Archive for June, 2017

Joshua 13:24-14:5
The Remaining Lands are Divided

Sometimes, it is interesting to think of what your life may have been like if things had happened differently. Think back to those key decision points in life where the decision you made changes your life forever. Think back to decisions made by others that changed your life forever.

What if my dad had not been moved to Travelers Rest, SC back in 1976 when I was 14 years old? What if? That would have changed everything. I would have not met Lisa McDowell. We would not have fell in love, got married, been tied down to Travelers Rest (because of Lisa’s need to stay close to her handicapped mother) and as a result chose to go to college locally at Furman University, and made career choices based on being singularly tied to the Greenville, SC area for decades. And because of being married to Lisa, ended up having to deal with her years of drug abuse and scrapes with the law and her affair. And that would not have left me with seething anger toward her for all those things that led to my own affair that effectively ended our marriage by 1993. What if? What if I had not chosen to a job at Dunlop Slazenger Corporation in 1987 so I could get off the road as an internal auditor and be close to home so as to react to all of Lisa’s drug-induced mistakes and moments of poor judgment. If I had not gone to work at Dunlop, I would not have met Trena in 1991 and had an affair with her and then married in 1995. I would not have had to make choices between her and her kids vs. my kids that almost ruined by relationship with my children. I would not have had that great financial burden of support of alimony and child support that led to some stupendously stupid financial decisions and kept financial secrets that led to Trena’s affair and our separation that led to us reunited when all that fell apart for her. That led to me being there when her oldest son was killed in a car accident at age 16 that changed Trena forever. That lead to heightened jealousies toward my oldest daughter who was now living with us. That led to Trena believing wholeheartedly that my obligation to my child ended when she went off to college. That led me to make choices to hide financial support to my child while Meghan was over at Clemson her freshman year. Which led to discovery which led to three weeks of silence, sleeping on the couch, not talking one word, which finally led to our separation for the last time in the summer of 2004. Which led eventually to me finally leaving the Greenville, SC area in the winter of 2006. Thirty years later from that moment my dad moved us to Travelers Rest.

What if? What if? What if the Methodist Church had moved my dad to another South Carolina town? How would have my life turned out? What if, even with the move to Travelers Rest, if I had not made the choice to start dating Lisa? How would my life have turned out? What if, even with the choice to start dating Lisa, that I had made the choice to go off to the college of my choice, Clemson University? Would our relationship have survived? How would my life have been different? What if I had not made the choice to marry Lisa after my freshman year in college? What if we had waited? Would we have made it to the altar at all? What if I had gone off to college at Clemson and decided to end it with Lisa back home in Travelers Rest, an hour away? How would my life have been different? What would have happened? Maybe I would have met someone not tied to their hometown. Maybe I would have accepted a job somewhere far away and my life would be completely different now. What if, given the life that I chose with Lisa and Travelers Rest, that after our breakup that I had met someone different than Trena. What would that life had been like? My life right now is formed by the move to Travelers Rest, SC in June 1976. That one epic decision by the Bishop of the United Methodist Church in South Carolina (UMC-SC) forever caste the lot of my life. It set the stage for all the choices for good and for bad that I made during a 30 year period of my life.

Even now, my life with Elena, my wife now, is contingent upon the decision tree of my life with its roots in the move to Travelers Rest in 1976. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for my marriage to Elena and it is brought comfort, security, unconditional love, and financial security (because of her ability to influence me to make wise financial choices) that I have never known in my life since becoming an adult. I wonder though why did I have to go through all the 30 years of stuff just to get to her. What if somehow in 1976, the Methodist Church would have somehow moved us to the South Carolina side of the Charlotte metro area? What if I had somehow, someway, met Elena during my teenage years? How would our lives be different instead of meeting her in Rock Hill, SC (just south of Charlotte) some 31 years after I moved to Travelers Rest in 1976.

Don’t get me wrong, there were good times with Lisa and with Trena but choices were made and things ended badly in both of those marriages. Don’t get me wrong, I would have children by someone over the years if I had made different choices, but they would not be the unique young ladies that Meghan and Taylor are. I would have children but they would NOT be Meghan and Taylor. You sit and wonder…what if. You sit and wonder at the decision tree of your life and go … what if I had made a different decision right there at that point right there!! What if decisions of others would have been different? Where would my life be? Where would I be living? Where would I be working? Would different choices have made my life easier or even tougher than it was?

Even though it is weird to think of our life’s decision trees when reading this passage about the division of land among the tribes here in this extended passage, but that’s what I thought of and you will see why after we read through it together now. Let’s read Joshua 13:24-14:5:

24 This is what Moses had given to the tribe of Gad, according to its clans:

25 The territory of Jazer, all the towns of Gilead and half the Ammonite country as far as Aroer, near Rabbah; 26 and from Heshbon to Ramath Mizpah and Betonim, and from Mahanaim to the territory of Debir; 27 and in the valley, Beth Haram, Beth Nimrah, Sukkoth and Zaphon with the rest of the realm of Sihon king of Heshbon (the east side of the Jordan, the territory up to the end of the Sea of Galilee[a]). 28 These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the Gadites, according to their clans.

29 This is what Moses had given to the half-tribe of Manasseh, that is, to half the family of the descendants of Manasseh, according to its clans:

30 The territory extending from Mahanaim and including all of Bashan, the entire realm of Og king of Bashan—all the settlements of Jair in Bashan, sixty towns, 31 half of Gilead, and Ashtaroth and Edrei (the royal cities of Og in Bashan). This was for the descendants of Makir son of Manasseh—for half of the sons of Makir, according to their clans.

32 This is the inheritance Moses had given when he was in the plains of Moab across the Jordan east of Jericho. 33 But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the Lord, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.
Division of the Land West of the Jordan

14 Now these are the areas the Israelites received as an inheritance in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun and the heads of the tribal clans of Israel allotted to them. 2 Their inheritances were assigned by lot to the nine and a half tribes, as the Lord had commanded through Moses. 3 Moses had granted the two and a half tribes their inheritance east of the Jordan but had not granted the Levites an inheritance among the rest, 4 for Joseph’s descendants had become two tribes—Manasseh and Ephraim. The Levites received no share of the land but only towns to live in, with pasturelands for their flocks and herds. 5 So the Israelites divided the land, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Because Joseph had godly character (Genesis 49:22-26), the tribes descended from him – Ephraim and Mannasseh – were given the richest and most fertile land in all of Canaan. Judah, who offered himself in exchange for his brother’s, Benjamin’s, safety, received the largest portion of the land, which eventually became the southern kingdom and the seat of the Davidic dynasty. The division of the land seems to align itself with content of the character of each of Jacob’s sons. Thus, it was necessary for Joshua to divide up the land exactly as God had instructed Moses years before. Joshua did not edit and modernize or change a single word. He followed God’s commands exactly and precisely. Often we believe that almost is close enough rather than complete obedience to God’s directions to us through Holy Spirit and through His Word. We may decide for ourselves what parts of the Bible we are going to follow and which we are not. We follow what we want and ignore what seems harsh to us or does not align with our personal desires.

Our lives are formed by the choices we make. Sometimes, our parents or grandparents choices form what we become. Here in this passage, we see the far-reaching generational effects of the character of each of Jacob’s son has on the future of each of the tribes of Israel. We set patterns of actions into motion with the decisions that we make. Sometimes, we are living under the results of the decisions made by those who have gone before us in our family. God allows our actions to play themselves out in our lives and the lives of our children and our children’s children. Every time that we made a choice in life, it creates a decision tree turn that can affect us for the rest of our lives and even the lives of our children and grandchildren. Choices made by Jacob’s sons are reflected here in this passage in how God distributed the land to the tribes. Choices. Results. More choices. More results.

Each day we have a choice to obey God’s Word, even when it goes against what our personal desires are, or to follow our own desires and make up our own bible. When we bend God’s Word to meet our personal desires or to justify our sins, He lets us make our free will choice to disobey Him. He also lets us live with the consequences of our sinful decisions. These decisions echo through the generations. Just think about how we as a people have rejected God’s Word about male-female marriage. God will allow us to do that and we think it’s all cool and hip and justified but God will let us live with the consequences of that too. We have yet to see the impact on the fabric of our society but it will come. Consequences. Choices. Results. More choices. More results.

We cannot change the past. Although I sit and wonder what my life would be like right now at age 54 if I had made some dramatically different life choices at key points in my history, but that is all unchangeable. I have inherited the land that is the result of my choices. I must live with these choices. It is this very fact that makes me thankful for a loving and forgiving God. God has taken all of that mess of the decisions that I have made in my life and redeemed them. He has set my on the high ground after picking me up out of the valley of my decisions. Without all of that history since 1976’s move to Travelers Rest, I would not appreciate the peaceful river upon which I float right now. I would not appreciate what God has done to redeem my life from the horrendous cumulative effects of the choices I have made in my life.

God does redeem. He makes even the foulest clean through Jesus Christ and our willingness to humble ourselves before Christ and say Lord I have made a mess of this thing called life. Take it over. I need you to lead me and show me how to live. I need you and your forgiveness. I need your covering of righteousness for the foul rags of my life. I need you, Jesus!

You may have made key critical decisions in your life that you are paying for right now. Your life may be in the pits and you may be wondering what if…! But Jesus takes your past and molds it and makes it useful to Him in your future. Your past can be your ministry. You can minister to others by showing what Christ can do with a life that was full of bad choices and wrong turns. Jesus can make us all beautiful and useful in the Kingdom.

Stop looking at the results of the past and the arid land you have inherited because of it. Look to Jesus Christ and allow Him to redeem your inheritance and make it into something beautiful, fragrant, fertile and useful to His Kingdom.

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 13:15-23

The Land Given to the Tribe of Reuben

Do you ever think about the legacy that you will leave behind? Do think about how your actions will have ripple effects in your family for generations. But are we not forgiven for our past mistakes by God when we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord.

 

This issue has been on my mind lately because of current events locally. I have had to attend the funerals of the father of a friend and the husband of a church member within the last several weeks. And then there has been an issue of a person that was not a close friend but more than a mere acquaintance that has been accused of crimes regarding dissemination of pornography among people who are less than 18 years old. In all of these things, it had me considering the issue of legacy and its relationship to forgiveness in Christ.

 

In the funerals, I heard stories of great legacy. These two men were honored and revered by their families. You can usually tell at funerals whether people are struggling to say nice things about the deceased or whether they are being sincere. In both cases, those who spoke of the deceased were joyously and sometimes tearfully speaking of the things that they respected about the man, the father, the husband, the employee, etc. that these men were. “He was a good man!” was often said at each of these funerals. These were God-fearing men. These were men who led their families well. These were men of quiet generosity not just at church but in the community with those that needed help. These were men that knew what his sons needed in their father in one case or was perfectly suited to be the father of all daughters in the other case. Respect. Honor. Dignity. Generosity. Christ-following. Humble. Hard Working. Integrity. All of these adjectives were lauded upon these men. I am sure that each had their faults and had their screw ups with their kids and their wives but nothing profound that permanently damaged their overall legacy. Their legacy was one of respect and honor. They were able to pass on that legacy to their children. Each of them appear to people of honor and respect and all of that they are they credit to the leadership of their father. Now, that’s legacy my friends. These men were not internationally famous, nationally famous, famous in our state, regionally famous, and probably were not well-known even in our community outside their sphere of influence of church, work, and friends. But the legacy that they have passed down to their progeny is one that I certainly want to have said of me.

 

What will my children and my wife think of me when they have to write my eulogy after I am gone. What legacy am I leaving to him by my actions during my life? What will they say of me? And how will the actions, mistakes, victories, character, how I acted in crunch moments, how far down the genealogical tree will my actions of my lifetime reverberate and shake the branches of my progeny.

 

That same question of legacy and the impact of our actions is what I thought about in the situation where a person I know stands accused of a crime and the evidence is pretty heavy that he did it (but we will reserve the right here to say that he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law not in the court of public opinion). If he is found guilty of the crime of which he stands accused, what will be the impact of his actions on his family and future generations of his family. What impact will this moment in time have on the generations of his family to come. What will be the legacy of these actions? Sure, we are praying for the redemption of this man from his active and ongoing sin of which he stands accused. We pray that he will be repentant and seek restoration. However, we cannot pray that the consequences of his be removed his life. There are simply some immutable facts of life. Sin has its consequences. We must deal with our sins even after salvation. Sins that we commit before our salvation in the Lord will still visit us in their consequences even after salvation. Just because we accept Christ as our Savior does not mean that we are automatically at that moment absolved of the consequences of our prior sins. God allows those things to play themselves out in our lives as lessons to us as to (1) why we needed Jesus in the first place and (2) as reminders of what sin does to our lives. What will be the far ranging impacts on this man’s life that will be felt for years and decades to come. It will follow him for the rest of his career. He will have to change careers. His earnings potential will be severely impacted by the choices that will be made. These things will happen and cannot be changed. We pray that he will repent, be redeemed from his sin, and be restored to the body of Christ, but his legacy has been impacted. His own life has been impacted. Sin is more than just the moment. It has trailing effects on our lives and the lives of the people we love.

 

My own situation right now in life is impacted by critical path decisions that I have made in my life. These decisions permanently alter the path that your life is on. These decisions effect your legacy. These decisions affect how your children perceive life because of the choices that we make as parents. Legacy. What’s your legacy going to be? We can say that what we do right now does not reverberate down the generations but we are just kidding ourselves. Our sins will visit us upon the next generations after us. Sin has it consequences. We must think about that when we are considering doing things that are in contrast to what the Bible tells us. We must think about the impact it will have not just on us but on the people we love and the generations after us. Because, even though we might be redeemed from our sins through humble repentance before the Lord and receiving His forgiveness through Jesus Christ, our sins’ consequences will play themselves out in our lives. Reduced influence. Temporary setbacks. Lost potential. You name it. Sin has its reverberating and sometimes continuing effects on our lives and those who come after us.

 

That idea of legacy is what I thought of when I read about the land given to the tribe of Reuben. Reuben’s clan was given desert land, basically. That is the lasting impact of the legacy of Reuben himself. It got me to thinking about what was said at these funerals about these two men’s legacy and about the man who stands accused that I know. What is his legacy going to be? And then looking inwardly at myself, what is going to be my legacy? Let’s read the passage, now, Joshua 13:15-23:

 

15 This is what Moses had given to the tribe of Reuben, according to its clans:

 

16 The territory from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge, and from the town in the middle of the gorge, and the whole plateau past Medeba 17 to Heshbon and all its towns on the plateau, including Dibon, Bamoth Baal, Beth Baal Meon, 18 Jahaz, Kedemoth, Mephaath, 19 Kiriathaim, Sibmah, Zereth Shahar on the hill in the valley, 20 Beth Peor, the slopes of Pisgah, and Beth Jeshimoth— 21 all the towns on the plateau and the entire realm of Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled at Heshbon. Moses had defeated him and the Midianite chiefs, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba—princes allied with Sihon—who lived in that country. 22 In addition to those slain in battle, the Israelites had put to the sword Balaam son of Beor, who practiced divination. 23 The boundary of the Reubenites was the bank of the Jordan. These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the Reubenites, according to their clans.

 

In Genesis 49:3-4, we read, “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power. Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.” Reuben, the firstborn of the twelve sons, was to Jacob his “might, the first sign of my strength” (Genesis 49:3), indicating that to him were all the rights and prerogatives of a firstborn son. At first, he excelled in honor and power, as is fitting the firstborn son, but Jacob declares that Reuben “will no longer excel” (verse 4) due to his sin of incest with Bilhah, his father’s concubine wife (Genesis 35:22). Although that sin was committed forty years prior, there was left an indelible spot on Reuben’s character and that of his posterity. By committing this uncleanness with his father’s wife, there would be reproach upon his tribe and the family, to whom he ought to have been an example and a blessing. He forfeited the prerogatives of the birthright, and his dying father demoted him, although he did not disown or disinherit him. He would still have all the privileges of a son, but not of the firstborn.

 

Jacob’s sad prophecy for Reuben certainly came true. No judge, prophet, ruler, or prince came from that tribe, nor any person of renown except Dathan and Abiram, who were noted for their rebellion against Moses. Reuben’s tribe chose a settlement on the other side Jordan, a further indication of the loss of godly influence on his brothers to which his birthright entitled him. Although Reuben was the firstborn, the kingdom was given to Judah and the priesthood to Levi, leaving Reuben’s tribe to be small and non-influential.

 

We learn from Reuben that those who dabble in sin must not expect to save their reputation or maintain a positive influence upon others. Although we know our sins were nailed to the cross and we are forever forgiven for past sins, we still have to suffer the consequences of those sins, which include remorse and a loss of reputation and influence. Reuben’s sin left an indelible mark upon him and his family. As Christians, we must understand that dishonor is a wound that will not be healed without a scar. We can been redeemed from our sin and be healed from it but our sins will leave scars on us.

 

What is your legacy going to be? What sins are you committing right now that you are justifying as OK that you don’t want to give up and you are reveling in going to do to your legacy? What are our unrepentant sins going to do to us in this lifetime and what effects are they going to have on our families and the future generations? Is that sin worth all the cost? Repent. Turn away. Wash your hands of it. Seek forgiveness from God. Seek restoration through forgiveness. What’s your legacy going to be?

 

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 13:14, 33

An Allotment for the Tribe of Levi

What if we paid our preachers today in food as were the priestly clan, the Levites, were paid in ancient Israel? Would they starve to death? In ancient Israel, the Levites subsisted through the remains of the offerings brought to the altar of the tabernacle and later, the Temple. The Levites would receive the tithes (10% offerings) required of the Israelites, be they oil, wine, grain, or anything else. [Numbers 18:11-18] The parts of the sacrificial offerings not burnt up were also for the Levites– the choice meats and grains. While the Levites would have no inheritance in the land, they had something better promised: “The priests, who are Levites–indeed the whole tribe of Levi–are to have no allotment or inheritance with Israel. They shall live on the offerings made to the LORD by fire, for that is their inheritance. They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the LORD is their inheritance, as he promised them.” [Deut 18:1-2]. Again, I would ask the question, what if we paid our preacher’s in food, would they starve to death?

 

How are you living your life with regard to your local temple of the Lord? If the pastors of the church you go to dependent on what you offered up to the Lord, would they starve? Sure, there are preachers out there that live high on the hog off the blood, sweat and tears of their parishioners. Sure, there are megachurch pastors who live in million dollar homes and so on. But the vast majority of pastors in my home state (and it is representative of the national average) of South Carolina make an average of $41, 044 per year (according to Indeed.com, the jobsearch website). As well, the average pastor in South Carolina has a graduate degree from a seminary or similar graduate school. The average salary of pastor with a graduate degree is about what an entry level college graduate earns on their first day on the job of their first job nowadays. Why is that we pay our pastors, who have gone to the trouble of dedicating their lives to the care and well-being of God’s children and have sacrificed a great deal of money to get their post-graduate degrees so poorly. It was also noted in a recent survey by the Lifeway Research, the Christian research firm, that the 60% of all pastors work more than 50 hours per week. So, we expect much from our pastors with meetings, meetings, meetings, church functions, vistitations, and the like and then we pay them worse that a kid fresh out of college. Why is that?

 

It comes down to the fact that we offer up defective animal sacrifices to the Lord in our way in our day. In Malachi, the prophet bemoaned how the people of Israel had fallen so far in the reverence that they showed the Lord in their sacrifices. The people were offering up their leftover animals (the defective, the puny, the diseased) to the Lord instead of their best. Are we not offering up the same to the Lord as modern Christians?

 

In John and Sylvia Ronsvalle’s book Behind the Stained Glass Windows: Money Dynamics in the Church, they found that on average more than 50% of regular churchgoers to not give to the church at all. If our pastors were paid in food and it depended on you, would they starve? According to that same book, only three percent (3%) of all churchgoers who attend church on a regular basis actually tithe. Oh, we confuse terms a lot as Christians. We say we tithe when we give less than 10%. We call any donation a tithe. On average American Christians donate less than 2% of their income to their local church. 2% or less is not a tithe. It is an offering. So on any given Sunday in church, there’s a 50/50 chance that the person sitting beside you that you see every Sunday and who is at every church event that the church has does not give a dime…AT ALL…to support the ministries of the church. There’s even greater likelihood that that the person who sits on the other side of you claims to tithe (10% or more of their income) but actually his “tithe” is less than 2% of his annual income. If our pastors depended on each one of us individually to bring them food (like in ancient Israel), would they starve?

Most pastors are not Creflo Dollar complaining that they do not have a private jet. Most pastors are hard working, God fearing men who give their all every day to their church regardless of what they are paid. Most pastors are the hardest working people you’ll ever meet. Many put in 50-60 hours per week in their job and preach on Sunday. When you compare their average salaries to the hours they work. We get quite a bargain in most pastors. They all know that if you are expecting big monetary rewards, this is not the place. Most would tell that they would rather see the church donations go into ministry rather than their salaries. They love the Lord and would be unhappy doing anything else. So, don’t get me wrong about this blog being about paying our pastors more. The blog is about honoring the Lord our God with our income. Yes, the pastors get paid from it. But the way we honor God with our finances reflects His true position in our lives.

 

We are commanded to tithe. We are commanded to give God our best to the Temple, not our leftovers. We are commanded to give the best of our flock, not the least and weak of our flocks. We are to give the best of our crops not the diseased crops. We are to give our tallest stalks of corn not the smallest. Today, we are to give the best of our money not the least. We are give it off the top not the bottom. How the ancient Israelites got this all screwed up by the end of the Old Testament as bemoaned by Malachi and how we are just like them is what I thought of this morning as I read these two verses.

 

14 But to the tribe of Levi he gave no inheritance, since the food offerings presented to the Lord, the God of Israel, are their inheritance, as he promised them…33 But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the Lord, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.

 

In these two verses, we see that the tribe of Levi was dedicated to serving God. The Levites needed more time and more mobility than a landowner could possibly have. Giving them land would have saddled them with responsibilities that would hinder their service to God. Instead, God arranged for other tribes to meet the Levites needs through donations. When we do not give our best we do not honor God. When we do not honor God, our Levites, our pastors, suffer. When pastors leave the ministry, it is just as often that they simply cannot make ends meet as often as it is from burnout or some moral lapse. More and more pastors are becoming bi-vocational pastors because of the sheer economics of donations to churches in America. That’s like requiring the Levites to work at the temple plus be a farmer in ancient Israel. We think most ministers get paid these whopping salaries because of poor representatives like Creflo Dollar, but the reality is that most ministers are just getting by. When we give we are to be honoring the Lord our God because He commanded us to do so. When we give to the Lord our God, we are honoring Him. Your giving is not a political referendum on whether you like the pastor or not. When give to the Lord and honor Him and are being obedient to Him, yes, the pastor gets fed. That’s the way God intended it.

 

If we paid the pastor in food today like in ancient Israel? Would our pastor starve?

 

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 13:8-13

The Land Divided East of the Jordan

 

It happens every week somewhere in our country. You see it almost daily it seems from somewhere. Recently, in the news, we have seen a spade of stories about school teachers gone wrong. There have been quite a few female teachers here recently who have been arrested for having sexual relationships with one or more of their teenage male students. We have seen a spade of male teachers who have been arrested for touching female students inappropriately. We have seen male teachers who have invited female students to exchange pornographic photos with them. We condemn them roundly and throw them in jail and, yes, they should pay the consequences of having violated the law and violated the trust that we, as parents, have entrusted them with when it comes even to our children, even our high school age children. The sins of these men and women arrested have certainly been made public and they are often publicly shamed. They are always lose their jobs. They are often sent to prison. They often have to move away from the region where the offenses have occurred even if they are not sent to prison. They often will never be able to teach again. These men and women will often be destroyed by their lapse of morality and straying from the trust that has been placed in them.

 

However, the thing that I keep coming back to when these types of things are exposed is what sins am I hiding from the world? There are none of us who is perfect. I am not saying that we should simply accept what some of these men and women have done to the students under their care. We shouldn’t. We should press that these people get help that they need even if they are in prison. We must see repentance in them before we begin the process of healing with them and restoring. We must see that they are humbling seeking the forgiveness of God and are willing to do anything to cleanse themselves from even having the appearance of continuing in their now very public sin. However what sins are you and I tolerating in our lives?

 

The Israelites were told to completely cleanse the land of the Canaanite peoples, as God’s judgment against their sin. The Israelites however did not complete the job. Yes they conquered all of a Canaan where the former inhabitants no longer had the political power and land that they once had, but they did not completely drive out all the former inhabitants. They tolerated the sin in their midst. They tolerated the pagan lifestyle in their midst. It would come back to haunt them. Just as all these teachers that you hear about hiding their sexual sins from the world, thinking that it’s OK, rationalizing away how it is OK. When we tolerate sin in our lives as if it is OK for us (maybe not others but it is OK for us because we can handle it and keep it hidden), it always, always comes back to haunt us and often has dire consequences.

 

That is what I thought of this morning when I landed on the last verse of this passage that seems so mundane. It was profound in that what the Israelites failed to do to drive out evil is often our own downfall:

 

8 The other half of Manasseh,[a] the Reubenites and the Gadites had received the inheritance that Moses had given them east of the Jordan, as he, the servant of the Lord, had assigned it to them.

 

9 It extended from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge, and from the town in the middle of the gorge, and included the whole plateau of Medeba as far as Dibon, 10 and all the towns of Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon, out to the border of the Ammonites. 11 It also included Gilead, the territory of the people of Geshur and Maakah, all of Mount Hermon and all Bashan as far as Salekah— 12 that is, the whole kingdom of Og in Bashan, who had reigned in Ashtaroth and Edrei. (He was the last of the Rephaites.) Moses had defeated them and taken over their land. 13 But the Israelites did not drive out the people of Geshur and Maakah, so they continue to live among the Israelites to this day.

 

In this passage, many, if not all, of the names of towns and geographical markers are meaningless to us, but we should not allow these facts to compromise our desire to read this and the next several passages. There is always something that we can learn from each passage (even genealogies, lists, and passages such as this one). It may require us to do a little research from books about the books of the Bible either digitally on the internet or from books we buy or check out. Here, the thing we should take away from this passage is the not so much the sames but what is said in the last verse. In my research on this passage, the one thing that scholars tell you about aside from trying to pinpoint in the modern day world where these places are is that fact that the Israelites failed to drive out the people of Geshur and Maacah.

 

This fact is cited as one of the reasons that the Israelites encountered so many problems later on in the history of ancient Israel. As they settled the land, they failed to fully conquer it and drive out ALL its inhabitants. The cancer-like presence of these pagan idol worshippers caused unending difficulties for the Israelites, as the book of Judges records. Just as they failed to remove sin from the land, believers today often fail to remove sin completely from their lives. As a self-test, we often should re-read the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). We must ask ourselves whether or not we are tolerating or even reveling in sinful practices. We must ask ourselves whether or not we are harboring sin in our minds or actions and calling it OK just because we have not been exposed yet. We must ask ourselves whether we condemn others whose sins have been found out but yet say our pet sins are still private and not yet public.

 

While we do not condone what has happened with these female teachers with male students and what has happened with male teachers and female students, we must take these situations as warning signs to our own lives and the sins that we are harboring as OK behavior – mainly because we haven’t gotten caught yet. All of our sins start in our mind as rationalizations as to why it would be OK at least just one time. Certainly that’s how we slide down that slippery slope to the places that these male and female teachers have found themselves. Sin, even when tolerated in the mind and is allowed to fester often brings on the physical act of the sin. Jesus told us that even when we tolerate sin in our mind we have already sinned. Jesus knew that tolerating sin in our mind always leads to action.

 

So, before, we become high and mighty about those whose sins are flung out into the open in a very public way, we should rather take this as an opportunity to examine ourselves deeply for the sins that we are tolerating in our lives. None of us is without sin not even one. What sins are you harboring? Lust? Greed? Murderous thoughts? Hatred? Sexual deviance? Pride? Let us take these situations as clarion calls to examine ourselves. When we truly look at ourselves and what sins we may be harboring in our lives as OK then maybe we can be less haughty and judgmental when it comes to these folks whose sins have been made broadly public. Maybe, we can pray that, though they will rightly pay for the consequences of their sin for the rest of their lives, they will be become humbled and repentant before the Lord. Maybe, we can pray that they will seek the Lord’s help in eradicating this sin from their lives. Maybe, we can pray that they will gladly do whatever it takes to change and to seek restoration to right-standing in society. Maybe, we can pray that the Holy Spirit will take this as an opportunity to convict us of our own pet sins that we refuse to give up simply because they have not been made public…yet.

 

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 13:1-7 (Part 2 of 2)

The Land Yet to Be Conquered

 

One of the mantras of organizational planning is to decide where you want to end up and then work your way back to now. That means that we must decide what our target is for the future so that we measure all our steps from now on how to get to that target. For example, on a personal level, if you want to retire at age 62 (instead of 67) and you are in your mid-fifties now, you must plan now how you are going to do that. You must take the necessary steps to acquire sufficient wealth to allow you be retired five more years than would normally be the case. You must plan on living on less social security each month because you will be retiring five years earlier. The social security folks do that so that you benefits will last five additional years. There are other steps that each of must take now to retire and live in a manner that we desire. You can’t just keep living as if you are not going to need money when you retire regardless of how old you are. So many people do not really plan for retirement and thus struggle mightily to adjust to their new financial picture when they do retire. As in all things, God knows our future but we have to participate in it by doing what we need to do be prepared.

 

The same thing is true for me when comes to the financial future of our church. We must understand where we want our ministries at church to be five years from now so that we can plan now on how we are going to get there. Our senior/founding pastor at LifeSong has challenged us over the next six weeks to identify what we think our ministries will look like in five years. We need to dream the dreams that need dreaming. We must figure out where God wants our ministries to be in five years. We must pray. We must seek His will. We must say why not when our typical response is that it cannot be done. We must see the mountain that needs to be climbed. We must believe that God will provide us the way to get it done. For me, he has placed a dream in my heart for the financial/administrative ministry of our church and I want to dream it even if I am like Moses and not there to see it come to fruition. We must all be like that in our ministries. We must dream the dreams for the ministries not for ourselves. We must make sure that our ministry has the fuel to get the bus there regardless of whether we are there or not.

 

What are my dreams for the finance/admin ministry of the church. It all hangs off of one broad statement that is a place I see our church in five years. Everything that I will be doing and planning for the next five years will be in support of that one broad statement. That broad statement is that I want to position our church in a way that it is only 50% dependent on member contributions for its annual revenue. We are not talking reducing tithes in any way but creating new, additional streams of revenue. Right now, our church is 98% dependent on the tithes/offerings and other donations of our members. That other 2% right now comes from bookstore sales and rental income. Thus, this goal of reducing it to 50% is a mighty large goal because we want to grow our tithe/offering donations at least 5% or more each year so to reduce that overall 98% to 50% will take some doing. It will require us doing things that we currently do not do. God has given me a glimpse of how we are to do that but I have got to trust Him and do the individual steps that He knows I need to take to get there.

 

Why is this even a goal? We want our church to survive and thrive in the future. We want our pastors to teach and preach the Word of God without fear of it costing us donations. We most of all want to be able to spread the gospel to the farthest reaches that God leads us to spread it. We want to be able to have the money to do the big dreams that God gives us. We want to send people around the world as missionaries. We want to plant churches in towns where God leads us and give them the support those first 3-5 years that will make them successful. We want to develop ways to reach children and teens with the gospel in new and unique ways. We want to help people in our communities in ways that we cannot currently because of financial limitations. We want to be able to finance helps ministries that we currently cannot. In it all, we want to dream the big dreams and fulfill God’s intentions for our church. We must glorify God in our community and nation and world in the way that He has intended for us.

 

So, it’s about glorifying Him and doing what He leads us to do. This is the plan that He has put on my heart for our church. God is leading me to take the experience that we gained (through a lot of work and hard knocks) in developing our financial reporting structures at LifeSong and export that to other churches. We will be providing benefits mainly to small and medium sized churches that are now simply operating their churches out of checkbooks. Before we developed our financial reporting systems at LifeSong, we had no clue as to where we were or how we were performing. Budgets were stabs in the dark because we had no clue what we were spending on what. God is leading me to help other churches develop financial reporting systems that are meaningful to their own church. There are packages out that churches can buy that churches have to adapt to but what we did was center our financial reporting structures around the main ministries of our church. Everything revolves around the main emphases, or four stakes of ministry of our church (Missions, Discipleship, Children/Youth, Sunday Morning Worship). It was a pretty massive undertaking that I won’t bore you with here, but these were necessary things to identify the assets and liabilities of the church and to have a starting point for the financial records. We are now able to manage the church’s finances with a precision unexpected in a church. We want to be able help other churches gain control of their finances and thereby create (1) transparency in church finances and (2) demonstrate that we are good stewards of the resources that God has given us.

 

Another way that God has borne this desire in me is to create a separate corporation, a for-profit corporation in which the church is the sole shareholder. In this way, we can do a couple of things. We can (1) create for-profit businesses that are consistent with the goals and desires of the church but that will make money all of which after reserving funds for capital can pay dividends of the net profits back to the church. An idea of business like this would be to create, say, a local coffeehouse that can be used to be a local business selling coffee and such but also be a meeting place where people can bring their friends that might be intimidated by the church itself and take them there to hear contemporary Christian artists, have biblically based discussion groups and so on, but at the same time it would be a viable for-profit business. The profits from this and other for-profit enterprises could then be paid as dividends to the church and the church could then use the proceeds to fund national missions such as church planting.

 

Two (2), we can create a separate 501(c)3 community development corporation where we can seek donations from corporations that will not give directly to churches and then use those donations to meet needs in our communities in such a way that hopefully we could fund all of our local community outreach activities through these donations – which would then all tithes and offering to more enhance the other three stakes of ministry at the church.

 

These are all pretty big dreams for a church that cannot afford to have a full-time finance guy at the moment, but 5 years ago, we were managing the church just out of checkbooks with no real clue how much we were spending on what. That was a big dream just to get our financial reporting systems in place. So, the big dream are not insurmountable when we have God who is giving us the dream and we just obey His leading. He will always give us new land to conquer.

 

That was the thing that struck me when reading this passage for a second time before we move to the next passage in my next blog. That thing was God was already giving Joshua the vision of where He wanted Israel to be down the road before the land was completely conquered to begin with. What? That’s pretty bold. God was already instructing Joshua on dividing up the land before it was even fully conquered. That’s the thing God will give us vision for the next thing before He leads us down that road, but we have to listen, obey, and execute. God will give us the target, it is up to us to shoot. Here is what the passage, Joshua 13:1-7, says:

 

13 When Joshua had grown old, the Lord said to him, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.

 

2 “This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, 3 from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron; the territory of the Avvites 4 on the south; all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek and the border of the Amorites; 5 the area of Byblos; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath.

 

6 “As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, 7 and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.”

 

Here in this passage, we see that much of the land was unconquered at this point, but it was God’s plan to go ahead and include the unconquered lands in the division among the tribes of Israel. God’s desire was that it would eventually be conquered by the Israelites. God knows the future, and as He leads you He already knows about the victories that lie ahead. But just as the Israelites still had to go to battle and fight, we must still face the trials and fight the battles of our unconquered lands. What are your unconquered lands? What are the challenges that you face? What are the dreams that God has placed in your heart?

 

God has unconquered land for you. We must listen to Him and seek His will. Without seeking His heart, we have no vision. When we do not earnestly seek Him, we will have no idea where to take our ministries. When we do not seek Him, our ministries become about us. The book of Joshua shows us several times what happens we God’s people do not seek His will. Where do you want your ministry to be in five years? And I am not talking about those of us who head up ministries at churches. God has a ministry for each of us. What’s that going to look like in five years? If you don’t know where you are going (having the dream and vision), you will never get there because you will take wrong turns that delay or derail your efforts. Dream the big dreams about what your ministry is for God? How can your turn your job, your hobby, your neighborhood into ministries. What would you do for a ministry if you were not scared? Seek God’s will for your ministry and then dream the big dreams.

 

For those of us who head church ministries, God has a vision for what you are doing? Are you scared that it will take you beyond your comfort zone so you don’t dream? Seek God’s will for your ministry and think about it from a perspective of that it is God’s dream not yours and think about in the frame of mind that you must do what is best for the ministry and not necessarily because of what your strengths or limitations are? Seek God’s will for your ministry. Then, dream the big dreams. God has unconquered land for your ministry. He really does. All we have to do is be willing to listen and say why not, Lord? Let’s do it! Lord, this is all probably beyond what I can do right now but I am trusting you to show me how, what, when and where. When we are submitted to Him totally, He will give us the big dreams. He will give us the next thing. He will give us unconquered territory and the vision to see what it will look like after we have conquered it.

 

Let us be ready. Let us be willing. Let us be submitted. Let us dream God-sized dreams. Let us see Him glorified in the dreams that we dream. Let us plan. Let us execute. Let us already have an idea what the unconquered territory will look like after it is conquered. God will give us the way. God will lead the way. God will make dreams that only God can accomplish come true.

 

What is your unconquered territory? Is God calling you to conquer it? Dream God sized dreams and depend on Him to show you the way.

 

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 13:1-7 (Part 1 of 2)

The Land Yet to Be Conquered

Have you ever noticed that modern churches, usually non-denominational, are never pastored by men over the age of 45? Is it a rule? Modern churches are pastored by skinny jeans wearing, shirt hanging out, Sperry wearing youthful pastors. We have our stereotypes in modern church now. So much so that there is a parody of modern worship on youtube.com. See the link below:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfTjcz7ys7I

 

Add to that, you will find that leadership positions underneath them are often filled with 20-40 year olds with beards and cool Christian t-shirts. There is definitely an emphasis on youth in the modern church world. Why is that? Have we caught the disease of youth worship that our culture has? Are we subconsciously reacting against the image of old men with canes and blue haired grannies ambling there way into the old church buildings that dot the landscape of America? Is this a reaction against the perception of death that is associated by man with traditional churches, in general? Is it a reaction against the clique-ish nature of so many old-line churches? Is it a reaction against the fact that older folks are associated with clinging to their traditions to the point that they would rather let their church die than change?

 

Sure, all of these things are true about mainline, traditional churches. It is the very thing that gave birth to the pastor-centered, non-denominational, new wave church movement featuring megachurches. We who are members of a “new wave church” such as myself rebel against the stodgy traditionalism of denominational churches. We rebel against their hierarchies both at the local church level and the state and national levels that make their denominations slow to change just as the Titanic was too big a monolith to make a quick change to get around the iceberg. We rebel against the elitist nature of those churches (it’s us in here and it’s they out there). We rebel against the standard same ol’, same ol’ every Sunday. We rebel against the symbolism and the fancy trappings and stained glass windows. We just want church to be about worshiping God.

 

However, in our frenzied pace of running away from the traditions of old church have we have (maybe, unknowingly or, is it purposeful) made youth a priority in our churches. There are no policies against it to be sure but, by the culture, we have created in new wave churches, youth is a defacto priority. Does your new wave church have any pastor who is over the age 50? Does your new wave church have anyone in a position of influence of any kind (staff or volunteer) that is over the age of 50? Does you church relegate its over 50 crowd to the sidelines and force them to create their own little ministry that caters to the few over 50 folks that your church has drawn from the world out there? What percentage of your church’s general population is over 50 in your new wave church? Do you overlook potential leaders who are over 50 just to go with someone who is younger so as to fit the culture of the church? Does your church only hire people over 50 as long as they are in back-office roles? Think about it? Whether your new wave church has intentionally, consciously done this or it was just an unspoken cultural phenomenon within the church, the result brings us to the same place. Is there a place for people over the age of 50 in the modern new church movement?

 

That question was the question that God placed on my heart as I read through this passage this today for the first of two times that we will visit it. Here is what the passage, Joshua 13:1-7, says:

 

13 When Joshua had grown old, the Lord said to him, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.

 

2 “This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, 3 from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron; the territory of the Avvites 4 on the south; all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek and the border of the Amorites; 5 the area of Byblos; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath.

 

6 “As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, 7 and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.”

 

Here in this passage, we see that Joshua is getting older. In fact, based on the chronologies developed by scholars, they estimate that at the time of Jewish history that this passage represent, Joshua is anywhere from 85-100 years old. God, however, still had work for him to do. Our culture often glorifies youth and sets aside those you are getting older. Yet, older people are filled with wisdom that comes from the school of hard knocks, as the saying goes. They are very capable of serving if given the chance and should be encouraged to do so. Also, for those that are getting older out there, your getting older is no excuse for resigning from God’s service. There is no retirement age in God’s economy. We should not assume as church leadership or as the aging segment of your church that folks over 50 are not capable of or desirous of serving in real, meaningful leadership positions within the church. Maybe, give ‘em some skinny jeans and a new haircut and let’s go! LOL!

 

Think about it. Although we do not live as long as Old Testament figures did, we can by relative comparison look at this. Moses was 80 when he began his most important leadership role ever. By comparison to you and me and our society of today, that would be comparable to say around age 55-56. The most important thing that Moses ever did in his life was his last 40 years – from age 80 to 120. Let us begin to change the culture in new church, whether it has been purposeful or simply something unspoken, of glorifying youth or the image of it. Sure, we don’t want to revert to traditionalism of mainline churches, but we should not marginalize our churches’ over 50 crowd either. They should be encouraged to be leaders and not use the excuse that they have done their time. Let’s go pull them off the sidelines and encourage them to get in the game. Let’s develop them as leaders. Although my church is far from perfect (as there is no perfect church) and we do have a ways to go to develop the over 50 crowd in our church, we do encourage everyone regardless of age to go deeper in service to the Lord whether you are 50 or 15. We certainly have improvements we can make and certainly self-analysis is always good, but I do not think it is a conscious part of our culture to exclude those over fifty. I know that one of the matriarchs of the founding of our church, Mrs. Eulala Pace, is 80-something years old, but she gets loved on every Sunday by everyone because everyone knows that she was instrumental in LifeSong coming into existence.

 

So, let us examine ourselves as new wave churches, modern churches, non-traditional churches (whatever you want to call us) and see whether our culture is to focus only on developing youthful members with potential or hiring only people of a certain age range. Let us examine whether we are consciously or unconsciously excluding our 50 plus, baby boomers from real meaningful leadership within our churches. Let us remember that Joshua still had much to give at 85 as he did when he was 45. Let us remember Moses gave his best to God and did his most important work in the last third of his life. Let us not miss out because we are trying to have a certain look!

 

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 11:16-12:24

Summary of Conquests

 

Last night, I watched a movie that I had last seen in the movie theatre. Now, last night it was on TBS. It was the movie, Interstellar, starring Matthew McConoughey and Anne Hathaway. It is one of those movies that messes with your head. It is well-written but it deals with some heady scientific concepts. The theory of relativity plays a front and center role in the movie. That is a pretty high-brow concept to be the star concept of a movie. The movie does not dumb down the science and the theory and it challenges you to consider the concepts of their being different dimensions of life that we are not aware of outside of time, spatial relationships, and motion.

 

The story centers on Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper, a former NASA pilot turned farmer, who discovers mysterious coordinates to a top-secret government project. He is recruited by his old colleague Professor Brand (Michael Caine) to lead a journey into the nether regions of space to, essentially, find a new home for humanity. While it’s somewhat glossed over in the film, the reason for this mission is because the Earth’s resources are dwindling rapidly, with the “blight” rendering the planet incapable of yielding any crops except for corn, although that will be over soon as well.

 

At any rate, despite the protests of his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), Cooper joins this all-important mission aboard the Endurance spacecraft alongside Brand’s daughter and biologist Amelia (Anne Hathaway), physicist Romily (David Gyasi), geographer Doyle (Wes Bentley) and two androids known as TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) and CASE (voiced by Josh Stewart). Their mission is to enter a wormhole and explore the three planets orbiting the black hole Gargantua, which are named Miller, Mann and Edmunds, after the astronauts who explored them in the previous Lazarus missions. In Interstellar, Cooper wrestles with the decision to join the Endurance, since he knows he will be separated from his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) and son Tom (Timothée Chalamet) for an unknown amount of time. He doesn’t know then that years upon years will pass, with Murph (Jessica Chastain) and Tom (Casey Affleck) growing up never knowing if and/or when their father will come back. It’s Murph’s undying faith that Coop will return that provides a heart-wrenching payoff.

 

What a quandry this film proposes, saving humanity (where through the vagaries of the relativity you only age a few years) at the expense of spending time with your family over a period of sixty or so years on earth. Which would you do? Do something that no one on earth will possibly remember that will save their lives or stay on earth, not take the risk and suffer and die with your family as the planet wastes away. Would you rather take the risk of failing in an effort to save humanity for which you may never get credit for and risk alienating and destroying family relationships to save something greater, humanity?

 

Sometimes, we have choices like that to make. We can take the easy way out or we can do the hard work whose fruit might not been seen in this lifetime or, at least, not for many years. We may choose comfort over doing hard work that may take many years to realize. We see this in this passage. Remember, back in the first approach to the Promised Land, the Israelites did not want to do the hard work of conquering the Promised Land. Wandering in the wilderness for 40 years was preferable to having to fight and claw and scratch out the conquest of the Promised Land. Remember, God promised them the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, but they did not want to do the work that was necessary to obtain it. Here in this passage, we see just how hard that work was. Let’s read it together now:

 

 

 

16 So Joshua took this entire land: the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, 17 from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings and put them to death. 18 Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time. 19 Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle. 20 For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses.

 

21 At that time Joshua went and destroyed the Anakites from the hill country: from Hebron, Debir and Anab, from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua totally destroyed them and their towns. 22 No Anakites were left in Israelite territory; only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did any survive.

 

23 So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war.

List of Defeated Kings

 

12 These are the kings of the land whom the Israelites had defeated and whose territory they took over east of the Jordan, from the Arnon Gorge to Mount Hermon, including all the eastern side of the Arabah:

 

2 Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.

 

He ruled from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge—from the middle of the gorge—to the Jabbok River, which is the border of the Ammonites. This included half of Gilead. 3 He also ruled over the eastern Arabah from the Sea of Galilee[a] to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea), to Beth Jeshimoth, and then southward below the slopes of Pisgah.

 

4 And the territory of Og king of Bashan, one of the last of the Rephaites, who reigned in Ashtaroth and Edrei.

 

5 He ruled over Mount Hermon, Salekah, all of Bashan to the border of the people of Geshur and Maakah, and half of Gilead to the border of Sihon king of Heshbon.

 

6 Moses, the servant of the Lord, and the Israelites conquered them. And Moses the servant of the Lord gave their land to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh to be their possession.

 

7 Here is a list of the kings of the land that Joshua and the Israelites conquered on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir. Joshua gave their lands as an inheritance to the tribes of Israel according to their tribal divisions. 8 The lands included the hill country, the western foothills, the Arabah, the mountain slopes, the wilderness and the Negev. These were the lands of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. These were the kings:

9 the king of Jericho       one

the king of Ai (near Bethel)         one

10 the king of Jerusalem              one

the king of Hebron          one

11 the king of Jarmuth  one

the king of Lachish          one

12 the king of Eglon       one

the king of Gezer             one

13 the king of Debir        one

the king of Geder             one

14 the king of Hormah  one

the king of Arad               one

15 the king of Libnah     one

the king of Adullam       one

16 the king of Makkedah             one

the king of Bethel            one

17 the king of Tappuah one

the king of Hepher          one

18 the king of Aphek      one

the king of Lasharon      one

19 the king of Madon    one

the king of Hazor             one

20 the king of Shimron Meron   one

the king of Akshaph       one

21 the king of Taanach one

the king of Megiddo      one

22 the king of Kedesh    one

the king of Jokneam in Carmel  one

23 the king of Dor (in Naphoth Dor)        one

the king of Goyim in Gilgal         one

24 the king of Tirzah      one

thirty-one kings in all.

 

In this passage, we see that much of the conquest of the land of Canaan seems to have happened quickly (we can read about it in just a few pages), but it actually took seven (7) years. We often expect quick changes in our lives and quick victories over sin, over circumstances that oppress us, over obstacles to our successful enjoyment of life. However, our journey with God is a lifelong process and any changes in our lives or victories over that which we want to conquer may take time. It is easy to grow impatient with God and feel like giving up hope because things are moving too slowly, according to our standards. When we are too close to a situation, it is difficult to see progress. But when we get a chance to reflect, we can see that God never stopped working. In this passage, we see that this information is a summary of the first half of the book of Joshua. It lists kings and nations conquered by Joshua both east and west of the Jordan River. The accumulation of evidence here suggests that, even though it takes time sometimes, obedience to the Lord will result in victory and not just some quick fix.

 

That’s the thing that we must grapple with in our relationship with the Lord. If we are to grow in our relationship with Him sometimes we have to put in the work that we may not see immediate results from it. We want quick answers to our prayers. We want a “if I do this Lord, you will do that immediately” relationship with the Lord. Just think of how long Moses had to work in Midian before God called him to lead His people. Just think of Moses leading Israel in the desert for 40 years and not getting to even go into the Promised Land. He never got to see the fruition of the conquest, but without Moses’ efforts Israel would have never made it back to the Promised Land. Just think of Joseph toiling away in prison, falsely convicted of a crime he did not commit, mind you, for 12 years. Twelve years in prison for a crime he did not commit, but he continued being faithful to God (even when there was not immediate results). Jesus lived for 30 years in the flesh before He began His ministry. Was it wasted time? No. It was necessary for Jesus, the God in the flesh component of the Trinity, to know the feel, the touch, the everything of our merely mortal existence. He knows what it is like to cry over loved ones who have passed. He knows the joy of life’s great events in our lives. He knows pain of hitting his thumb with a hammer. He knows the pain of being beaten within an inch of His mortal existence. He knows it all from the human point of view. It took thirty years. Also, think of Jesus from His humanity’s perspective knowing that His death on the cross would give us a way to be reconciled forever with God but He had to endure real human suffering and a gruesome death for that to happen. He even asked the Father to take that cup from Him. What a choice that would be do something that will matter for eternity but you gotta put in the work on the cross that nobody will notice until they understand that you were not just human but you were the fully divine presence of God. Millions of people will ignore what you did. Millions more won’t even recognize that you even existed. But in order for everyone to have access to the Father through your payment on the cross, you must do this.

 

Sometimes, we must do the hard things to grow in Christ. We must do more than just what’s easy. We may suffer hardships as a result of our faith but the rewards go far beyond the here and now. Is God asking you to do something hard that will take a long time to see any benefits of. Sometimes being a Christ follower involves obedience without any tangible earthly results. But we must do them any way because God has directed us to do it. We may have a cushy life and a comfortable life now but God may be calling us to do something that is really hard? Are you willing to trade the here and now benefits of this life but miss out on God’s eternal blessings? What is God calling you to do that is hard and you are shying away from it? What if you miss the real eternal blessing that God has in store because what lies ahead seems to hard? The safety of here and now pales in comparison to the blessings that come from obedience.

 

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 11:1-15 (Part 2 of 2)

Israel Defeats the Northern Armies

“As the Lord had commanded His servant, Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua…” This is the essence of leadership. One of the challenges of the new wave of modern, typically non-denominational, churches is that they do not have the structure and hierarchy of their denomination behind them. It’s live and die on their own. Some are only loosely affiliated with a denomination (and those denominational churches often consider the newfangled churches like that cousin that nobody in the family wants to claim – except in the denominational reports on church growth). Some are outright unaffiliated with any traditional denomination. In denominational churches, you can often rely on the denominational hierarchy to support the church when there is a ministerial crisis and a change in leadership is needed. However, the new wave of modern churches out there have shunned the traditions and hierarchies of traditional denominations. The risk is that what if these churches that are often centered around a founding pastor have a ministerial crisis. Will they survive?

 

There are recent examples of both answers to that question. Mars Hill Church in the Seattle, WA area was one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing churches under the leadership of Mark Driscoll. He became one of the first celebrity preachers to come out of the new church movement. He was a noted author. He gave leadership talks everywhere. But when it came down to it, Mark succumbed to his own celebrity and tried to control every aspect of his organization and ruled with a dictatorial flair. Because the leadership structure was so centered around him and he never allowed his people to develop into true leaders, he got out of control as a leader and ultimately he was forced out as the head pastor of the church that he founded. Because of the vacuum of true leaders within that multi-site, multi-state church, the leaders that did come up after Mark were not prepared for the enterprise of which they had to assume control. Leadership faltered. Each of the satellite campuses were first released to be their own churches because of the strain on short-sighted, ill trained leaders of the central organization could not manage the far flung enterprise. Following that, the wheels started coming off and within one year what was once one of the largest, fastest growing churches in America, no longer existed. Mars Hill Church imploded and no longer a trace of it exists. Lack of a leadership pipeline caused the church to fail and that is truly one of the major risks of the new, non-denominational, preacher-centric churches that have begun dotting the American Christian landscape from coast to coast.

 

NewSpring Church, headquartered nearby here in its place of founding in Anderson, SC, is one of the top 5 fastest growing churches in America. It has 23 campuses dotting the landscape of Upstate South Carolina. Each campus looks pretty much alike. They have the same formula at each location. It is a modern look and feel. Traditional churches don’t care much for NewSpring as many have lost members to the megachurch. Many claim that NewSpring is a “gospel-lite” church that teaches that Jesus is your friend not your king. That teaches of only God’s love but not His judgement. Some say that NewSpring is a nice church to go to but if you want to grow up, you have to leave. They say NewSpring makes converts not disciples. All of these things may or may not be true. Anything that gets that big that fast will always have critics who don’t think the church is anything but a fad or that the church really hasn’t paid its dues of being a church for a hundred years. And many of its detractors cheered wildly when its founding pastor, Perry Noble, was forced out by the governing board of the multi-site megachurch. Revelations of infidelity and alcoholism were rumored to be the cause. Perry Noble was a bright star in the megachurch movement. He, too, like many of these founding pastors of megachurches was an author and a celebrity of sorts. Speaking engagements around the country and the world were at his feet. He had the adulation of many and he let it all go to his head just like virtually every pastor of these large, quickly growing churches have. And he fell.

 

However, say what you will about the founding pastor, Perry Noble, of NewSpring Church, his church is surviving and even growing and opening more new campuses without its founding pastor as part of the organization in any way. Perry has nothing to do with NewSpring now but the church is still there. Many felt and some hoped that the church would implode without him just like Mars Hill did without Mark Driscoll. As the soldier say in the movie, Armageddon, after they had attempted to nuke one of the city sized spaceships hovering over what was left of Houston, TX, “the target remains, sir. I repeat. The target remains.” The monolith that is NewSpring remains. Why? Perry Noble did one thing right, for all his evident faults. He surrounded himself with good leaders that could take his place if needed. He groomed his successor to take over as senior pastor. He developed an organization at the “corporate headquarters” in Anderson that could handle the rapid growth of the church. He developed an organization that was ready for 20 sites when it was only 10 sites. It is ready for 40 sites now organizationally speaking when it is only 23 sites. This central core organization knows its mission and replicates it with each campus. They then plant the same leadership structure at each location. They have systems and processes that are replicated with each campus. And each location has a campus pastor that can be a pastor on their own. One thing Perry was never afraid of was hiring the best and the brightest. However, all of this successful organizational intelligence would be meaningless if he had not been all the while grooming Clayton King to take his place as the head of this mammoth organization. Clayton is now the face of the franchise and the church survived the crisis of losing its founding pastor to his own mistakes of self-centeredness. That’s the difference between NewSpring and Mars Hill.

 

That’s the thing that our church, LifeSong Church, must consider in the next month as our pastor goes on sabbatical and our church enters an intense month of prayer and soul searching. We have all been asked by our founding pastor, Jeff Hickman, to consider what our ministries will look like five years from now. We must consider where we want to be. We must start with where we want to be. Because if we know where we want to be in five years then we can start now working toward that goal. If we just exist with no five year goals or plans we are not going to get anywhere and we will flounder. As the old saying goes, you can’t get to your destination without first figuring out what roads to take and which not to take. One of the things too that we must consider is that there will come a day when Jeff retires at the latest or Jeff gets called to do something else. Will our church survive Jeff not being there? Do we have the leaders in place that can have the leadership wherewithal that Jeff has? Sure we have elders/pastors that could take his place in Mike Blackwood and Tim Lyda. Are they ready? Are they willing? Are they capable of being the new top guy in our organization? Has Jeff been making them ready to take on “the face of the franchise” role that he now holds. Being senior pastor, the face of the church, is something different from being the executive pastor/worship pastor or the pastor of discipleship. If they are ready for this role, have they been grooming up leaders below them to step into their roles once they have stepped up. Developing the “next man up” mentality within our organization, developing lay people into full-time ministers, developing full-time support ministers into being ready for the senior pastor role must be a part of the plan for our next five years. We want to be a target that remains. We want to know where we are going and how to get there and who we are going to have to take us there. Next man up is an important part of getting to where you want your organization to be. We must be able to plug in the next man up and not miss a beat as we head toward our goals of making the greatest kingdom impact that we can within the job that God has assigned to our church.

 

That is what came to mind this morning as I read through this passage today for a second time. It struck me that one of the subtle emphases of the this passage is that Joshua was the next man up. He was carrying out the plan that Moses had trained him up for. Quietly all those forty years, Moses was training up Joshua to take over the organization that was Israel and Joshua was plugged in and carried out the vision even with Moses no longer in the picture. Let’s read it now together:

 

11 When Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent word to Jobab king of Madon, to the kings of Shimron and Akshaph, 2 and to the northern kings who were in the mountains, in the Arabah south of Kinnereth, in the western foothills and in Naphoth Dor on the west; 3 to the Canaanites in the east and west; to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites in the hill country; and to the Hivites below Hermon in the region of Mizpah. 4 They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots—a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. 5 All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom to fight against Israel.

 

6 The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them, slain, over to Israel. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.”

 

7 So Joshua and his whole army came against them suddenly at the Waters of Merom and attacked them, 8 and the Lord gave them into the hand of Israel. They defeated them and pursued them all the way to Greater Sidon, to Misrephoth Maim, and to the Valley of Mizpah on the east, until no survivors were left. 9 Joshua did to them as the Lord had directed: He hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots.

 

10 At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and put its king to the sword. (Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms.) 11 Everyone in it they put to the sword. They totally destroyed[a] them, not sparing anyone that breathed, and he burned Hazor itself.

 

12 Joshua took all these royal cities and their kings and put them to the sword. He totally destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded. 13 Yet Israel did not burn any of the cities built on their mounds—except Hazor, which Joshua burned. 14 The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but all the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed. 15 As the Lord commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses.

 

Here, in this passage, as we read it for today, we see that Joshua followed every detail of God’s commands to Moses. It is usually difficult to complete someone else’s project, but Joshua stepped into Moses’ job and brought it to completion, building upon what Moses had started. A new person taking over for another in a new job will bring his own style and personality to that job, but the church or any other organization cannot work effectively if there is no one to step up and take that person’s place or if every change in personnel means starting over from scratch.

 

That’s what we at LifeSong must do as part of our 30 day challenge while Jeff is on sabbatical. We must dream the big dreams that God lays on our hearts. If you don’t dream big, you won’t win big. We must seek what the impossible dream God wants us to dream and say why not? We must then develop the road map on how to get there. Start with where you want to finish and then work your way back to the starting line (where we are now). Great running backs in football are already thinking two moves ahead when they are running down the field. We need vision. Without it we flounder and perish. When we have a common vision, everyone knows what that is. Then we can train with the next man up mentality. When we already know what the plan is, we can groom up others to take us there. The mission then becomes the most important thing. Just as Jesus trained up his disciples and gave them a vision, we must do the same. The church survived Jesus’ death because he was the originator of the next man up mentality in church. He invested heavily in his disciples such that the church grew exponentially after He was gone. Common vision. Training new leaders to step up. That’s the secret sauce. We see it in Moses to Joshua. We see it in Jesus to the disciples. We see it in the survival of NewSpring Church. Will that be said of us at LifeSong Church five years from now. Will it be said of your church?

 

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 11:1-15 (Part 1 of 2)

Israel Defeats the Northern Armies

Here in this passage, we see that God has instructed Joshua to do certain things and Joshua carries these instructions out completely without question. I think that Joshua learned his lesson about either not consulting God and as a result not carrying out God’s instructions from his experiences with the Gibeonites and with the defeat at Ai.

 

This morning, all I can think of at the moment is that song by Bethel Music (featuring Kathleen DeMarco) entitled “It is Well (With My Soul)”. It is a modernization and remake of a remake of a remake of the original hymn penned by Horatio Spafford and the music was composed by Philip Bliss. The story behind the words of the song is as a remarkable story as is the song itself.

 

This hymn was written after traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his son at the age of 2 and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago that was extensively damaged by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone …”. Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

 

Now let us read the words of the remake by Bethel Music:

 

Grander earth has quaked before

Moved by the sound of His voice

Seas that are shaken and stirred

Can be calmed and broken for my regard

 

Through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You

Through it all, through it all

It is well

 

Through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You

It is well with me

 

Far be it from me to not believe

Even when my eyes can’t see

 

And this mountain that’s in front of me

Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

 

Through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You

Through it all, through it all

It is well

 

So let go my soul and trust in Him

The waves and wind still know His name [repeat last line during 3rd run]

[x3]

 

It is well with my soul

It is well with my soul

It is well with my soul

It is well with my soul

[repeat 3x]

 

It is well it is well with my soul [x3]

ahhhhhhh (softly)

 

Through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You Lord

Through it all, through it all

It is well with me.

[x2]

 

Horatio could not understand why his family had been devastated in the way that it was. We still do not know, but his faith in God gave us so much out of that tragedy. This beautiful song that has given so many so much hope over the past 150 years. This latest rendition of the song would have made Horatio proud. I think he wanted people to feel the strength of his heart and his faith in God through his tragedy. Spafford, his wife, and the two children they had eventually settled in Jerusalem and ran a help agency there that helped people regardless of religious affiliation, be they Christian, Jew or Muslim. Thousands of locals were helped by Horatio and his family. This may have not occurred had the tragedy not happened. Horatio may have continued working as a businessmen and real estate developer in Chicago. He was saved by his business interests in Chicago while his family went ahead of him. His family died but he didn’t. He was devastated and it took years to recover but had the tragedy not happened he may not have become the inspirational figure that he became.

 

Sometimes we don’t understand why things happen the way they do or why God asks us to obey him when it really doesn’t make sense to us. Like here in the Lyman-Duncan-Wellford, SC area, we had the fifth teenager at Byrnes High School to die accidently within the last 15 months, the second one to drown in that time span. Why did this happen? What good can come from it? We question God at these times. But we must come back to the trust in God that He sees things that we cannot and sometimes we have no other thing to do but to trust that He knows what He is doing.

 

That is what came to mind this morning as I read through this passage. What came to mind was how Joshua just simply obey. Just simply trusted. And followed God’s instructions to the letter. Let’s read it now together:

 

11 When Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent word to Jobab king of Madon, to the kings of Shimron and Akshaph, 2 and to the northern kings who were in the mountains, in the Arabah south of Kinnereth, in the western foothills and in Naphoth Dor on the west; 3 to the Canaanites in the east and west; to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites in the hill country; and to the Hivites below Hermon in the region of Mizpah. 4 They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots—a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. 5 All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom to fight against Israel.

 

6 The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them, slain, over to Israel. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.”

 

7 So Joshua and his whole army came against them suddenly at the Waters of Merom and attacked them, 8 and the Lord gave them into the hand of Israel. They defeated them and pursued them all the way to Greater Sidon, to Misrephoth Maim, and to the Valley of Mizpah on the east, until no survivors were left. 9 Joshua did to them as the Lord had directed: He hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots.

 

10 At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and put its king to the sword. (Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms.) 11 Everyone in it they put to the sword. They totally destroyed[a] them, not sparing anyone that breathed, and he burned Hazor itself.

 

12 Joshua took all these royal cities and their kings and put them to the sword. He totally destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded. 13 Yet Israel did not burn any of the cities built on their mounds—except Hazor, which Joshua burned. 14 The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but all the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed. 15 As the Lord commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses.

 

Here, in this passage, as we read it for today, we see that Joshua carefully obeyed all the instructions given by God. This theme of obedience is repeated frequently in the book of Joshua. It is the one part of the believer’s life that the believer can control. We can’t always control our understanding because we may not always have all the facts and must simply trust God. We, also, cannot control how other people treat us or what they do. However, we can control our choice to obey God. Whatever new challenges we may face, the Bible contains relevant instructions that we can choose to ignore or choose to follow. We can choose to ignore or follow what God tells us directly through the Holy Spirit living in us as believers. We have also seen several instances in Joshua where the people did not seek the Lord for guidance and in each case they failed miserably. We may not always understand why God’s Word says what it says or why the Holy Spirit counsels us as He does but it is up to us to realize that God is God and sees more than we can see and that He has our best interest at heart. Obedience thus becomes an act of trust in our mighty omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God and an act of love toward our loving Father in heaven.

 

Sometimes God does not give us the full picture. He just gives us a glimpse (like a kid peaking through the living room door on Christmas Eve to see if Santa has come yet). We cannot see the whole picture as He can. He is God and sometimes we just have to dig down deep and trust without an answer right this very moment as to why something happened the way it did or why He is asking us to pursue something but does not show us what’s behind Door #1. Sometimes, we just gotta blindly trust God and do what He says, believe in His Fatherly wisdom. We just keep on keeping on. We just obey. We just believe. Sometimes that is what we have to have is that childlike faith sometimes. We may wait a long time, to have the answers to why certain things happen or why God pushes us in a certain direction, but there will be a day when either here on earth or maybe it’s not til we get to heaven that we can look back through God’s eyes and see what and why.

 

Joshua simply obeyed God no matter what the task given. He knew God knew better than he did. Sometimes we have to have that same faith about events that seem unfathomable to us or when God directs us to do things that seem crazy by worldly standards. Or when God makes us wait and wait and wait for Him to make our path clear. Or whatever it is that you don’t understand that God is doing in your life. Sometimes we just gotta trust the Big Guy. Sometimes we gotta trust when we don’t understand. We gotta trust when everything in us screams that it’s not right and it’s not fair.

 

God has never failed us and He never will. So we just trust and obey. So that it will be well with our soul. Sometimes the darkest hours in our lives is where we learn to let go of our desire to control the world and just simply trust in the Lord. Then it is well. It is well. It is well. With my soul!

 

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 10:28-43

Israel Destroys the Southern Towns

One of the things that people have trouble with in Joshua is how there is this complete annihilation of the townspeople of the towns as they march through and conquer the Promised Land. How can God condone the complete slaughter of these towns? The text often straight up tells us that not only were the men killed but the women and children also. Sometimes, it just says everyone was killed and that there were no survivors. The only way that we can find justification in it is that God cannot tolerate sin and the Canaanite peoples of the Promised Land were generationally ingrained in their sinful ways. It was their nature to worship gods and perform perverse rituals. So everyone was taught these sinful ways from birth. They opposed God at every turn so that they could continue their culturally ingrained sinful ways. What God knew and what played out later in the Old Testament was that Israel did not completely wipe out other people groups and it was these people groups that so influenced the Israelites that there are periods in Old Testament history that the Israelites completely turned their backs on God themselves. It just goes to prove that when it comes to sin, it must be completely destroyed from our lives. We cannot allow it to stay there and linger.

 

We cannot be around our sin weak spots and not succumb to the siren’s call of that sin. We must wipe it and eradicate from our lives. If you are a married man and you know that you are susceptible to cheating behavior, you don’t put yourself into situations where you will be tempted to cheat on your wife. We must not allow ourselves to seek out flirtations that could lead to sexual encounters. We cannot fantasize about a woman who is not our wife. We cannot go hang out with single people at bars and similar activities where the point of it all is to hook up with someone. We may enjoy the little fantasies in our minds about what it would be like. We just cannot do it.

 

If our sin weakness is liquor (or whatever the mind altering substance of choice you have), you cannot buy it. You cannot have it in the house. You cannot rationalize that it is OK to drink it when you are at a restaurant but not at home. We cannot be part time about it. We have to get rid of liquor from our lives altogether. We just cannot take the chance. If liquor is your weakness, just getting involved with it can change the person you are and lead to stupid mistakes and acts that you regret. For you, it might be illegal drugs. Many of us can become consumed by the drug of our choice. That drug that flips all the right switches in our brain and just totally consumes us. We must have more. We can handle it. One shot of Jack Daniels. One snort of cocaine. One pill popped. We can handle it. But once you start, you can’t stop. That’s how sin is. Once you get the taste, it’s all over.

 

If you have a problem with pornography, you must eradicated it from your life. You can’t have Penthouse, Playboy, you name the magazine. You cannot have it in your life. You cannot have access to porn sites on the internet. You cannot even be subtle about it. You cannot do searches for key terms related to the female body on occasion. You may think you are being sly in this way so you can cover up and clean out your search terms from your search engine. It will still take to the same place. Sin. You must eradicate all porn from your life. Not even lingerie magazines and advertisements. If you have addictive tendencies when it comes to porn, there is no resolution other than to eradicate it from your life.

 

If you have a weakness for greed, don’t become a bank teller! If we have the inability to stop ourselves from taking money when we have the opportunity, the unchecked opportunity to do so, we must never put ourselves in a position where people would even suspect us for even thinking about mishandling money. We must make sure that there are checks and balances against us taking money if we are even going to be near it. If it is too easy to misdirect funds, we must not take such positions. If we are in such positions we must put systems in place that prevent us from having complete access to functions related to cash. If we are weak when it comes to money, we must place ourselves in positions where we have the capability to divert money.

 

If your sin weakness is…you fill in the blank. That is exactly where Satan will attack you. We must eradicate that sin from our lives. Oh Mark, you are so naïve. Just saying it won’t make it so for me. I just seem to be drawn to my favorite sin. I say that I don’t want to do it but I find myself there somehow and do it anyway. I think Paul said best in Romans 7:14-20:

 

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

 

We gravitate to our favorite sin or sins. We rationalize why its OK and we lie to ourselves about the fact that this time we can control it. We rationalize that there will be no consequences this time. Especially when it comes to our greatest sin weakness, our favorite sin that we do not want to give up, we are blinded by these lies. If it’s true that liquor has caused problems in your life before, it will be true again. If pornography has been a problem each and every time that you allowed the addiction to fester, why is it that we think under our own power that we can handle this time. If we taking things too far with a woman who is not your wife or a man who is not your husband has gotten your in trouble before and destroyed your life before, what possible reason can you think of that will make THIS TIME different. If we are addicted to money, or spending money, or having things we can’t afford, do you really think that having 5 credit cards in your wallet is going to be different this time. We fool ourselves into thinking that we can tolerate sin in our lives.

 

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read through this passage and again read about Joshua wiping out whole populations of towns and why it was necessary. All we have to do is look at our own lives. Let’s read the passage together now:

 

28 That day Joshua took Makkedah. He put the city and its king to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it. He left no survivors. And he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho.

 

29 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Makkedah to Libnah and attacked it. 30 The Lord also gave that city and its king into Israel’s hand. The city and everyone in it Joshua put to the sword. He left no survivors there. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.

 

31 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Libnah to Lachish; he took up positions against it and attacked it. 32 The Lord gave Lachish into Israel’s hands, and Joshua took it on the second day. The city and everyone in it he put to the sword, just as he had done to Libnah. 33 Meanwhile, Horam king of Gezer had come up to help Lachish, but Joshua defeated him and his army—until no survivors were left.

 

34 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Lachish to Eglon; they took up positions against it and attacked it. 35 They captured it that same day and put it to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it, just as they had done to Lachish.

 

36 Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron and attacked it. 37 They took the city and put it to the sword, together with its king, its villages and everyone in it. They left no survivors. Just as at Eglon, they totally destroyed it and everyone in it.

 

38 Then Joshua and all Israel with him turned around and attacked Debir. 39 They took the city, its king and its villages, and put them to the sword. Everyone in it they totally destroyed. They left no survivors. They did to Debir and its king as they had done to Libnah and its king and to Hebron.

 

40 So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded. 41 Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon. 42 All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.

 

43 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.

 

In this passage, you will notice that in every Israelite victory, the text gives credit to the Lord. All of Israel’s victories came from the God. When we are successful, we may be tempted to take all the credit and glory as though we had succeeded by ourselves, in our own strength. In reality, God gives us the victories, and He alone delivers us from our enemies. In this passage, God had commanded Joshua to take the leadership in ridding the land of sinful occupants of the Promised Land so that God’s people could occupy it. Joshua did his part thoroughly. When God orders us to stop sinning, we must not pause to debate, consider options, negotiate a compromise, or rationalize our behavior. Instead, like Joshua, our response must be swift and complete. We must be ruthless in avoiding relationships and activities that can lead us into sin.

 

We all have a pet sin or multiple pet sins where we are just too easy of a pushover for Satan. We dabble in that sin and refuse to give it up. We dabble in because we think we can handle it. For some it’s sex, for some it’s alcohol, for some it’s money, for some it’s shopping or spending money, for some it’s illegal drugs, for some it’s …. You fill in the blank. We think we can tolerate it so that we can keep it near to us in our lives. We rationalize ourselves away that we can handle it being near in our lives. We must flee from it. We must eradicate it. But one thing is for sure that we cannot do it under our own power. Our sin nature makes us want our favorite sin near us. We must have God’s help to change our mind, heart and soul from worshiping access to that favorite sin. We must have His help in gaining victory. We must lay our favorite sin at the cross. We must be humble to say that we cannot handle it on our own. We’ve tried and failed miserably each and every time. We must have God’s help. We must then be obedient to Him when we see our favorite sin heading toward us. We must flee. We must eradicate the possibility. God cannot help us if we are wallowing on the shores of our favorite sin thinking this time it will be OK. Flee. Run. Get away. And pray to God that He will steel you against the temptations of your favorite sin, that one that gets you every time. Every time it will be the same result without God’s help.

 

Amen and Amen.