Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sermon 8-26-07--NO Excuses!

I've been hesitant to post this week's sermon because in actuality, I didn't preach it. I woke up Sunday morning with the Preacher's worst feeling--"I'm not supposed to preach this message this morning" So for the next few hours, I was trying to figure out what exactly I was supposed to do in it's place, all the while still finishing the powerpoint for this one. Part of it was stubbornness, part of it was fear b/c I don't like preaching without some kind of notes, usually a manuscript. I had all kinds of excuses as to why I intended to just do the one I had prepared. Sadly, the sermon deals a lot with Excuses or Rationalization of our sin. It was a life lesson for me. Am I going to follow the leading of God or am I going to give a good reason why I won't .

I realized later that there are some things I appreciate very small children for, like my daughter Moriah who is almost 3. Largely b/c she does not have the vocabulary and the maturity yet to give excuses or reasons, she confidently expresses her opinion to something by saying, "I don't want to". At least she's honest. Later, as she grows, she'll naturally learn to say something else, to give a reason, an excuse to avoid doing what I or Vicky have told her to do. We adults usually don't even think about our excuses anymore, they just come out when in reality, we're really feeling, "I don't want to."

So anyway, the service was going along, and I knew I was supposed to do something different, I still didn't know what. Then, thanks to a powerful testimony and special music by Angie Bailey, I finally heard what I was supposed to do. It was a slightly different take, angle and main point to the message and passage I had already developed. Points needed to be swapped around and some left out, but it was basically there. I was still however, flying off the cuff, but I really had no excuses considering the testimony of the Word and of Angie.

The basic change was that our excuses keep us living in defeat when our obedience can keep us living in Victory--coming from the account of Achan and his sin just after the Battle of Jericho.

Well, all that to say, here is the sermon I was going preach that God told me to change. If you want to hear the "Live" version, I'm sure it will be up on the church's website soon.


Here it goes.

The past couple of months, we’ve been looking at the life of Joshua and how God was moving him and the people of Israel to Victory. Last week, looking at the battle for the city of Jericho, we looked at how in many ways it was a great rescue mission for the prostitute Rahab. The victory at Jericho set her free.

But it didn’t take long for the Victory to be dealt a setback. And the defeat’s cause could be summed up in one word—Rationalization.

All parents have heard all kinds of excuses for bad behavior. When I was a kid, I had what I thought were good ones. “They did it first”, “I didn’t know it was wrong”, “Mark’s parents said it was OK”, “everybody was doing it”. What are some of your favorites? Does anyone else have an example?

Unfortunately, giving excuses doesn’t really stop when we become adults. Some that I’ve been hearing even more in our society lately are: “it’s OK so long as I don’t get caught”, or “this is a Victimless Crime—it’s not hurting anyone else”, “we’re consenting adults and it’s in our homes, it’s nobody else’s business” or, “It makes me happy, how can it be wrong?”. It’s amazing all the ways we try to excuse and justify our bad behavior. We can be fully convinced in our own minds—we call that Rationalization.

When it comes to the sin in our lives, we play this game all the time. Except we’re not trying to fool just our parents, our friends, family, our spouse— we’re expecting an all-knowing, all-seeing, holy, perfect and righteous God to buy and believe our excuses.

If they seem pretty weak and lame to us, imagine how they sound to the ears of God!

One of the main reasons we are so quick to rationalize our bad behavior is b/c we have a tendency to not take sin very seriously. Joshua was reminded just how serious sin can be shortly after God’s victory over Jericho. In order for us to see victory in our lives, in our church—to see walls come down around us—we must be careful because sin can easily put up another wall—another impediment to victory. All our best excuses and rationalizations are hollow.

But it wasn’t even sin in Joshua’s own life that was the big problem, it was in someone else’s.

Turn to Joshua 6 & 7.

During the Victory over Jericho, Joshua and the Israelites had received a

Command to Devote


Joshua was commanded to devote everything from Jericho to the LORD as First Fruits of the Victory and Inheritance of the Promise of God. Everything was supposed to be devoted to God, the silver, gold, bronze, iron, even people and animals were to be given over to God. Nothing was to be taken as plunder by the Israelites.

We are called to devote our lives to Him—all that we are belongs to Him. Does God need our money or our resources or our efforts? No,

but the way in which we deny those things when He asks them of us is an indication of our overall dedication & faithfulness to Him. If we hold back, God is going to seek a way to draw us closer.

Being fully dedicated to God is a sign of spiritual maturity. Joshua did his best to see that all the people understood and followed through with this, because Joshua knew there would be consequences.

V. 18 also held a warning—“Keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction…[and the whole] camp of Israel [would be] liable to destruction.” The whole people of Israel would be troubled if even one person failed to devote everything to God. Joshua tried to make sure everyone knew the Command to Devote and the Consequences. But not everyone followed Joshua’s instructions. And so trouble was brought upon the people.

Rationalization Leads to Defeat—7:1-6

First, Achan acted unfaithfully—he took some things that were supposed to be devoted to God. We see Achan’s mind in 7:21—“when I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver (about 5 lbs.) and a wedge of gold weighing 50 shekels (not quite 1.5 lbs.), I coveted them and took them.”

Standing there looking at these things, he knew the command, but like all of us are prone to do—he was able to think of a reason why he was exempt. He rationalized an excuse why it would be OK. Can you think of one for Achan? “it’s not much, no one will notice”

“You know all about the corruption of leadership—Joshua is probably going to horde it for himself.” “What does it matter, it’s not like God really needs the money anyway.”

Achan was not the only one rationalizing that day.

Joshua was so confident after the tremendous victory at Jericho that he forgot the very first lesson he learned in the Bible. He forgot that the Battle Belongs to the Lord. He rationalized that things were going so well, there’s no need to bother God with a town like Ai.

He neglected to seek God’s guidance when they began approaching the fort of Ai; a much smaller and less intimidating challenge than Jericho one before. He trusted in his men and his tactics. He was thinking more of their R&R than of God and His support. not all the people will have to go” he was told, “do not weary all the people” he was told. In other words, this was going to be a cakewalk, let’s not get too worked up over this, we’ll just go in, defeat the enemy and be back home by lunch.

Aren’t we still like this? We experience a breakthrough with God and begin to get over confident in our abilities, then immediately fall back on our faces. Self-confidence can easily lead us to think that we don’t need God. Don’t bother God with that, don’t bother to pray about this, it’s no big deal. But so often, the smaller matter, the insignificant enemy or sin can trip up even the greatest man or woman of God, can derail Victory for an entire church.

If Joshua had sought God’s guidance, he would have known there was a problem within Israel. God would have told him He was angry because someone had acted unfaithfully toward the devoted things.

One person who was unfaithful to the covenant of God made the whole people guilty, made God angry at them all. The sin of one man caused Israel to be defeated by a much inferior foe.

I don’t know about you, but this account bothers my sense of American individualism. I’m bothered that God would deal with a large group by the behavior and actions of only one person.

How many of you are glad that we don’t live under that standard? That God blesses or disciplines this church, thus each of us, can be influenced by the actions of only one member.

A better question is…are you sure that we don’t live under that standard? Does God believe and practice American Individualism? They are God’s chosen people (Plural) not just God’s chosen persons.

We are a community that has united in our own devotion to God. The health of our church is dependent on the health of every member.

Sin leads to defeat, not just for yourself, but your whole family or whole people, whole church. No one lives in a vacuum. No one’s life, good or bad, fails to impact others around them.

I do not believe if you don’t get caught, it’s not wrong. Something is wrong, whether or not you get caught.

I do not believe in so-called Victimless Crimes like home drug use, prostitution, or gambling.

One person’s sins will affect others around them. There are so many accounts of wives who have great, loving and caring husbands so long as they are sober.

There are so many accounts of the sins of one drunk driver forever changing a family of 6 while he himself walks away virtually unhurt.

An adulterous spouse brings home suffering to the one who has been faithful all the years of their marriage.

A family goes without food because an irresponsible parent spends most of the paycheck on booze, on cigarettes, gambling or lottery tickets.

Look again how it started in Achan’s life in 7:20-21. He followed the classic pattern from Genesis 3:6.

· First he saw with his eyes. The eyes are the window into the soul. And many of our temptations in life come and start with what we see.

· Then Achan desired and coveted in his heart. What he saw translated to his thoughts and passions. He fantasized about what he did not have.

· Then he put those desires into action and took things he knew he should not, things he even knew the consequences for.

· Lastly, Achan tried to hide and deceive what he had done, even under his own family’s noses.

Tell me, how many affairs do you think start exactly the same way. How many addictions start this way. How many robberies, how many murders, how many lies. Insert any sinful situation in life, and you could trace it back to this pattern.

What you see, you think about, then you act upon, then you try to hide. That’s what makes pornography so dangerous—what makes looking at the advertisements in the paper even dangerous, or the frosted brownies on the counter. Sin doesn’t have to be a “big deal” to be a big deal.

Eve went through the same process when the serpent tempted her with the fruit.

Gen. 3:6—“when the woman SAW that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her.”

James said much the same in James 1:14-15—“but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.”

Sin is also knowing the good we should be doing and not doing it. Husbands, you know to love your wives and not ignore them—are you rationalizing reasons to avoid them? Children, you know to obey your parents is it easy to come up with reasons not to?

Are we too busy to pray, are we too overcommitted that we won’t read or study our Bible?

Knowing the pattern of sin is not enough, because we all will fall—“all have sinned and fallen -ert of the glory of God”. We’ve got to have:

Courage to Discover our sin.

This is the hard part. When you experience defeat in life, you’d better be willing to take a spiritual inventory.

To examine the parts of your life to determine whether any of them have contributed to a failure to hear God’s Voice. And when you discover that thing, you must get rid of it, you must destroy it.

One of the pictures that the men’s study, Downpour, uses is that of going to the doctor. When you’re sick you don’t want a doctor to downplay and sugar coat his diagnosis. Find the problem—propose a treatment. For example, if you are diagnosed with cancer and the treatment calls for surgical removal—I hope you want a doctor who intends to all he can and not be content with getting most of it.

Jesus said something radical to teach how seriously we are to take sin—that if our eye causes us to sin, we should pluck it out. Or if our right hand causes us to sin, we should be willing to cut it off and live life maimed rather than risk our eternity.

Joshua had to be willing to lead the people to discover the sin in their midst. V. 6 tells us that Joshua tore his robes and lay facedown before the Ark of the Covenant as did the elders of Israel. They knew defeat would not come without reason.

Defeat should Drive us to God

Seeking Him again—and they weren’t in for just a quick fix—Joshua remained there until evening.

Then he listed off the Common Complaints—vs. 7-9—today we should never have tried this—we should just be content with what we’ve always done and what we’ve always had—we should not have gotten our hopes up.

Joshua Confronted all Israel with her sin and cause of their defeat—v. 10-12. Now that they knew what the sin was, the only question remaining was WHO. In the following verses, God, in His sovereignty, begins to narrow it down.

Israel was to consecrate themselves and present themselves before God Tribe by Tribe, then clan by clan, family by family, man by man. After they went through this process, God singled out the one responsible, He commands in v. 15—“he who is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the LORD and has done a disgraceful thing in Israel!”

He and his whole family and all he possessed was destroyed because of a robe and some money. What he rationalized would make his life better, what he was willing to violate the covenant with God over, what he was willing to sell out his integrity for cost him his life and everything that was really important to him.

You’ve got to have the courage to discover the sin in your life, then confess it—not just because you’ve been caught, like Achan, but because your relationship with your spouse, your children, and most importantly with Christ has been damaged. Only when you have destroyed the sin in your life can you truly experience Victory again.

Joshua led the people to cleanse the sin from among them and as a result, the small little town of Ai was defeated.

The point of God confronting Joshua and the people with sin is so that they will not remain separated from Him in a state of defeat—they physical defeat was symptomatic of spiritual defeat.

God wanted to move them from defeat and back into victory. When God confronts you and me with our sin—He wants us to Turn away from it—to remove it from our lives so we may similarly leave a state of defeat and reenter usefulness in His Victory for the Kingdom. The seriousness we take the call to repentance is the key to resuming Victory.

We as Christians have been called to devote our entire lives to God and not hold anything back. That means we are to devote our Jobs, our marriages, our homes, our salaries, our children—all of it must be devoted.

Yet we see things in the world around us and we covet those things more than our relationship with God. We store up treasures on earth that will be destroyed.

We take them for momentary pleasure, momentary gain and hurt the most important relationship we have; our relationship with God who loves us, who is waiting to give us the blessing of Victory. He is waiting to forgive sin, He is waiting to heal your marriage, He is waiting to bless us with Victory.

God restores relationship in order to continue the victory. Joshua 8:1—

We as a church need to have our lives confronted and dealt with otherwise we won’t have Victory either. If you have unconfessed, unrepentant sin in your life, so does our church. All of us are at least indirectly affected. That’s what 1 John 1:9 is all about—“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”God demonstrates His care for us by calling us back to Victory. If He didn’t care, He wouldn’t discipline.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sermon--8/19/07--Jericho: The Rescue

This week's message took an interesting turn for me, one that I had never considered nor heard to my knowledge. Usually, when I hear sermons on Jericho it's about the Victory, the Conquest, the Judgment or the Obedience of the Israelites. All those are fine and appropriate, but this week I was once again reminded of the heart of God and His love for His people, the lengths He is willing to go to free us, and the role He has called His people to play in rescuing those He loves. This perspective may be new to you. It was for me.

Jericho—The Rescue

Right now as we are worshipping this morning, there is a great Rescue mission going on in Utah where six miners have been trapped underground. Some have already given their lives to get them out. Other rescue missions are going on in Peru, will be in Jamaica, China and other places. Rescue is an ongoing and sadly necessary part of this world.

Stories and footage of Rescue attempts and successes make for good reading, make the News. Believe it or not, but the concept of Rescue figures in to the Life of Joshua & the Battle at Jericho.

Last week, Joshua met a man outside of Jericho that taught him that God has a Vision for Victory and was prepared & willing to fight for it. Joshua also learned that God is willing to Share the Vision for Victory but that in sharing, He expects you and me to be involved in fulfilling that vision.

And one of the tasks that God has for us is tearing down walls because we are surrounded by them.

We Are Surrounded by Walls—Joshua 6:1

Joshua and the Israelites were facing a great barrier. People were locked up inside and afraid to come out. But the walls of Jericho were not the first walls ever built.

You see the first wall built by Adam & Eve- the wall and barrier that they put up was not a physical one, it was not a stone wall, but a spiritual one. You can see it in the way they hid themselves from each other and from God—Genesis 3:7-9—

It set up a barrier between each other to the point they covered themselves, to where just a few moments later, they were blaming each other for their problems.

God had put them together, given them to each other and their sin had put up a wall between them—a wall that would make life difficult for every marriage ever since.

This kind of wall creates distrust, creates blame, creates fear, creates abuse, creates manipulation, creates divorce,

But the greatest wall that was put up—was between them and God. Suddenly their Creator, who made the Garden for them, who loved them, gave them the responsibility to represent Him on this earth—suddenly God’s very presence sent them running for cover.

There was a barrier between them and God that was not supposed to be there. And as a result—we are afraid—as a result of this wall there is death, idolatry, murder, envy, war, lying—everything conceivably wrong in this world is the direct result of this wall.

The Great Wall is not in China—the Great Wall is Between You, Me and God. Ultimately, the greatest wallbuilder is Sin—sin isolates, it separates, it keeps out, it locks in. This wall makes Jericho look like Legos or Lincoln Logs.

Sin Builds the Wall—Unbelief strengthens it. Resistance to the Gospel and the Love of God thickens it.

Indifference, apathy, idolatry, selfishness, greed among many others are Bricks that make the Wall even taller.

Now let me ask you—how many walls are around you? More than you thought. Do you have a wall in your life? A part of you that you don’t want to give over to God? Are there walls that have been built up here in Macomb that people try to hide behind that separates them from God and from true fellowship with others?

As Individuals, as a Community—there are plenty of walls right here in Macomb.

Community Walls

Individual Walls

They keep us isolated, they keep us distant from each other—emotionally, spiritually, they keep us afraid and alone. These walls that we build up brick by brick are prisons.

Let me ask you—is God content to let these walls stand? Is God content to let us remain imprisoned, walled up behind a prison of our own making?

NO! He is not content..

God Wants to Tear Down Walls

God’s desire is that all the walls that separate us from Him, all the walls that separate us from each other—all the sin that causes pain, distance, and isolation be torn down.

His desire is to Rescue us from behind the Walls of Sin and from the Kingdom of Darkness.

God has proven His desire to rescue throughout the Bible—He rescued His people from bondage in Egypt, He went into a wicked and depraved city and rescued Lot and his daughters. He rescued Isaac by providing a ram caught in the thicket. He repeatedly rescued Gomer from a life of prostitution, both Peter and Paul were rescued from prison, even sending an earthquake to tear down the walls

Most of all, He demonstrated it by Invading the Earth in the Person of Jesus in order to make a way to demolish the stronghold of sin and death. He is all about RESCUE and tearing down the wall that separates us. Colossians 1:13-14-- For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Part of the Vision and role of the People of God is to Tear Down Walls—

READ 6:3-5--“The walls of the city will collapse”—vs. 5

The walls will collapse—so the people of Israel can begin the conquest of the Promised Land—so they can get a foothold, even so they could be instruments of judgment in the hands of God for a people that for the 400 years Israel had been slaves in Egypt they had rejected God reaching out to them and that their sin had now reached full measure (Genesis 15:16).

But I want you to consider that something even more was going on in the tearing down of Jericho’s walls. I want you to see it as a Rescue Mission.

Back in ch. 5:13-14—Joshua met the Commander of the Army of the Lord—He was already looking over the city, His sword was drawn and He was ready for Battle. I am convinced that this was a Christophany—an appearance of Jesus in bodily form before the incarnation—in part because the worship that Joshua gave Him was received.

There was something unique hanging on that wall that would have drawn attention. Walking around that wall, Joshua, the people, and this appearance of Jesus would have seen the scarlet signal hanging from one of the windows.

Joshua 2:14-15, 17-18

Standing there, seeing that Red Cord hanging in the window—part of the deal that Rahab negotiated for saving the life of the spies—Jesus—the Alpha and Omega would know—inside that window—was one of His own— who became a part of the nation of Israel—who married an Israelite man named Salmon of the tribe of Judah and who had a descendant named Boaz who then married Ruth.

Rahab became the Great-Great Grandmother of King David. Which makes Rahab one of Jesus’ own distant relations who’s name is listed in Matthew 1:5

What you and I don’t realize is that behind these walls that are all around us is someone that God loves and wants to bring into His Kingdom. Even though they may be surrounded by depravity—God wants to rescue them.

Rare Treasures Live Behind the Walls—22-25—Rahab was a rare treasure in God’s eyes. Rahab needed rescued from behind a great wall that was between her and the people of God.

God was not just interested in the bringing down of the walls of a city, He was interested in what was behind the walls. He was not just interested in getting the people started on their road to conquest. He was deliberately in pursuit of Rahab. He was fighting for her. This woman was a part of His plan. And God was willing to tear down some serious walls to Rescue her—to save her.

He did that for Rahab—and if you are in Christ, if you have put your faith in Him, He has done the same for you.

God had to tear down some serious walls to rescue me from the Kingdom of Darkness and bring me into the Kingdom of Light. He used some good people along the way to do it.

Who in Macomb is God in pursuit of? Who is He trying to Rescue? There are so many that have walls that built up that God wants to tear down.

Walls built by indifference, pride, wealth, intellect, fear.

God wants you to be a part of tearing down those walls—God wants you to be a part of His Rescue Mission.

When you share the truth of the love and forgiveness of Christ—when you share of the reality of sin and how it separates us from God—you are a part of God’s Rescue Mission—Evangelism is a Rescue Mission—it may not make it on the news, or in newspaper headlines—but I guarantee—God knows, He notices. Rescues here on earth from the kingdom of darkness are celebrated throughout the heavens.

Walls all over Macomb need to come down so that the ones God is pursuing can enter into His bride and become a valuable part of the people of God.

At Jericho, God was fighting for His people, but He was also fighting for Rahab to Rescue her.

Do you remember how God fought for you? Do you realize how important and vital your part in rescuing people God loves is? It’s not something you can quit on or give up on—The Israelites couldn’t know Victory if they quit on the second day of marching around the city. They couldn’t have known victory if on Day 7 they stopped at 4 times around.

There are walls all around us that God wants to bring down. No one said Evangelism is easy, or comfortable, but because there are rare treasures behind those walls it is worth it. If we want victory—we must have a great desire to Rescue—Because He fought and died for us.

Do you know that God is fighting for you right now?

Friday, August 17, 2007


Hebrews 11:27 says something interesting about Moses:

"he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible."

How is this possible? If something or someone is invisible, doesn't that mean you can't see them?

It's not like the movie with Arnold S.--"Predator" where the alien had an invisibility cloak that still left a distorted spot.

Moses could not see, and yet Moses saw many things to confirm his faith.

How do you and I persevere when we don't see "Him who is invisible"?

Or do we see Him?

Do we just not realize when we see Him?

How do you see "Him who is invisible" in your life?

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Hebrews 11:1--"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lifeway Research Study Update

I can't believe I never posted the results from the poll I participated in. Originally, I blogged about my phone interview, Here, on the day it happened. The results were announced a few weeks later before the SBC Convention in San Antonio, causing quite a stir.

Here are Lifeway's results for the speaking in tongues survey.

Here are some excerpts:

"The survey asked Protestant pastors, SBC pastors, and laity their beliefs about private prayer language using this question wording: "Do you believe that the Holy Spirit gives some people the gift of a special language to pray to God privately? Some people refer to this as a Private Prayer Language or the ‘private use of tongues.’"

Fifty percent of Southern Baptist pastors answered "Yes," 43 percent said "No," and 7 percent responded "Don’t know.""

"Southern Baptist pastors are more likely than non-SBC pastors to believe the gift of tongues has ceased. Forty-one percent responded "this gift was only given in the days of the Apostles," vs. 29 percent of non-SBC pastors."

ME again:
These numbers were surprising across the convention. First that so many believed charismatic tongues was still possible. Second and related that a total cessationist position was not stronger.

When this study came out there were many questions as to its methodology and timing. I believe there may be some follow up research in the works on this topic.

In any respect, this should cause pause for those who want to enforce a cessationist position convention wide and upon all our missionary candidates. Clearly, many will be coming from churches and pastors that, even if they don't practice tongues themselves or corporately, are still open to the possibility that it can happen and can still be legitimate.

I'd probably call myself a skeptical continualist. I don't think tongues is as prevalent as some are making it. I don't think tongues is a mandatory gift in order to be saved. I have never seen tongues practiced in a corporate setting that has followed Paul's guidelines and restrictions. With that said, I won't totally rule it out either. The arguments for cessationism are not compelling and are based often upon ideas imposed on texts rather than explicitly from the texts themselves.

I did notice that the report on "Perspectives of Pastors and Laity on Alcohol" will be released in mid-September. That should be an interesting one.

Any thoughts?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sermon --8/12/07-- From Vision to Victory

2 weeks ago as we continued our look at Joshua—we saw the Demonstration of Faith in the Crossing of the Jordan, the Demonstration of Renewal in the Circumcision, and the Demonstration of Expectation in the Celebration of the Passover.

We started by looking at the Declaration of Dependence, then how Joshua had the Foundation for Crossing over into Victory laid by his walk with Moses. Later we looked at God’s Responses to Our Uncertainties.

Now we have followed Joshua from his time as an aide to Moses, to his testimony as a spy, to his succession of Moses as leader of Israel—to leading them to Cross the Jordan.

Now here they are—their first days in the Promised Land—they have crossed the Jordan—it is a barrier behind them—God won’t open it up for retreat—Joshua and the Israelites could not go back—the Manna had stopped—what God had given to carry them through the desert was now replaced with the better fruit of promise—the Manna would not be restored if they went back.They could only go forward and trust in the Promise of God. And they had to… because what was in front of them was not the path way to victory by Human Standards. Joshua had to trust that

1. God Knows the Way to Victory—despite what his eyes were telling him

a. God Led them to Jericho—of all the places to cross the Jordan River—Israel probably would have put this location pretty far down on the list—definitely not Top 10 because they were walking straight into the closest and most fortified city on the Western side of the Jordan.

b. Artist Renditions of Jericho's fortifications

c. This would be like if I wanted to start a new Pee Wee/Pop Warner Football team and I scheduled the first game against Ditka and the 85 Bears.

d. God knew exactly where He wanted to take them—into the heart of enemy territory. It served as a Dramatic entrance that set the tone for the Victory that God would provide for His people

e. One thing this teaches me is that God does not play games or beat around the bush

f. He is bold—

g. He is courageous.

h. He sees Victory in Hopeless situations.

i. He sees Power in apparent defeat.

j. He sees Wisdom in the foolish things of this world.

k. God knows the way to Victory—He sees exactly what it will take to supply Victory. Just like He saw it when He sent His One and Only Son as a helpless baby. Just like He saw Victory when Jesus was arrested, crucified, buried and dead

l. In the same way—God sees what it will take for this church to experience Victory in our lives, in the lives of the lost, in Macomb. I don’t believe He wants us to avoid the difficult or challenging or bold. We need more boldness. We need more courage to follow.

m. Because as Joshua learned early on—the Victory belongs only to God. and thankfully…

2. God was prepared to fight for the Victory—5:13-14

a. Joshua was likely headed to Jericho to look around--:looked up means he was surprised to find someone else there with him.

b. His Captain was already there “in front of him”—Between him and Jericho. He had already looked over the situation—He knew that Jericho was—“tightly shut up b/c of the Israelites. [and that] no one went out and no one went in.”—6:1.

c. He had already decided the course of the Battle—the planning stages were over—His sword was drawn.

d. His Sword was Drawn-- In His hand, held at the ready—not on the ground, not leaning against a rock, not still in its sheath. God was ready for the battle.

e. The Battle Belongs to the LORD—this was one of the first lessons that Joshua learned back in Exodus 17.

f. If Joshua tried to fight Jericho on his own, by tactics or numbers, he would fail. Only God could provide the Victory. The enemy Joshua was facing was too much for him and the Israelites.

g. In the same way, God has already looked over our situation—He already knows how high the walls, how high the barriers are in front of us. He has already decided the course of the Battle here in Macomb and I believe He is ready to fight for Victory in our lives, and overcome the barriers that people have erected around themselves.

h. If God didn’t fight this battle—they would be defeated. God had Prepared for the Battle, He had Planned for the Battle and He was willing to Provide the Victory.

i. If God doesn’t fight our battles—we will be defeated. But if God was prepared to fight the battle with Joshua, don’t we believe that He is ready to fight the battles that we are involved in?

j. It takes Courage to Follow God and Let Him Fight the Battles

k. Joshua showed his courage by approaching this man ready for battle and he showed wisdom by not drawing his own sword assuming he had something to defend himself with.

l. While He showed his courage and his wisdom, Joshua still needed to know who this potentially dangerous man was. In his mind, like so often in ours, there are only two sides—Us v. Them—Are you for us or for our enemies?”—vs. 13

m. But his perspective is too limited--His response was not what Joshua expected he said, “Neither.” I’m sure in that moment, Joshua was a bit confused. What other options are there? “But as Commander of the Army of the LORD I have now come.” When God walks onto the scene he does not come to take sides….He is the side--He comes to take over because all other claimants are just fooling themselves.

n. It’s not that we hope and pray that God’s on our side, the real issue is whether we are on God’s side. He is here for His glory, for His Name, for His purpose—that may surprise some of you. As much as He loves us—He will do anything necessary to bring glory to His Name—He will do anything to make us grow in our faith even if the world defines what happens as a defeat.

o. I believe this was what was called a Christophany—an appearance of Jesus before His coming to earth and one of the reasons why I believe so is because of the response to Joshua’s reaction.

p. Joshua does the right thing and falls down in reverence and worship. But when anyone falls before an angel in worship—they always tell them to get up—the will not receive the worship due only to God alone.

q. This Commander of the Army of the Lord has come, receives the worship

r. God Came to Prepare for Victory

s. God Came to Plan for Victory

t. God Came to Provide the Victory

u. God Came to Share the Vision for Victory

3. God Shares the Vision for Victory With His People

a. He believed this Commander had a Vision for Victory and Joshua believed that God desired to share it with him. So he did something we need to remember to do—he asked for it.

b. Joshua Asks for the vision—vs. 14—“What message does my Lord have for His servant.”

c. The message he’s asking for is the marching orders. The instructions for what to do next.

d. How many times are we faced with a challenge before us—when we don’t know what to do or how to proceed and we fail to ask God about it? We fail to seek Him and see if He has a message for us.

e. We are His servants, we are standing before a great challenge. Are we going to do it on our own? Or call out to Him to hear His Vision for our Victory today? We as a church body need to fully and completely get down before God and seek Him if we want to experience Victory.

f. But before he is able to fully hear the message, Joshua needed to be reminded of just who He is dealing with. He needed a Reminder of the Holiness of God. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.”

g. Just like Moses had to take off His sandals at the burning bush, Joshua had to as well standing before this Commander. It is when we are truly aware of His holiness that we are ready to hear from Him.

h. And God was willing to share the Vision of Victory—even though it may have sounded a bit strange to Joshua.

i. READ vs. 2-5

j. “I have delivered”—God is speaking as if this is already a done deal. Victory is Assured. I have delivered, this is how you will see it.

k. March around the city—get moving, start going—You Must Be Involved. Don’t sit back expecting God to do it all. Wait for them to come to you—go out and march—make the walk next door, down your street

l. You Are a Part of God’s Plan for Victory

m. Put the Ark in Front—make God the prominent and leading part of what they are doing.

n. This is a visual reminder that God is the one leading that they are to be faithfully following Him.

o. As we go, follow God,

p. As we go, listen for His opportunities

q. As we go, do not fear the walls

r. As we Go, He will make the way

s. Blast of the Trumpets—the clear proclamation of Battle—in our case the faithful declaration of the Saving Truth of Jesus Christ.

4. God has the Vision for Victory

a. That is the Vision:

b. Victory is Assured

c. You must be Involved--Get Moving directly confronting the walls and barriers that those around you who do not have a relationship with Christ around you

d. Confront the Walls and Barriers with Boldness

e. Faithfully Follow and the Will come Down


g. If they would faithfully follow Him and do everything

Do you believe that God has the Vision for us—then we need to get on our faces before God and ask Him for it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sermon-8/5/07--The Race We Run-- Hebrews 12:1-2

What a great week of VBS! This year's material was great. This year's director, Angie Bailey did a wonderful job at organizing, training and directing the event. Thank you Angie!

Here are some pictures of my kids during their time at VBS--thanks Bill for taking so many good pictures.

This message comes from the theme verse for this year's VBS--Gameday Central. Since the kids were learning about this verse--I thought the parents should hear from it as well. We invited parents to come back on for a Sunday Morning celebration and pot luck after the service. Thankfully a good number of them did.

GAME DAY CENTRAL: Where Heroes Are Made

Run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1b-2a (HCSB®)

HEB 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

We all have a Race to Run

From the moment of conception—Psalm 139 tells us, your days have been marked out. In eternity—God is able to see the beginning and the end of your life on earth. The starting Line and a Finish Line—When the starting gun fires, you come out screaming—ready to start running—and some, like my 2 year old, Moriah, running is about all you do.

Have you thought of your life as a race? That your whole life can be seen as the movements you make between the starting line and the finish line? Some of you may be burning the candle at both ends—treating your race more like a sprint—a mad dash to the finish. But that’s not the kind of race we’ve been given to run. You and I have been given a Marathon, not a sprint.

Most races have a defined course—everyone is either on a track or a defined path through the streets as in a marathon.

No one is allowed to deviate from the path, no one is able to cut corners—if you are running in the race, you must stay in the defined course.

Rarely do the runners get to choose the course. Rarely do the runners get to pick their lanes. The course is decided upon before the runners ever get set in the starting blocks.

The race of our life is set before us by God

Our race is set before us—it is marked out for us—and our opinion was not needed nor requested. Our Permission was not sought—Our Approval was not necessary.

God created you to run this race. He put thought, care, creativity in making you unique in this universe. There is no one like you, no one who will have your experience, no one who can take your place. God set a specialized, a personalized, a unique race before you.

Even though there are other runners all around you, even though you all have the same finish line—the course marked out for you is distinct—it may overlap with others for a time—children, family, friends, but the course is still yours.

How will you run your race? How will you finish your race?

This race is set before us—it is a gift from God—one with great opportunity. He didn’t have to give you a race to run—but He chose create you, to form you and craft you. This Gift, this race--You must choose how you will live it and who you will be living and running for. You will run for someone—you will serve someone in your race. Will you serve only yourself and your own interests? That will be a self-centered, prideful and often lonely race. Will you serve others—be a great humanitarian or a good father and mother—yet always wonder—am I good enough?

Or will you Run your Race for the One who gave it to you? Will you run your race to serve God? Joshua 24:15—calls on us to “choose for yourselves whom you will serve.”

Deut. 30:19—calls on us to “choose life, so that you and your children may live”

Choosing life means choosing relationship with God—choosign His love and forgiveness. If you choose to live for yourself—it will lead only lead to death. But if you want to be a true hero then choose the ways of God.

Serving only yourself leads to defeat—even though things may be going well for you, even though you may think you’re the best—you will still be running wildly in your race.

It is the running of the whole race, not just part of it that matters. This race that we are in has an ability to totally wear us out—through struggle, pain, difficulty, worries, bills, sickness, relationships, accidents, defeats, even victories and popularity, even having too much can be a curse.

The Race requires Endurance

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like running—it wears me out faster than anything.

Run with Endurance—he wouldn’t say it if it weren’t necessary.

Meaning it’s not going to be easy, it will tire you out, it will make you want to quit—Perseverance.

Heroes in the sports world at some point will talk about times when they had to push through a time of great fatigue and difficulty. In the middle of their event, their game, their race, they will be so worn down physically and mentally that they’ll wonder if they’ll be able to finish.

But despite the pain, the fatigue, the hardship, they keep on playing, they keep on fighting, they keep on running. Perseverance and Endurance—when your legs hurt so much they feel like rubber, when you can’t lift your arms—yet you keep going.

And then it happens.

Suddenly these heroes will talk about their bodies being renewed, their mind clearing, they suddenly have energy, the fatigue passes and they’re able to continue with a renewed vigor. They call this gaining their “second wind”.

If you do not endure and persevere in this life—so many times you will miss out on the victory that is coming your way. This life does wear down and weaken—we need a power that is beyond us to help us get through.

We need that power because Life is rough—whether someone has everything or not—life requires endurance.

Whether in Plenty or in Need, if you have Nothing or if you have Everything—this life can wear you out. If you’ve got nothing, then just finding the basics, worrying about where you’ll be living tomorrow, where, if you’ll be able to eat, if your family will be gone—is enough to make you want to give up.

But it’s not always better, even if you’ve got everything. How many movie stars or sports figures are so fatigued and bored and sick of the attention and fame, even the money—that their life spirals out of control?

Neither Defeat nor Victory can guarantee that you finish your race well. Either one may profoundly effect the direction of your life—but neither are sure things.

I remember back in 1990 how invincible Mike Tyson was considered in the boxing world. He had a title defense against a relatively unknown opponent—Buster Douglas. Considering how Tyson had destroyed all other contenders, it was expected that he would Douglas as well. But Tyson didn’t take the match as seriously and in the 10th round—was knocked out for the first time. Buster Douglas saw the opportunity and took it. Now, here’s the tragic part—both of their lives have been terribly off course ever since.

The Defeat sent Tyson spiraling out of control—many of you already know the twists and turns Mike Tyson’s life has endured. I hope and pray that God has turned him around.

But Victory was no better for Douglas.

The Victory sent Douglas spiraling out of control--(per wikipedia) Douglas would have only one title defense. Later that year (1990) an overweight and underprepared Douglas was knocked out in the 3rd round by Evander Holyfield and decided to retire from boxing following his defeat. He did little for the next several years, living off his wealth (he received a reported $24.6 million for the Holyfield fight) and gaining weight to nearly 400 pounds. Not long after, Douglas nearly died during a diabetic coma.

I hope and pray God has turned him around as well.

Neither men have the strength or endurance to finish the race in their own power and strength. Our race requires endurance—more strength and stamina than you or I can muster on our own. We need a greater motivation.

Jesus is our Motivation

We must fix our eyes on Jesus. Fix our eyes means that we must Focus on Him and not let our attention be taken off. He is the One to look to for our Motivation—

He is the One that gives us strength to finish—

He is the one who makes it possible to finish and finish well—He is the One who is standing at the Finish Line cheering you and me on—encouraging us to finish—to run well.

When we fix our eyes on Jesus, it’s like a Christopher Columbus sailing his ships by the fixed point of the North Star or Magnetic North on the Compass. Without a fixed point to look to, they would have just wandered aimlessly in the ocean.

Jesus is our Motivation, He is our Fixed Point that we can look to.

Why can we look to Him? Because He ran His own difficult race. He ran a race requiring endurance,

Hebrews 12:2b-- who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

By completing His race victorious in His Resurrection, He has become

Jesus is the Source and the Perfecter of Our Faith

Jesus is the One who made faith possible. He endured the Race that was set before Him—and it was not an easy or comfortable race—He had to endure and persevere the Cross. He scorned the shame such a horrible death brought—because of the Joy set before Him—that Joy was the result, the benefit, the accomplishment—

The Joy was and continues to be Our Faith—our Salvation—the Re-Establishment of relationship broken by our sin. He is the One who has the Power, the Strength and Endurance—and He is willing to give it to you and me.

He is the Source and Perfecter—Our Faith was His idea—He was and is the Author of it—our faith begins in the mind of God.

But since you and I can not be perfect, because we cannot manufacture perfection—He does—He Perfects, He Completes, He Finishes our faith and makes it exactly what it needs to be on our behalf.

From what I understand in a Relay, the 2 most important positions are the Opening Leg of the race and the Anchor Leg. The Starter and the Finisher. Jesus is the One who Ran the Opening Leg—He is the One who has made Faith Possible. And He also Runs the Anchor Leg—insuring that the race is finished well, finished right, finished strong—Finished in Victory.

Without Jesus to run the Opening and anchor leg of our race—victory would be impossible. He is our Greatest Hero—He is the One to look to for what a Hero really is.