then Depend on God for our Victory

3. Depend on God for Victory—6:5, 20

a. The Israelites had no experience fighting a fortified city, they didn’t have the tactics, they didn’t have the machinery. Victory was beyond their grasp—until they trusted and depended on God for the Victory—to see God do amazing things. What is more amazing than the walls of a city falling down at God’s command—because His people trusted and depended on Him.

b. When God’s people—when you and I depend on Him—He provided a Victory we could not achieve on our own. Victory over sin, over temptation, over gossip and disunity, over spiritual deception, over hardened hearts, over unbelief. There can be true Transformational Victory In Christ.

c. God can provide victory for us—He can tear down greater walls than that of Jericho and He will do it so people will believe—believe that Jesus is God With Us—that He died on the cross for our sins, that He rose from the Grave and has promised us Victory in Eternal life

d. As human beings, we’ve been declaring our independence from God for a long time.

e. Those who wanted to declare their independence from God “In the Beginning” were the ones who said, “I’m going to eat this fruit because I want to, regardless of what God says.”

f. Those who wanted to declare their independence from God during Moses day said that the land was untakeable.

g. Those who wanted to declare their independence from God were the ones who said that the walls of Jericho would never come down.

h. Those who wanted to declare their independence from God in Jesus day were the ones who said, “I don’t care who this Jesus claims to be, kill him anyway.”

i. Those who want to declare their independence from God today are the ones who say—“don’t tell me how I’m supposed to live—it’s my life”. They say—“I want to believe what I want to believe—don’t tell me Jesus is the Only way to Heaven, don’t talk to me about Hell”. They refuse to believe accept the gift of forgiveness because they have Declared their Independence from God in spite of His love, in spite of the Proof of it in the sending of His One and Only Son, Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.