Crowd or Committed?

“I just wanted to slap them upside the head!”

At least that was the thought going through my mind a few days ago.

My wife and I had a chance to catch a movie. In the theater with popcorn. It is certainly a nice but rare occasion for us.

couple at movie

In the row right in front of us were some teenage girls. And they talked. LOUDLY!!!

After getting shushed at a number of times, they finally left. My wife said later that she would like to see that movie again because she missed parts due to the noise.

Those girls paid the admission price just as my wife and I did. They had a right to be in the movie. Popcorn was available for them as well.

But their attitude and mindset were very different from ours. Travel with me back to our story in Joshua 3.

Here are the first 4 verses to catch you up in case you missed my last few posts.

1Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubitsa between you and the ark; do not go near it.”” 

So here they are, just east of the Jordan river. How were they going to cross over?

The three ideas we have explored so far from Joshua 3. Click each for a new window.

Let go and let God be in control.

Trust God.

Put God first.

What is the next step?

Verse 5 explains exactly what that next step is for the Israelites:

5Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

One verse with two parts. Part two is for next time.

But I will speak to the first part. Joshua (relaying what God had already told him), told the people to “Consecrate yourselves…”

Consecrate…?

The hebrew transliteration is qadash, which is pronounced kaw-dash’.

This word is a verb. God wanted the people to consecrate themselves.

They had action to take. They were to set themselves apart from the world.

The word simply means set apart. Set apart for a specific purpose.

Think about the million or so people waiting to cross the Jordan. Were they ready for this message? Which ones were committed to serving Jehovah? We don’t really get those details but I am sure that there are some who were just part of the crowd.

Just part of the crowd. Am I part of the crowd? I think those girls at the movie the other night would have been “just part of the crowd.”

For me, I want to be counted in the committed.

Set apart for a specific purpose. Yep, that sounds better than just hanging out in a crowd.

crowd

Are you committed? Or are you part of the crowd?

If we let go, trust God and put Him first, then being committed is easy.

Start today. Wherever you are with God, start there. He has not moved.

And just a little encouragement to take with you:

That huge river you see in front of you? God created it. And it’s not too big for Him.

jordan river

 

 

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Rivers: obstacles or opportunities?

There is a river in the way. But God said that the river would not be an issue. It would not be a problem. Like the Red Sea, God can do something miraculous.

But the Israelites needed to trust. And that is where we find ourselves.

This post is building on the previous two posts.

Click here for the first one or here for #2.

Pretend you are a drone, a thousand feet above the Israelite camp. You can see the Jordan river, which flows from north to south, making up the eastern border of Canaan. On the right (or east side) of the river, there stands Israel. Right now, a nation without a home. I wonder how many tents we would see. Are the animals in pens or able to roam free? This map is an estimation of the crossing location.

crossing the jordan

Everything seems to be ready. Israel is probably excited because they are (after 40 years) about to enter God’s promised land! Only one obstacle left!

Joshua 3 gives us insight to our situation. Here are the first 4 verses.

1Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubitsa between you and the ark; do not go near it.””

From these verses, even though the people were apparently ready, God was not.

Verse 3 tells the people to follow the ark. They should be used to this by now.

Verse 4 explains why. This was new ground, literally. They had never been there before.


Here is the connection to you and I in 2018.

We are ready for God to do a miracle. At least we think we are.

We want God to bolster our financial situation.

We want God to heal broken relationships.

We want God to exact revenge on the idiots in our life.

We want…it seems we are always ready for a miracle.

But are we really?

God had a slightly different plan. He wanted to be in front. He needed to be in front.

That means He gets the glory.

And many times, our desires keep God somewhere other than the front. 

ark of the covenant

The ark needed to go first. That was true for Joshua and the Israelites.

The ark (God) needs to be first in all we do. That is our take-home truth for today.

This ark don’t float!

“But we will get wet! This thing is heavy and we are supposed to go in the water!?!? You must be crazy. Is there a plan B?”

what-are-you-crazy

I  wonder what the priests really said before they actually stepped into the Jordan river.

Joshua 3 shares a fantastic story. The story of the Israelites going into the Promised Land for the first time! But there was a river in the way. This was the first obstacle to taking over the land of Canaan.

Before I jump in (no pun intended, =-)), I want to explain something. The post prior to this one, which you can click here to read, dealt with the idea of control. This post is a follow-up. Why do we want control?

Why is it so hard to let go and give control to God?

I am going to try to answer that particular question.


Back to the Israelites…

Moses is dead and Joshua is now in charge. Joshua 1

Israel sent spies to check out Jericho, the first city in the Promised land. Joshua 2

Now, in chapter 3, the Lord is telling Joshua that they need to cross the Jordan river. But more than fording their way across, God has them do it in a specific manner.

Here are the priests, carrying the ark of the covenant on poles. They are directed to step into the water.

8“Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’ ”

What would you have said?

And that, my friends, is where the rubber meets the road.

God asks and we ask back.

Remember the question I am trying to answer? Here is t is again;

Why is it so hard to let go and give control to God?

My answer is simply this; we don’t trust God.

Sure, we may have trusted Him for salvation but there is more. There is always more with God.

*The Israelites just got done wandering around the desert for 40 years because they did not trust God.

*God provided manna and quail when they did not trust Him.

*He made water flow in the sand when they didn’t trust Him.

*Remember the Red Sea? They didn’t trust Him there either.

It seems that you and I are like those Israelites. God does a great thing and before too long, we go back to not trusting. Be encouraged because God still gives us grace and mercy-even when we don’t always trust Him.

In these next few posts, we will dissect Joshua 3 and learn how we can trust God again.

In the meantime, grab your swimsuit because things are about to get wet!

jordan-crossing

 

 

Let it go…and not the song from Frozen.

Life is not as complex as we think. More to the point, being a Christian is not as complicated as we make it out to be.

Now here is something that is complicated:

complex math

Don’t we tend to live life this way? Relating to this picture, we have the chalk and are creating what we think our life should be like. Graphs for finance, charts for careers, equations for relationships, formulas for God and spreadsheets for kids’ schedules!

How does it all make sense?

Truth is, I don’t think it does make sense. Sure, some people juggle life better than others but at the end of the day, we all fall short. I think one word sums it up.

Control.

We want to be in control. Every choice we make reinforces this idea. The food we eat. The clothes we wear. Where we live. The people in our lives.

We dictate it all so that the control stays within our domain.


The psalmist said it so precise and clear, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

As a shepherd himself, David knew what he was talking about. He understood that when God is in control, everything else makes sense. Yes, David still had to do the work as a shepherd. The sheep needed him.

I am not suggesting that we stop working. There are things in life we need to do.

The Lord gives us the clarity, strength, and motivation for the work in our lives. If we let God be in control while we work, then our life can make sense. Kind of like this:

simple math equation

I want to close this post with three thoughts

  1. As you read the opening lyrics to this hymn, try to grasp the simplicity in the words. “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His word;” ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, Louisa M. R. Stead (1882)
  2. This post, more than most that I have written, is directed at me. I write about things that are matters of the heart, for me.
  3. If you find encouragement, comfort or challenge in these words, then God is at work in you too. Looks like we are on the same journey. Stay true to Him. As the saying goes, let go and let God.

 

Blessed. 1 syllable or 2?

Recently, our pastor has been preaching a series entitled, “Upside Down Kingdom”.

He is drawing from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. The first 12 verses of Ch. 5 are called the Beatitudes. You can listen to the first sermon here.

central church logo

This morning, I woke up with a moment of clarity.

Being blessed is not about accolades or accumulations but about my attitude.

How easy is it to think that if I have stuff (money, home, car, kids, wife, dog, talent, good looks, job, etc) then I am blessed. The result of God’s blessing is reduced to things. This type of thinking is how the world thinks.

Well friends, that kind of thinking is wrong. We live in an upside down kingdom. Jesus clearly mentioned what it means to be blessed. Here are his words from Matthew,

3Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (underline mine)

This is not the time and place for a full explanation of these verses. But there are two things that I will highlight:

***The word blessed means happy, fortunate, having received God’s favor.

So yes, one can argue that being blessed means you have stuff.  After all, God is giving you His favor. He likes you. He can give you things. But I don’t think that is the primary evidence of a blessed life. That brings me to the second point.

***All of the things in these verses are internal properties, not external possessions.

Do you see the contrast?

My first blog of 2018 said that I was going to try to answer the question, “Who Am I?” Click here to read it.

And to answer that question today, I would say that I am blessed!

blessed 2

Not because of what I have but because of Christ’s work in me. His Spirit has enabled me to be poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungry and thirsty, merciful, pure in heart, peaceful, and persecuted.

His work on the cross is what makes this type of living even possible. It would be absolutely crazy and foolish to think that I could be blessed (according to Matthew 5) due to anything that I could do.

Jesus did it all. I did nothing.

As I get ready to sign off, remember this:

Being blessed is not about accolades or accumulations but about my attitude.

Go out into your world and have the right attitude.

God will help you.

Then He will bless you.

And that is a good thing.