A Homily on Joshua Chapter 1

Here are my notes on the homily I gave yesterday at an assisted living facility:

The message I want to share with you today comes from the book of Joshua. If you have your Bible, turn with me to Joshua chapter one. In verse seven we find these words, “be strong and very courageous.” These are God’s words to Joshua after the Israelites are devastated by the death of Moses. They all loved Moses. For forty years he led God’s  people. To give you an idea of how well loved he was, turn back one page to Deuteronomy 34:12. “For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”

Joshua had some tough shoes to fill. He had to step in to a leadership position and be responsible for well over a million people. The Israelites were surrounded by the Canaanites. It was clear where Joshua was going lead them—into the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey. BUT conquering this land was another matter. So many uncertainties lay ahead. How would they get across the Jordan River at flood stage? How would they overcome great walled cities and mighty armies? What about the giants they would have to face?

Are you facing giant obstacles in your life? Maybe your world has recently been turned upside down, having lost someone close to you? God’s words to Joshua apply to us today, “Be strong and courageous!”

You may be saying to yourself my situation is different. How can I possibly be strong and courageous? Look at verse five, “As I [God] was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not leave you or forsake you,” In verse nine God tells Joshua, “I will be with you wherever you go.”  You see, God is not sitting up in heaven dreaming up new ways to make us miserable. He’s not sleeping, nor is he distracted with other matters, leaving us to face our problems alone. God says He is with us every day as we journey through life, especially when we are facing difficult circumstances. You might say God sticks to us like glue!

Faith and obedience are two things that made Joshua a successful leader.  Joshua believed God is who he says he is.  We need to remind ourselves regularly this means God is God and we are not. Complete trust in God makes obedience a joyful, not tedious endeavor.  Obedience for or the Israelites meant being careful to obey God’s law given to Moses. Verse 7 says, “do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” We Christians demonstrate our obedience, by loving God with all our heart, soul and mind AND loving our neighbors as we would ourselves Matthew 22:37.

My Sunday school class is studying the book of Joshua. We have been learning how God worked mighty miracles over the course of Joshua’s life. The only reason the Israelites were able to conquer the Promised Land was because God fought for them. God dammed up the flooded river Jordan so the Israelites could cross on dry ground. He shook the mighty walls of Jericho as the Israelites shouted, causing them to collapse. God even stopped the path of sun and the moon for about a day so the Israelites could defeat their enemies in battle. God did these things for the Joshua and the Israelites because of their faith and obedience. Jesus, our Joshua, will do mighty things in our lives if we have faith and will just trust him to the point of being obedient.

Let me tell you a story of how God intervened in this one little thing in my life. If we are not careful to notice the little things God does for us they can easily be overlooked.

FullSizeRender 2We bought a new puppy a little over a year ago. His name is Brody. He is a crème colored short-legged creature called mini dachshund. One day not too long ago he was in some kind of stomach or intestinal distress. Every hour on the hour he would climb up into my wife’s lap and begin yipping loudly. This went on for several hours; every hour on the hour. You can imagine how stressful this was to Patty and I. After several hours of this, we decided to call the vet and take him in. But before we did we casually prayed God would touch his little body. Have you ever prayed one of those quick nonchalant prayers, “God help __________” (fill in the blank).

Was it silly to pray for a puppy? I don’t think so. I think that God cares about the things we care about. Anyway, we arrived at the vet and I readied myself as we closed in on Body’s yipping time. The time came and went with no yipping. I remember thinking maybe it would happen a few minutes later this time but it didn’t. Several minutes passed until it was time to meet with the vet. She probed and probed and could not find anything wrong with him so she sent us on our way.

Well, I paid the vet bill and caught myself grumbling, if we had waited another hour or two, then a trip to the vet wouldn’t have been necessary and we wouldn’t be out the money. It’s easy to grumble and complain about things that happen to us in life isn’t it.  Well, this time I stopped myself in the middle of my grumbling and thought, Hey, wait a minute, we prayed God would touch little Brody and he did! 

My grumbling almost cost me a chance to recognize God’s handiwork and the fact he does care about me. Folks, let me encourage you to not to be like the world around us and pass off the little things God does in your life as coincidence. Praise God for every little thing he does for you. Count your blessings when you pray. Each time you do you are thanking and praising God!

So, do you believe God still works in the lives of those who love and obey Him? Do you believe God will help you be strong and courageous in times of great difficulty? Look at verse thirteen, God promised the Israelites he would give them rest when they inhabited the Promised Land.

Does life leave you feeling tired?  Do you long for rest? I’ve begun to count down the years until my retirement. I won’t bore you with the exact number. Like most of you I’ve labored long and hard for a lot of years. I’ve worked in a plastics factory, for a packaging and assembly business and in an order fulfillment warehouse. I’ve sat at a desk doing computer work. My most job is with Pearce Church doing anything and everything they need me to do. You know what? I often go home tired and weary. I’m looking forward to the day I don’t have to wake up to an alarm clock anymore. I am looking forward to resting.

Have you found a place of rest in your journey? Do you want to find peace in the midst of your struggles? Let’s look at a couple of scripture passages about peace and rest.

In Matthew chapter 11 Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Hebrews chapter 13 says, “be content with what we have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.”

My friends hear the word of the Lord! Be strong and courageous! Have faith and trust God because He is with us—ALWAYS!

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The Power of Books

book-863418_960_720Carl Sagan was an atheist who had this to say about the power a book possesses.

“What an astonishing thing a book is,” marveled [Carl] Sagan. “It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you.”

Sagan’s comment certainly explains the desirability of books through the ages.  It would also seem to explain the power and effectiveness of the Bible. Its author, God, is not dead and its words are timeless. That being said, one has to wonder why we don’t read the Bible more.

Brody and Jake

IMG_1962It’s been a while since I shared a Brody update.  I can assure you that he is alive, well and full of himself.  I refer to Jake and Brody as “brothers” though the only thing they have in common is that they are both long-hair mini dachshunds.  Jake is 10 years older than Brody but you wouldn’t know it when they are rough-housing around the house.  They do tend to look out for one another, whether they’re penned up, relaxing on the sofa or out for a walk.  They also eat and drink from the same bowls without fighting.

Their camaraderie gets cloudy, however, when treats or toys are introduced into the equation.  I’m careful to give each dog the same item but within minutes each creature immediately wants the other’s prize without letting go of the one they already possess.  It’s a funny thing to watch two dogs vie for the other’s prize but not quite so funny when we look at our own lives and see something similar happening.

I need to be reminded once in a while to be content with what I have already.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6

Joshua 1: Be strong and courageous

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The opening chapter of Joshua is filled with encouragement.  It comes on the heels of the Israelites’ most grievous and devastating loss – the death of Moses.  They were on a roll, under Moses’ command they had already defeated the kings on the east side of the river.  They were ready to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land.  All their momentum evaporated like dust in the wind.  For thirty days their grief was evident.

After a period of mourning, it was time to pick up the pieces and finish the journey.  Joshua, tasked with leading millions of Israelites across the Jordan River, receives much needed encouragement from God.

Be strong and courageous… Joshua 1:6

Have you ever been tasked with doing something that looked impossible to accomplish?  Have you ever suffered a devastating loss?  Maybe you find yourself in desperate situation?  God says, be strong and courageous!  But why should you? How is it even possible?

God wants Joshua and his people to courageously follow his teachings.  Joshua can be strong and courageous because the Lord:

  • Will not leave him or forsake him (v5)
  • Will be with him wherever he goes (v9)
  • Will give him rest from his arduous journey (v13)

Be strong and courageous! Follow in Joshua’s footsteps and see what God will do for you.

Freedom

memorial-day-354082_960_720As Veteran’s Day approaches I am reminded freedom comes at great cost.  American soldiers paid a price, often with life or limbs, to preserve our freedom.  May God bless our service men and women as they serve our country.

Just as soldiers paid a price for our physical freedom, one solitary person paid the ultimate price for our spiritual freedom.  Jesus died in our stead so we could be free from the bondage of sin which leads to physical death.   Death is not the end for those who believe in Him.  They will experience eternal life on the other side of death.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NLT

God’s man Joshua

IMG_0640Joshua is a remarkable, heroic Old Testament Bible character worthy of our admiration.  He did what Moses could not do; lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land which God gave to them.

Joshua had a servant’s heart.  He was an assistant to Moses since his youth, serving him in Egypt, during the desert wandering and leading men into battle.  He never married or had children, dedicating his life to serving God.

“Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua…” Joshua 24:31

The book of Joshua opens with the death of Moses, and concludes with the death of Joshua. In between we find a person worthy of our study.  For Christians, there’s a host of parallels between Joshua leading the children of Israel and Jesus leading the body of believers in Him to our promised inheritance.  For starters, the name Joshua means Jehovah is salvation, and the equivalent name in Greek is Jesus.  Taking the name one step further, we read in Joshua 1:1 that Joshua is the son of Nun.  The word “Nun” means eternal or perpetual, no doubt underscoring him as a type of Christ.

Join me as I journey  through the book of Joshua.