From Reflection to Hope

This past Sunday Sam challenged us all to take a good hard look at how we think about the things in our pasts (if you missed her message you can catch it here). She focused on Joshua 23. There Joshua, this great leader of Israel, reflected on his life. He talked about his past conquests, he warned his people of their potential futures, and most importantly he cast a vision forward of hope.

Too often in life we live so focused on the present – what we’re doing or who we’re with – that we fail to reflect upon how God has provided for us. Too often we are so overcome by our immediate circumstances that we cannot begin to think about how we ever got to wherever we find ourselves in the moment. We are pretty bad at taking a step back and looking at our lives from 30,000 foot point of view. But in Joshua 23 – Joshua does just that. As he comes to the end of his life, as he comes to the end of his leadership role he reflects back and considers how God has provided for him all through those many years. Through the desert God provided, while crossing the Jordan God provided, in the victory over Jericho God provided.

When we, like Joshua, take a moment and reflect upon how God has been at work in our lives we are almost guaranteed to be amazed. God provides for us each and every day – whether it be the last breath that you took or the bowl of cereal you had for breakfast – God provides. And once we take that step back and reflect God blesses us with hope for the future. For when we recognize God’s actions in the past we are encouraged and emboldened to press on in God’s calling on our lives. When we reflect on God’s provision in the past we are infused with hope for the future.

Our challenge this week is to take a few moments and reflect. As we near Thanksgiving, take some time to think about how God has provided for you throughout this past year. How has He given you your basic needs? How, maybe, has He spoiled you? And once you’ve reflected, once you’ve come to a place of thanksgiving – take a moment, look towards your future, and step towards it with a hope that can only come from God who promises to never leave us or forsake us. Step toward your future with hope today.

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A God Who Fights for You

Last Sunday Nate’s message focused on a story from Joshua 10:1-15 — if you missed his message you can catch it here.

In Joshua 10¬† Israelites’ honor is at stake. Gibeon is besieged by five of the surrounding kings and their respective armies and now Israel has to honor the ill-advised treaty they made with the Gibeonites. In Joshua chapter 9 we read about how they made this treaty without seeking God’s input on the subject and committed themselves to something without His approval. Now if they want their word to hold water they have to come to the rescue. Now they have to commit troops – never a lightly made decision.

And yet it’s here where God decides to come to their rescue. Joshua was out matched and out gunned, but he had to respond for the Gibeonites. And yet God steps in and helps the Israelites honor the treaty with Gibeon – a treaty God didn’t even approve of in the first place. Joshua and Israel had made a mistake with that treaty, but God refuses to abandon them in their mistake. God refuses to turn His back on his people even in their error.

And we can all be thankful that we still serve this same God. You see God still refuses to abandon His people in their mistakes. If you are a follower of Jesus, God refuses to abandon you in your faults and failures. Whatever you’ve done, how ever you’ve failed, God will not leave you in your mess. Don’t get me wrong, God has the right to turn his back on all of us. He would be justified in forcing us to lie in the beds we each make for ourselves. Instead, God and His love for us propels Him to involve Himself in our messes and mistakes. In the New Testament we read that God will never leave us or foresake us regardless of what we’ve done. In John 14 Jesus promises that He will not abandon us as orphans but that He will come to us.

We serve a God who loves us so much that He’s willing to help us work through our errors. He refuses to abandon us in our mistakes and promises to always be with us. This week I encourage you to live with this confidence – God will never turn His back on you. Have a blessed week!

And the Walls Came Down

Last Sunday Sam gave a message based on Joshua 6 – the story of Jericho – if you missed it you can catch it here.

All too often in life we have a sin or an area that we really would prefer to keep from God. Maybe it’s an addiction, a relationship, a decision that we feel like God should stay out of – do you have this in your life? This past Sunday Sam examined the story of how God brought the great walls of the city of Jericho down to rubble and yet He saved Rahab and her family from certain death. He rescued her from behind her walls because she was willing and able to acknowledge that He was in fact God – God of both heaven and earth, as she put it. And through her confession many of her family members were saved.

Here and now God still wants to rescue us from behind our walls. All we need to do is acknowledge, like Rahab, that God is God. That He is the creator and sustainer of life. Once we recognize who God is, once we experience His love for us we can be saved from the rubble of our lives. Through Jesus God wants to rescue us from behind our walls. Not simply to judge us or condemn us, but to give us hope and healing.

And so the two questions remain: first, can you like Rahab recognize who God is? And second, are you willing to ask for His help to be freed from the walls that surround you? If you can God promises you that healing and hope. God promises you that rescue.

How do you remember?

Last Sunday, Nate helped us look at Joshua 4:1-14 and the story of how God commanded the Israelites to build a memorial after they crossed the Jordan River into the promised land (if you missed it you can catch it here). God tells Joshua to stack 12 river rocks on the bank of the Jordan “to serve as a sign.” These 12 ordinary rocks were meant to function as a trigger for their corporate memories so that generations later their great-grand-kids would see that pile and remember how God provided for them in their time of need.

Later in the New Testament Jesus provides us, the church, a trigger for our corporate memory – the Lord’s Supper. In this meal, the bread and the juice, function as tangible elements that help us remember Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. They too “serve as a sign” for us. The question we’re left with is this: when you take communion do you remember? Do these physical elements help you remember how Jesus’ gave up his spot at God’s right hand to rescue us from ourselves? Do you remember? That’s our challenge this week.

 

An Insurmountable Task

Last Sunday, Sam helped us unpack the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River as found in Joshua 3. If you missed the message you can catch it here.

Imagine being one of the Israelites, here you are camping on the banks of this rushing river at flood stage. The water whips by you as the rapids roar and the mist off the rocks soaks you to the core. These followers of God were told that they had to cross this river into the land God had promised them so long ago. Talk about a crazy assignment!

Fundamentally God called them to a seemingly insurmountable task. But from this story we learn that when God calls us to difficult tasks, when God gives us crazy assignments He never abandons us to complete the task alone. Rather God always provides us a way to succeed. That day on the side of the Jordan River God challenged them to be courageous and to take the first step into the water. They had to make the first move – then and only then did God hold back the rushing river. Only after they took that first step could they begin to understand how such a crazy idea could work.

So too with us. Often God calls us to seemingly insurmountable tasks. Whether it’s changing careers, moving out of state, working to repair a broken relationship, or tackling an addiction – God gives us difficult assignments. Thankfully, we can learn from the Israelites and we can trust that He will provide us a way to accomplish any assignment that comes from Him. He will hold back the rushing water of our lives that threatens to sweep us downstream. If we are courageous and we take the first step into the uncertainty God will provide us a dry path to walk through the tumult that threatens to undo us.

But the question that remains is this: Are you willing to take that first step? Are you willing to follow after God even when what He is calling you to seems crazy? Even when the task He gives you seems insurmountable? Is there something this week that you know you need to step out to with courage? How might God provide you an unexpected path to success in that situation?

Why a Prositute did what she did…

We get a pretty unbelievable story in Joshua 2. Sam tackled it this past Sunday – if you missed it you can catch it here.

Here’s cliff note version – Rehab a high-priced call girl hid Jewish spies on her roof in Jericho. Eventually word got round that Rehab has been visited by these foreign operatives and the local law enforcement, Jericho’s FBI, came knocking and asked where the spies were. Rehab then lied to the authorities, made up some elaborate story about how they ran off earlier, and sent them off in hot pursuit of the phantom escape artists. When the dust settled the spies must have asked Rehab a very simple question – “WHY??” “Why did you lie for us? Why did you put your family, why did you put yourself at risk for our sakes?”

Our story climaxes here with her response in Joshua 2:9-13. She explains that she and those living in Jericho have heard how God, the God of Israel, has led His people not only out of Egypt but how He had led them to one victory after another. She stated that because of God’s leading the people of Jericho melted in fear before the Israelites. And she concludes her explanation with these words, “For the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”

You see when asked why Rehab acted the way she did, when asked why she was willing to put her neck on the line for the spies she answered clearly and concisely, “for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” She knew why she did what she did. Rehab knew her why.

The question we face today is this: “Do you know your why?” Can you express why you do what you do? Can you tell people clearly and concisely why you live how you live? And for those of us who are followers of Jesus, can we explain why we follow after Him? Rehab knew her why and she could state it when asked.

Peter encourages us in 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Do you know your why? Why do you follow Jesus? Why do you work where you work? Why do you spend your money the way you do? If you’re committed to a local church – can you explain why?

We live in a world that wants to know why and our challenge this week is to have an answer ready like Rehab.

Expectations: What NFL Refs and Joshua Have in Common

Last night featured one of the most disappointing performances by professional referees in the history of sports. It was terrible! And yet it wasn’t the referees fault. Last night as the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks came to a close the contest hinged on one call as time expired. One ref signaled a Seattle touchdown while the other suggested a Green Bay interception. It was a poorly reffed game if there ever was one!

 
And yet I can’t blame the referees. Just months ago these guys were at home refereeing small college games at best and high school games at worst and last night they found themselves in front of the nation refereeing a Monday Night Football game for all to see. Let’s be honest, the refs were out of the league. The expectations they faced were enormous. The anxiety had to be palpable. It was like asking a high school civics student to advise the state department on foreign affairs in Syria. Not a good idea.

 

This past Sunday we looked at another character who was thrown into the spotlight – Joshua (you can catch it here). We enter into Joshua 1 as Moses the patriarch of Israel had died and God came to Joshua, Moses’ aide, and told him it was his time to shine. Talk about expectations. Talk about being thrown into the deep end of the pool. Nate spoke on how Joshua faced ridiculous expectations¬† and yet how God spoke words of strength to him. And God promises to speak words of strength to us today too.

 

I encourage you to read the 1st chapter in Joshua sometime this week and listen for God’s words for you. The 1st chapter in Joshua is one of the greatest pep talks in the entire Bible. A pep talk even the refs could use after last night’s game.

DIY for Prayer – A Helpful How-To

If I’m honest I’m kind of a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) junkie. I like to watch TV shows that encourage me to landscape my own yard, build my own furniture, tackle my own closet. Whether it’s a show about how to retile my bathroom or a clip on how to make my own personalized bottle opener – I’m kind of addicted to learning about how to do things, make things, create things myself. Notice I said I’m addicted to learning about these things – my actual follow through is often rare.

I think this is often how we think about spiritual disciplines like prayer. We like learning about how to pray. We like learning about different types of prayer. But when push comes to shove our follow through is poor. I know I’m often in this boat.

This past Sunday Sam spoke on how we should pray (if you missed her message you can catch it here). She unpacked the “Lord’s Prayer” from Matthew 5:9-13 for us and dissected each of the six requests found in Jesus’ most famous prayer. Here Jesus gives us a how-to in regards to prayer – a DIY example, if you will. And it is a perfect example that reorients our hearts to focus on God and His will.

The question that we face though – will we simply be happy to learn more about prayer? Will this message be one more additional DIY episode in our mental libraries? Or will we actually use Jesus’ teaching to pray?

Jesus taught on prayer in Matthew 6 because He knew that it was the primary way we can communicate with God almighty. But the question we each face is whether or not we’ll actually do it? Will you pray? For Jesus prayer is so much more than a 30 minute DIY tutorial. What is prayer for you?

Fasting – From Gandhi to Breakfast to Jesus

This past Sunday Nate’s message focused on Jesus’ teaching on fasting – if you missed it you can catch it here. It’s a spiritual practice that we’re aware of and yet we often struggle to really understand it. Whether it’s the physical effects it has on our bodies, or its over all purpose we don’t quite know what to do with it.

Nate helped us walk through Jesus’ teaching on fasting found in Matthew 6:16-18. Here Jesus’ challenges us that fasting isn’t about an outward purpose, but rather it’s about inward and upward purposes. Fasting isn’t about how we look as we do it – the Pharisees got that wrong in Jesus’ day. Fasting is all about our inward purpose of developing self-discipline and even more importantly fasting is about the upward purpose of growing closer to God. When we give up the delicacies we enjoy in our every day life then we begin to understand that in the end God is the only one we cannot live without.

Here are a couple of questions to think through:

  • Have you ever fasted? If so how was that experience? If not, why not?
  • What would be a good thing for you to give up for a time that would help you grow closer to God?
  • How will you sacrifice an everyday luxury this week so that you can rely more fully on God?

A Gentle Word of Love

This past Sunday, Nate spoke on how God has a gentle word of love that He wants to share with each of us – if you missed it you can catch it online here. We looked at the story of Jesus’ baptism from Luke 3:15-22. In this passage God the Father speaks to His son Jesus for the first time. This scene is an intimate moment shared between a father and a son – in which God the Father tells Jesus, “You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

This word of love must have quickened Jesus’ heart. It was a powerful message that launched Jesus into public ministry. These three statements infused Jesus with courage and confidence. And the beautiful truth is that this message is for each of us today. As adopted sons and daughters of God we too are the children whom He loves, we are God’s beloved. It is out of this truth that we can walk in confidence, that we can be rid of the doubts that creep into our minds late at night – the doubts that we don’t fit, that we’re not good enough, that we don’t make enough money, or we aren’t worth someone’s love.

None of those doubts are true. We are God’s beloved. I am God’s beloved. You are God’s beloved.

So this week – live your life filled with confidence. Live your life filled with courage. Live your life filled with the truth that God loves you. For God says these words to you as well, “You are my child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”