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When Giants Roamed the Earth–Joshua 24:29-33

September 28, 2016

It came about after these things that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being one hundred and ten years old.

We should all aim to go to our grave being called “the servant of the Lord.” This requires consistent humble service over a lifetime. Joshua was such a person. My goal has always been to be “found faithful.” This objective forces me to prove this over decades, one day at a time.

And they buried him in the territory of his inheritance in Timnath-serah, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, on the north of Mount Gaash.

It’s likely that someone so committed to the Lord won’t enjoy his inheritance until he’s dead. Perhaps this is the way it should be.

Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the LORD which He had done for Israel.

One good man can influence many for good, and those in his sphere of influence can carry on that good influence. What’s difficult is the transfer of the baton to the next generation. It’s the leader’s responsibility to not stop reminding those he leads of what the Lord has done, in his and their generations.

Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph’s sons.

We honor our dead by following through on their wishes, and this usually occurs at a memorial service. But a truly great man will think long and hard about what matters most to him and will take pains to deposit these hopes in the minds of the next generation. These aims are normally preceded by “when I’m gone, I hope that you’ll remember….”

And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him at Gibeah of Phinehas his son, which was given him in the hill country of Ephraim.

If you live long enough you’ll recall a time when giants i.e. truly great men, roamed the earth. You can lament about their absence or become one yourself! Sadly, for many, formative time is squandered. But not in the cases of men like Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Caleb and Eleazar. All lived strong. All finished strong. Case in point: Phinehas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron singlehandedly checked the plague on the sons of Israel with heroic action (Numbers 25:8). The apple does not fall far from the tree!

Lessons Learned–Joshua 10

September 10, 2016

There are important lessons in Joshua 10. Joshua and the people fought and the Lord fought. More of the enemy fell from the hailstones then from the sword. It’s encouraging to know we have a powerful partner fighting in concert with us! Joshua prayed and the earth stood still. The Lord granted him a time extension on that day. We’re never out of time! We many times consider ourselves overwhelmed, but are not five converging armies overwhelming? The Lord “mopped up” even this significant force. We need to take a little time to “stand on the neck” (i.e. to appreciate the Lord’s help and dominance over our problems) of whatever has confronted us and was dispatched by the mighty hand of God, only to be motivated to be even more “strong and courageous!”

Paving Life’s Way–Joshua 4

September 5, 2016

Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, 2 “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.’” 4 So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; 5 and Joshua said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. 6 Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”

8 Thus the sons of Israel did as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, just as the Lord spoke to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel; and they carried them over with them to the lodging place and put them down there. 9 Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan at the place where the feet of the priests who carried the ark of the covenant were standing, and they are there to this day. 10 For the priests who carried the ark were standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything was completed that the Lord had commanded Joshua to speak to the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua. And the people hurried and crossed; 11 and when all the people had finished crossing, the ark of the Lord and the priests crossed before the people. 12 The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over in battle array before the sons of Israel, just as Moses had spoken to them; 13 about 40,000 equipped for war, crossed for battle before the Lord to the desert plains of Jericho.

14 On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; so that they revered him, just as they had revered Moses all the days of his life.

15 Now the Lord said to Joshua, 16 “Command the priests who carry the ark of the testimony that they come up from the Jordan.” 17 So Joshua commanded the priests, saying, “Come up from the Jordan.” 18 It came about when the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord had come up from the middle of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up to the dry ground, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place, and went over all its banks as before.

19 Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth of the first month and camped at Gilgal on the eastern edge of Jericho. 20 Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21 He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ 22 then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the Lord your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; 24 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

New American Standard Version

There’s a lot to be learned here. When faced with a huge problem, and you’re trusting God, he goes before you to solve it. He lays the groundwork. You might speculate that even if the Lord peels back the water the river bed will still be too soft to walk. He makes sure it’s dry. You may worry about the vast number of people who have to cross and if the opening will be wide enough and how long it’ll stay open and whether the water will be released too soon. God knows what he’s doing. It’s interesting to note that the water was stopped some 16 miles upstream. The Israelites then did not see where and how God was at work. And he did so in this instance in flood season! It’s the same for us. We can’t see the where, when or how, but He goes before us.

Second, what he did in the past he can do in the future. He’s not a one-hit wonder. We seem to get into the same messes over and over. He can get us out of them over and over, and he might just do it the same way, hoping that we’ll pick up on his reliability. Case in point, both Elijah and Elisha crossed the same river under the same conditions (2 Kings 2:12).

Third, the Lord really wants us to remember past deliverances, so much so he uses visual aids. How can we erect memorials to his past assistance? Perhaps in a journal. Maybe something unique and creative. For example, God called for a memorial built to code. Joshua improvised and did an additional one of his own. Maybe he just wanted future generations to know when they saw the top of the stones in the river, it’d be an even greater testimony to God’s power. Whatever the case, the Lord did not object.

Finally, there’s no problem too great, too thorny, too difficult for God to fix. Somehow he’ll provide enough obvious direction to get you through it. The ark was carried to the middle of the Jordan for direction. He’ll do the same for us somehow. But it might be that the only direction we’ll have is that he’s done the same miracle before! One last thing. He will not pick us up and carry us. We need to make it through on our own two feet.

Portrait of a Pastor–from 1 Thessalonians 2

May 29, 2016

His message is not based on or motivated by error, impurity, deceit, flattering speech, greed, or obtaining glory from men. Although he might, he doesn’t assert the authority vested in him as pastor. He tenderly cares for his flock. He has a fond affection for his flock. He works night and day for his flock. He does not burden the flock. He devoutly, uprightly and blamelessly behaves before the flock. He encourages and exhorts and implores the flock. He has a great desire to “see the face” of his flock. His ministry among the flock is marked by labor and hardship. He gives (shares) fully of himself. The results of his efforts will be presented to Christ as a crown at his coming.

What a Baby Boomer Expects Out of a Millennial…

February 6, 2016

MillenialThere’s a lot of talk about how churches are missing the mark with the Millennial generation. Frankly, I don’t see any consequential difference is the stresses and strains of this group compared to my generation. You’re always going to have the old looking down on the young, questioning whether they’ll ever amount to anything, much less lead.

Amazingly, with time, the transformation occurs, and the responsibility comes and is shouldered, and yes, even the Millennials will become calcified in their ways some day, and will have to ratchet down the hopping that comes with a Hillsong concert due to threat of injury. They’ll even scowl under their breath at the repetitiveness of the words in the new songs, and the fact no one wears flannel shirts and skinny jeans anymore on stage. There’s nothing new under the sun, so said Solomon.

What has evaporated, worldwide, and in this country, is any semblance of morality. Sadly, this anything goes, live-and-let live mentality is pervasive in the church, so that the focus is more on social aspects rather than on becoming holy. The Word does not shift with the times.

What I expect out of a Millennial in the congregation is a young man or woman immersed in the Word of God, studying it diligently, obediently working out the requirements for righteousness, for example, those that are outlined in the Beatitudes, in their lives. That’s what I expect of myself as a white hair, and that’s what I expect out of you.

Bragging Rights

February 6, 2016

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

saunierduvalpr08We have an endurance culture in our society, committed to athletic agony in pursuit victory, or in most cases, simply bragging rights. The goal may be breaking the ribbon at the finish of the Iron Man, or affixing yet another sticker on the rear window. Many in this mode seek the proud feeling of having logged more miles than any mere mortal could conceive, in the morning, and still having bounce in the step at night. Jesus did what he did not “for” anything, because he already had everything. No, he put the joy aside to take on the cross. In a way, it’s like this. It’s a beautiful sunny Saturday morning that could be spent fishing or at the beach or in a lawn chair on the patio enjoying the breeze. Instead you go out and run a half marathon, or ride 100 miles in the hills. You don’t have to put yourself through such agony, but the inner voices say you’ll be proud of yourself if you do. Jesus had it all but exchanged it to endure the shame of the cross. Not for a sticker or tee shirt, but for us. Why is his feat so important to us? Why do we need the kind of faith he perfected? Because the race we run has no end. Life is not logged on a Saturday morning.

Greater to Lesser

February 3, 2016

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:3

We don’t often hear preachers tell us to analyze, i.e. “consider” Jesus, but the writer of Hebrews does here. Only when we fully understand the magnitude of Christ’s suffering at the hands of his own people, and all the rest of mankind, can we step back from our setbacks and see them as “momentary light affliction.” (2 Cor. 4:17) He is our source of strength and encouragement in trying times, because through it all he endured and triumphed. If he can under those circumstances, we can in ours!