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Monday, January 26, 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pastoral Report 2009

The Annual Pastoral Report
Pastor Matt Mitchell
Year in Review: 2008

Dear Church Family,

10 years! It’s hard to believe, but in 2008, we completed and celebrated a full decade of ministry partnership together. I am so blessed to have been your pastor since 1998. It is a joy to serve with you in the Lord’s work!

2008 was a growing year for us, both spiritually and numerically. Numerically speaking, we averaged 130 people in worship (a 5.6% increase from 2007). We took on 4 new members: Charlene Ball, Kay McGivney-Knaul, Tanya Harned, and John Bodner. And a number of new families began to worship with us. It’s hard to keep track of everybody–and that’s a good thing!

We grew spiritually, as well. God worked in our hearts to love Him more and make us more like Him!

Pastoral Ministry

As your pastor, I concentrate on three main ministry emphases: preaching the Word, equipping the church for ministry, and shepherding the flock.

Preach the Word

It was a fruitful year for preaching. We had four main sermon series. In the Winter and Spring, we studied the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit: “The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” In June, we celebrated the ten year anniversary of the beginning of my ministry here with three special sermons called “Ten Things.” In the Summer, we considered “Applying the Gospel: the Message of Titus” and for the whole Fall, we studied (and memorized!) 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 under the title, “Learning to Love.”

We also had special guest preachers: Brian Rathbun, Blair Murray, Ralph Magill, Phil Alessi, Tim McGill, Mark Petras, Dave Young, Steve Miller, and Tim McIntosh.

Equip the Saints

It’s my job to help our ministry leaders work effectively. It was a joy to work with our 2008 Leadership Board, chaired by Blair Murray and with our devoted part-time staff, Holly Lockwood and Cindy Green.

I had the privilege of working with each of our ministries, committees, and leaders to help them develop towards their ministry potential. Their reports fill the rest of this Annual Report, and I’m pleased with their efforts and progress.

I was also able to be useful in ministry in the Allegheny District and on the national EFCA level. I continue to lead a regional pastor’s group and have taken over leadership of the district Constitutions and Credentials Board. I got to attend the EFCA National Leadership Conference in June, participate in the historic vote to affirm a new Statement of Faith, and write up a report of the conference for EFCA Today–“More Than a Vote.” I am now also serving on an editorial consultants team for EFCA Today, offering my two cents worth on each issue before it goes to print.

Shepherd the Flock

My favorite part of ministry is caring for people. It’s a precious privilege to visit you in your homes, have you over to our place, talk to you in the foyer or on the phone, stop by your hospital room, pray for your family, and provide a biblical counsel. Thank you for letting me into your lives. I don’t take that privilege lightly.

To grow in this area of shepherding, I took two intense weeks of doctoral-level classes with the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF) in Philadelphia. Thank you for allowing me the time to study and for praying me through the course-work!

Report on Ministry Goals for 2008

Last year at this time, we set six specific goals to reach for in 2008.

1. Five Active Link Groups.

We didn’t achieve this goal, though we did grow from two groups to three and each of our groups have grown in size. Perhaps this year we’ll see that goal reached.

2. Two Servant Outreach Events.

We did reach out to our community in 2008. We offered a Bike Rodeo at the West Branch Community Days, created Outreach Prayer Cards to send with love to outsiders, and hosted a Wild Game Dinner and a Christmas Tea outreach. We still need more work in this area.

3. Building an Allegheny District Church Planting Prayer and Support Team with 30 Adults Praying and Raising $300/month.

At one point last year, we were averaging over $300/month for this ministry. And we have at least 20 adults who have committed to pray. More is needed!

4. Totally Eliminating Our Debt.

Done within the first quarter! Praise the Lord!

5. Developing a Master-Plan for the Next Three Years.

This hasn’t really even begun. We are waiting for the leadership re-structuring to be completed and comfortable before we get underway with this goal.

6. Leadership Restructuring Completed and Approved.

Done! We approved the new structure in July, found leaders to populate the new structure throughout the Fall, and are now implementing it. It’s going well so far! Praise the Lord!

Vision & Goals: Growing in Love in 2009

Our current emphasis on learning to love will continue into the new year:

Love for God

As a church, we exist to glorify God by bringing people into a LOVE relationship with Jesus Christ.

We are loved with an unfathomable, amazing love and are called to love the Lord in return (Ephesians 3:16-19, Matthew 22:36-40).

Everything we do as a church must be done from a heart of love for God.

Love for Each Other

Our new elder board will be studying 1 Corinthians 13 again and applying its principles to leadership. We need to lead with love. Pray for us as we begin to functionalize the leadership structure changes that we outlined last year.

Our Link Groups are all studying the life of Jesus and learning to love like He does. We invite everybody to read along with us in the book Love Walked Among Us.

Our Connection Team needs re-tooled for effective ministry of care for one another.

Love for Our Community

I believe that God is calling us to reach out beyond our walls to serve our community. We need to reach lost people with the Gospel and care for our neighbors in tangible ways.

Other Goals

Holly Lockwood will be resigning this Spring as her family is moving away. We will miss her and need to pray in her replacement.

Our new Facilities Team will be evaluating needs around the building and working on plans for new projects, including the sound/video project we began last year.

It’s been a great 10+ years. I’m looking forward to seeing what God does in the next 10+ years! He is so good to us.

In His Grip,
Pastor Matt

Matt's Messages "What Do These Stones Mean?"

“What Do These Stones Mean?”
Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
January 25, 2009
Joshua 3:1-4:24

Joshua is a pretty exciting book. In the first chapter, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous because the time had come for Israel to conquer the Promised Land. And the people excitedly began to get ready.

In chapter 2, there was a secret adventure by two Israeli spies into Canaan to spy out the land and bring word back of the defenses and mood of the enemy. They weren’t very good at spying and almost got caught–but were rescued by a pagan prostitute named Rahab. And she got a promise from them to be rescued, as well.

And here’s the word: Canaan is scared. They know about this nation of Israel and about their God Who is at work among them.

In chapters 3 and 4, it gets even more exciting! In fact, it gets downright amazing!

Amazing things happen in chapters 3 and 4, and they show us again the amazing character of the LORD our God!

It’s time to cross the Jordan River.

Joshua chapter 3, verse 1.

“Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: ‘When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.’ Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.’” Stop there for a second.

You can just feel the anticipation and electricity in the air.

Joshua is telling the people, “Tomorrow, something big is going to happen! Tomorrow, the LORD will do amazing things among you.”

We are on our way into the Promised Land.

They don’t know yet, what these amazing things are going to be, but they begin to get instructions.

The first instruction is to follow the Ark.

Remember the Ark of the Covenant? It is a great big box in which is are the tablets with the 10 Commandments, Aaron’s Staff that budded, and a jar of manna.

And over the box are these two winged creatures that form a kind of set, a mercy seat or an atonement cover that is kind of like a symbolic throne for the LORD.

This is kind of like God’s mobile throne. (Mobile Phone, Mobile Throne)

This box symbolizes the covenant between God and His people and the very presence of God among His people.

And they are supposed to keep their eyes on the box. On the ark.

And follow it.

It’s a picture of being focused on the LORD and following Him.

But not too closely. Did you notice that? How far away are they supposed to stand?

At least 1,000 yards (2,000 cubits) away from the Ark of the Covenant.

Why? Why do you think?

Because He is holy.

That’s why Joshua tells them to consecrate themselves. Literally, to holy-fy themselves.

Because they were going to somewhere with this Ark. They were going to follow it.

Being 1,000 yards away would also help for everybody to see it. People wouldn’t be crowded around it so that they couldn’t see.

Imagine it! Everybody would be at least 10 football fields away from this little group of priests who are carrying the Ark. And then they set out. V.6

“Joshua said to the priests, ‘Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.’ So they took it up and went ahead of them. [Every eye on the Ark.] And the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. [Remember, everybody has been wondering if Joshua will be able to lead like Moses did. And God has told him again and again that He will be with Him–there is nothing to fear. Be strong and courageous. V.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.'’”

Whoa. Interesting.

Probably everybody here knows what’s going to happen, but, again, pretend that you don’t.

These priests are given strange instructions. March out to the river and go stand in it.

“Don’t just do something, stand there!”

Notice how God requires action from their faith, but it’s actually to just stand there and let Him do something.

God is amazing how He wants us to trust Him enough to act, but He wants the glory, so often our job is just to stand there and let Him work.

That’s what they are supposed to do.

Shouldering the Ark, the priests are to go stand in the river–and watch God do something amazing! V.9

“Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God. This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. [Just as He has promised.] See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD– the Lord of all the earth [notice how he stresses that He is Lord of all the earth! As soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD]–set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.’”

Now, they know what God is planning to do. Every eye is on the Ark. V.14

“So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. [I read this week that it’s normally 100 feet across and 3-10 feet deep at this place in the river, and it’s turbulent (Hess, pg.104). This was floodstage. We don’t know how much it had swollen with the Spring rains!] Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) [We call it the Dead Sea] was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.”

Wow!

“The water from upstream stopped flowing.” You know, that doesn’t happen everyday.

“It piled up in a heap, a great distance away.” Do you know how far? 18 or 19 miles from Shittim to Adam. 18 miles!

And not only that, but it left dry ground on the bottom of the river bed!

29% of the Jordan valley was affected by this miraculous wonder! Wow!

And the people marched across.

Now, the story’s not over yet. There is still work to be done while the river is dry. Chapter 4, verse 1.

“When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.’ [Now, we know why those 12 men were being chosen in chapter 3. To get ready for this. V.4] So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, ‘Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.’”

Do you get the picture?

The River Jordan is missing. It’s upstream in a heap.

The riverbed is dry and rocky.

Joshua wants 12 men drawn from the each of the 12 tribes. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12. And wants them to go back into the middle of the riverbed where the priests are still standing with the Ark. Can you see it in your head?

And they are each supposed to grab a great big stone from right there in the middle of the river and sling it over their shoulders [and they’re each going to carry it 8 miles].

Why? V.6

“To serve as a sign among you.”

The LORD is fond of signs. He likes to establish signs and symbols to stand for things, to point to things, to remind people of things.

Today, Tonya and Alea Harned are going to experience another one of God’s signs.

They are public, God-ordained, memorials to give testimony to God’s powerful actions in His people’s lives. They stand for something.

These stones are going to stand for something. Remind people of something that God did.

V.6 again.

“To serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’” You’ll have an answer.

That’s our title for today’s message: “What Do These Stones Mean?”

Joshua foresees a day when the people don’t remember what God has done. Maybe the children’s children. They weren’t there. They don’t remember.

But here are these stones. And they ask, “What Do These Stones Mean?” V.7

“Tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.’”

It’s important for us to remember. Christians are to be people who remember what God has done.

That’s why He’s given us signs like water baptism and like the Lord’s Supper (which we will celebrate next Sunday).

God wants us to remember, with tangible signs the amazing things that He has done in our lives.

That’s why we’re going to have our Annual Reports meeting in just a few minutes. We want to take some time to stop and remember what God has done in our midst.

Our Annual Report is not a God-ordained public sign like water baptism, but it is a tangible record that we can return to to remember what God has done and be thankful.

So they did it. V.8

“So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the LORD had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. [1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12.] Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day. [Now, some interpreters take it that there were two piles of rocks, one outside the Jordan and one inside (you can see that that’s a possible rendering from the footnote in the NIV), but I doubt it. I think the NIV has it right, that they took rocks from right where the priests were standing and they took them out to be piled up where folks could see them. V.10] Now the priests who carried the ark remained standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything the LORD had commanded Joshua was done by the people, just as Moses had directed Joshua. The people hurried over, and as soon as all of them had crossed, the ark of the LORD and the priests came to the other side while the people watched. The men of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over, armed, in front of the Israelites, as Moses had directed them. About forty thousand armed for battle [I think that’s 40,000 of Reuben, Gad, and Manesseh] crossed over before the LORD to the plains of Jericho for war. That day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they revered him all the days of his life, just as they had revered Moses.”

Just as LORD had promised in chapter 3, verse 7.

Joshua is the undisputed Commander of Israel. V.15

“Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Command the priests carrying the ark of the Testimony to come up out of the Jordan.’ So Joshua commanded the priests, ‘Come up out of the Jordan.’ And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before. [Can you imagine?]”

“On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. [They are across!] And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. [1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12.]”

He said to the Israelites, ‘In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them, 'Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.' For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.’”

What Do These Stones Mean?

They are reminders. Physical, tangible, visible reminders of God’s holiness, faithfulness, and power.

That’s what Tonya and Alea are doing today.

They are also piling up a heap of rocks as a physical, tangible, visible reminder of God’s holiness, faithfulness, and power at work in their lives.

What Do These Stones Mean?

Imagine a little Israelite boy. Perhaps he was a baby when the people crossed the river.

And he lives near Gilgal, and every day he sees that pile of stones. Curious, he asks His grandfather what they mean?

What Do These Stones Mean, Grandpa?

Grandpa answers. A lot of things. At least 3.

#1. THE LORD IS UNBELIEVABLY HOLY.

V.22 “Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.”

You know why?

Because the LORD is holy.

We weren’t allowed to stand closer than 2,000 cubits from the Ark of the Covenant.

And when that Ark went into the river?

The waters of the Jordan ran away!

That’s how Holy the LORD is.

That’s why we needed to consecrate ourselves.

And we should consecrate ourselves every day because our LORD is holy.

Tonya and Alea, use this time of water baptism to consecrate yourselves.

Lanse Free Church, use this time of Annual Reports to consecrate yourselves.

The LORD is Unbelievably Holy.

#2. THE LORD IS UNCHANGINGLY FAITHFUL.

V.23 “For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. [Could you have done that on your own?] The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried itup before us until we had crossed over.”

Grandson, the LORD is the same: yesterday, today, and forever.

He did to the Jordan what He did to the Red Sea.

Same God! Same miracle!

He doesn’t change.

He rescued us once to bring us out of slavery.

And now He’s done it again to bring us into our inheritance.

We can trust Him every single day.

Tonya and Alea, you can trust Him every single day. He is the same, unchangingly faithful: yesterday, today, and forever.

Lanse Free Church, you can trust Him every single day. He is the same, unchangingly faithful: yesterday, today, and forever.

Tonya and Alea are publicly professing their faith in Christ.

Baptism doesn’t save them. They were saved before they came to this baptismal pool.

God rescued them from their sins by what Jesus did on the Cross for them.

Being baptized is a visible sign of that invisible work in their hearts.

It saying that God has been faithful to them and they expect Him to be faithful forever.

God is unchangingly faithful: yesterday, today, and forever.

#3. THE LORD IS UNIMAGINABLY POWERFUL.

V.24

What do you say when your grandson asks, “What Do These Stones Mean?”

“He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.”

He possessing unimaginable power.

Words don’t do it justice.

The power to split the Red Sea.
The power to send the waters back up the River.
The power to raise Jesus from the Dead!

That’s what kind of power we’re talking about.

That’s what the baptism by immersion signifies: being buried with Jesus in His sacrificial death and being raised to new life in His resurrection by God’s unimaginable power!

That’s what Tonya and Alea are going to say with their baptism.

God is unimaginably powerful. And He has saved me.

He is worthy of my worship with reverent fear.

V.24. “So that you might always fear the LORD your God.”

Not slavish fear.
Not scaredey cat fear.
Not afraid that He’ll change into something bad and harmful.

But reverent fear. Worshipful fear.

Being amazed by the awesome power of God.

Tonya and Alea, use your baptism as a time of worship–worshiping the God whose hand is powerful–powerful enough to save.

And more than that, to let others know.

Did you see that in verse 24?

What Do These Stones Mean?

“He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful...”

He wants everybody to hear that He is mighty to save.

It’s not a private sign.

That’s why we don’t do private baptisms.

It’s a public sign, a testimony, a witness to others.

So that all the people of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful.

Tell other people.

Tonya and Alea are telling the world today that the LORD is powerful to save them, unchangingly faithful to His people, and unbelievably holy, worthy of all of our worship.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Studying the Book of Joshua

I'm reading several books right now each week to help me understand what I'm reading in the Book of Joshua.

By far the best is a commentary by my former professor, Dr. David Howard: Joshua in the New American Commentary series.



I'm also getting things out of: Hess (TOTC), Woudstra (NICOT), Campbell (BKC).

And popular works by Boice, Wiersbe, Hughes.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Joshua: Possessing the Promises


It's great to have a graphic designer in your church!

This is the new logo for our new sermon series.

It just makes me want to preach strong and courageously!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Matt Mitchell - Backyard Lumberjack

If you are one of the (thousands?) of folks who had never conceived of me, Matt Mitchell, running a chain-saw, buying lumber, feeding a furnace in sub-zero temperatures, don't worry you are not alone--I couldn't see it either!

But it is me, now, and I think I'm enjoying it.

One thing that's helped me a great deal is this favorite Christmas present for 2008 from my wife:



It's a delightful little book, fully illustrated, funny, careful, wood-wise, and helpful by a father/son team. The father is a pastor, the son is a writer and "urban lumberjack."

While I was surprised at how much I already knew, this book makes me feel like I'm barking up the right tree.

And just this week, I received my own Peavey in the mail:


And if you don't know what that is for, then you might want to read the book yourself...

Warm Inside


We've had temperatures colder than -10 here recently, but things have been nice and toasty inside our house--and more hot water in our showers and baths to boot!

I go out twice a day to feed the stove; it does all of the rest of the work.

Heating with Wood

The big, untold story at our place has been the preparations for and installation of an outdoor wood-burning furnace.



This is Peter inside the little "house" we've made with the firewood we've cut, split, and stacked.

We borrowed a friend's splitter, though we've done some by hand with a maul, too.

Drewby at a quiet moment on top of the stack. This stack is now mostly gone, burnt inside of the furnace.




Here's the man who made it all happen. My father-in-law, John Lundeen, attacked with gusto the tri-axle load of wood that we had delivered. He ran a chainsaw several days in a row. Beware! You lose weight when you come to visit us!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Binding of the Blade

Just finished reading a fascinating set of fantasy books--written with a Christian world-view--the Binding of the Blade.

I don't really know how to describe them except to say that there were excellent page-turners (5 volumes average almost 500 pages each, I devoured them all in less than a month) that both entertained and taught at the same time.

They remind one of Lord of the Rings, but don't rise to that level of art yet are much more clearly Christian and biblical. I would readily give them to a teenage boy who enjoys reading fantasy and then have lots of avenues to discuss biblical world-view and biblical wisdom with him.

The author, L.B. Graham, is a first-time author (they are published, believe it or not by P&R Press), but he's done an amazing job of creating a fantastical world that helps us to understand our world, developing creative winsome, nuanced characters, and crafted a twisty-turney plot that surprised me several times--even towards the end! Don't read them if you don't like to be surprised (or if you don't like fantasy, or action, or adventure, or good guys going through hard things, or even dying). I couldn't put them down.

Here is a virtual bookshelf of the entire, highly recommended series:



This is the first time I've reviewed a fantasy book on this blog!

I hope to write more about books that Heather and I got for Christmas that we are enjoying our way through in the New Year.

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Day.

President Bush has made it official (probably the last official day for the next 4-8 years).

But we will mark it each year regardless of what our officials do.

One of the defining, tragic crises of our lifetime (I was born in 1973, the year that Roe vs. Wade was decided) is the casual disregard of human life.

Today, at church, we had the retiring director and the new director of A Woman's Concern, the pregnancy resource clinic in State College. They are on the front lines of this conflict--helping ladies make the righteous and loving choice. If you can support them with prayer, finances, or time, I highly recommend it.

Here's a sanctity of life story for you from RCO's blog:
"One way of catching class attention is to ask what advice [medical] students would give when presented with the following family history. The father has syphilis, the mother tuberculosis; they have already had four children -- the first is blind, the second died, the third is deaf and dumb, and the fourth has tuberculosis. The mother is pregnant with her fifth child, and the parents are willing to have an abortion, should you so decide.

Assuming there aren't too many Catholics in the class, you will usually find a majority in favor of abortion. You congratulate the class on their decision to abort -- and then you tell them they have just murdered Beethoven."

L. R. C. Agnew of the University of California School of Medicine at Los Angeles, quoted in "A gripping lesson on abortion," The Palo Alto Times, 27 September 1977.

Matt's Messages "Rahab's Rescue"

“Rahab’s Rescue”
Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
January 18, 2009
Joshua 2:1-24

What was the message that God had for us last week in Joshua chapter 1?

“Be Strong and Courageous!”

A number of you have told me that that was just what you needed to hear (and to do) this last week. Be Strong And Courageous!

Joshua, the son of Nun, has become the leader of the nation of Israel who are camped right across the Jordan River from the land that was promised to them by the LORD Himself.

And Joshua has been given his marching orders. The forty years of discipline are over. The people of Israel are now to get ready to cross over and conquer the land of Canaan. God is giving the Promised Land to the promised people.

And to do this, Joshua needs to be strong and courageous, and so do the people of Israel, and...so do we.

Now, in chapter 2, before they get going, there is an adventure to narrate.

Joshua 2 would make great scenes in an adventure movie.

General Joshua is going to send two men on a secret mission of espionage that will result in what I’m going to call: “Rahab’s Rescue.”

Does that sound mysterious and adventurous?

Now, we probably all know this story already. So, let’s pretend that we don’t.

While we read it slowly and carefully, let’s pretend like at each step we don’t know how this mission is going to end. Okay?

Like it’s our first time to discover Rahab’s Rescue.

Joshua chapter 2, verse 1.

“Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. ‘Go, look over the land,’ he said, ‘especially Jericho.’” Stop there for a second.

General Joshua sends two men on a little mission of reconnaissance. They are to go look over the land, especially the Jericho.

Now, remember, pretend that you don’t know what happens to Jericho.

Jericho is a big city for that day (about 9-10 acres, surrounded by a 15 foot thick wall with oodles of people teeming inside of it). And Jericho is in the center of Canaan, not too far across the Jordan from Shittim, where Joshua’s base-camp is located.

Notice that Joshua has learned a few things (probably through personal experience) about how to and how not to send a reconnaissance mission.

Two spies, not twelve.

“Check out the land, especially Jericho. And go secretly. Bring this report back to my ears only.”

There is not going to be another Retreat of Unbelief.

Commander Joshua probably wants to know what the fortifications are like, where the different strengths and weaknesses are of the militaries of Canaan, and if there is any talk right now about Israel and her plans.

And off they went. The two spies probably swam the river and then went North of Jericho and approached the city from the West. And they tried to slip into the city unawares. Second part of verse 1.

“So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.”

Now, don’t read too much into their choice of a place a stay. Her house probably served a lot of purposes, not just the sex-trade, though that detail is meant to raise your eyebrow. Rahab’s home probably served as a kind of hotel or an inn for travelers–at natural place to stay, and a natural place to get information.

However, these two spies, no matter how brave, weren’t that good at being sneaky! V.2

“The king of Jericho was told, ‘Look! Some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.’”

Uh oh. They are found out, maybe on the first day of their mission.

Someone has identified them and noted where they are planning to stay.

And they’ve already told the king of the city. V.3

“So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: ‘Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.’”

This is Rahab’s chance to shine. She can get a public commendation from our own king!

Here is her chance to get the reward money and be seen as the most loyal member of her community.

What must those Israelite men think as they hear the hew and cry in the city?

They probably expect to be killed. They don’t expect shelter and support from a pagan prostitute!

But that’s exactly what they get. Rahab has already gotten wind of the danger that they are in. V.4

“But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said [the king’s men], ‘Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don't know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.’ (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan (East of Jericho), and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.”

Can you see the movie scenes?

The mad dash from the king to Rahab. The blank look on her face as she lies to the king’s men. The men bolting out to the gate just as it closes, in hot pursuit of the spies.

And then, when the coast seemed clear, Rahab goes up to the roof and talks to the two men hidden under the flax.

What must have crossed through their minds at this point?

They are still very much in danger. They are locked in to the city. And they are at Rahab’s mercy.

Of course, she’s in danger now, too. She has just lied to the king’s men.

But she has something very different in mind. V.8

“Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, ‘I know that the LORD [capital LORD, Yahweh, Israel’s God] has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt [that was 40 years ago!], and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed [Numbers chapter 21].”

“When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”

Do you think that the Israelite spies ever expected a Canaanite to say that to them? I sure don’t!

Rahab is confessing that she believes that the LORD is God!

Baal, Ashteroth, Chemosh, Molech–they are not God. V.11

“The LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”

She believes! Rahab has faith.

And it’s working itself out in deeds.

Rahab is in the middle of rescuing these Israelites. But she wants rescued, too. V.12

“Now then, please swear to me by the LORD [YHWH] that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.’”

I don’t think these men had to think about this one for very long. V.14

“‘Our lives for your lives!’ the men assured her. ‘If you don't tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land.’ So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. Now she had said to them, ‘Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. [That is, head East instead of West.] Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.’ The men said to her, ‘This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. If anyone goes outside your house into the street, his blood will be on his own head; we will not be responsible. As for anyone who is in the house with you, his blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on him. [That’s the deal.] But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.’ ‘Agreed,’ she replied. ‘Let it be as you say.’ So she sent them away and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.” V.22

“When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. They said to Joshua, ‘The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.’”

Again, wouldn’t this make great scenes in an action movie?

The men repelling down the side of the wall? The woman tying that scarlet cord in the window, a sign that only she and they knew what it meant.

Camping out three nights East in the hills, with Jericho still between them and the River.

And then fording the rushing river again and reporting back to Joshua with good news. Exciting!

I still remember, as a small boy first hearing this story told with a flannelgraph in my second grade classroom, the men hidden under stalks of flax, the men escaping through the window. Very exciting.

But what does it mean for us today?

What is the take-home lesson?

Last week, it was “Be Strong and Courageous.” And I suppose we could get that out of this story, as well. But the strongest person and most courageous person in this story is a pretty unlikely one–Rahab herself.

And there is someone even more important in Joshua 2, isn’t there?

Who is the Main Character of the Book of Joshua?

The LORD.

This week, as I read over this very familiar story, I was struck by the fact, that I seldom think about the God of Joshua 2.

In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever read this chapter and tried to answer the question, “Who is the God of Joshua chapter 2?” “Who is the God of Rahab’s Rescue?”

Let me suggest four things we can see about God in Joshua 2 that are very applicable to us today.

Here’s number one. They all begin with “S.”

#1. THE LORD OF RAHAB’S RESCUE IS SOVEREIGN.

I never noticed this before, but what are the chances of the two spies meeting up, in about one day, with the one person in all of Jericho who has come to believe that the LORD is the one true God and is willing and able to rescue them from the king’s men?

What are the chances?

Do you think it “just so happened” that they connected with Rahab?

Nothing “just so happens.” The LORD is sovereign.

Now, the Lord would have been just as sovereign had He allowed the men to die. He’s in charge, not us. But when He wants to do something, including getting timely information to Joshua, rescuing these men, and rescuing Rahab and her family, nothing can stop Him from accomplishing His will.

The LORD is sovereign.

I know that some of us in this room today need to hear that. All of us need to hear it regularly, but of some of us are going through difficulties right now that you can’t see your way out of. There doesn’t seem to be any hope.

You feel like you’re trapped in a prostitute’s hotel and your enemy knows where you are.

The LORD is sovereign.

The LORD, if you are a Christian, is your Father! And He is sovereignly working out every single detail of your life (including the painful and confusing details) to His glory and your good.

Take heart. The LORD is sovereign.

Two weeks ago, we meditated on Proverbs 3:5&6. “Trust in the LORD with all you heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

The LORD is sovereign. Your Lord is sovereign.

#2. THE LORD OF RAHAB’S RESCUE IS SCARY.

Hear me out on this.

What is the primary emotion running through Jericho right now?

It’s fear, isn’t it?

V.9 “I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a GREAT FEAR of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are MELTING IN FEAR because of you.”

V.10 “We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea [The Red Sea Rescue! They’ve probably heard what happened to the LORD’s enemies there, too.], and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.”

V.11 “When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed becuaes of you...”

V.24, “All the people are melting in fear because of us.”

And that’s because of Yahweh!

He’s scarey.
He’s powerful.
He’s holy.
He’s just.
He’s wrathful.

And they are quaking in their boots.

Canaan is quivering in fear.

And right they should be.

The Bible says that it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The people living in Canaan at this time were thoroughly wicked. Their sin had reached such a degree, that the time had become ripe for judgment to fall.

In the book of Genesis chapter 15 (some of you have recently read it), God told Abraham that his people would come back to Canaan when the sins of the Amorites had reached their full measure.

That’s here. That’s now.

And judgment is coming.

Joshua is a book of judgment. It’s a book of God’s holy wrath poured out on wicked men for their denial of a holy God.

Canaan was scared, and well they should be.

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Friend, this is just as true today.

Not that Christians are called to kill unbelievers, no, but that God is still holy and wrathful against sin.

And if you persist in unbelief and rebellion against God, there will be a day of reckoning coming–a day you cannot escape.

The Bible says “Lord Jesus [will be] revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.” [1 Thessalonians 1]

You need to be ready for that day.

And if you aren’t, you should be scared.

Here’s how to be ready, how to flee from the wrath to come:

Turn from your sins, and trust in the Savior.

Turn from (repent of) your sins, your rebellion against God.
And trust (believe in, hope in, place your faith in) the Savior, Jesus Christ and what He did on the Cross for you, in your place.

Jesus absorbed the holy wrath of God for all those who believe in Him.

You don’t have to be scared.

Come in and turn and trust in Jesus.

He will not disappoint.

This story is a story of judgment. But it’s just as much and much more a story of mercy.

It’s a rescue story, isn’t it?

The Israelites rescued, and surprisingly enough, Rahab herself rescued.

Here’s point #3. THE LORD OF RAHAB’S RESCUE IS SURPRISING!

And by that, I mean: surprisingly, shockingly gracious!

Who would have ever thought that Rahab would be saved?

She was a pagan.
She was a Canaanite.
She worshiped other gods.
She was a prostitute and all of what that means.
She lived in a wicked city.

Who would have ever guessed that this woman would be the instrument God used to save these spies?

And more than that, that she would believe in the One True God?

She was a Canaanite Convert to the Lord!

How do we know that?

Two things: Her Confession of Faith and Her Actions.

Look again at the amazing thing she says about the LORD in verse 11.

“for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on earth below.”

She could lose her life for saying that. But she believes it.

And she believes it enough to act on it.

She hides and rescues the men. Now, she does it with a lie. Is there ever a right time to tell a lie?

I’m not sure. Maybe in times of war, and they were definitely at war.

But the LORD sure does delight in the truth–so that it’s hard to imagine a right time to lie.

Of course, I don’t know what I would do in her situation. I can’t judge her very harshly.

And whether or not her lie was the right thing at that moment or not, her actions in hiding and helping the spies were the right thing to do!

And she did it, because she believed.

She was switching allegiances. And it mattered in how she acted.

That’s why she put that scarlet cord in her window. Because she believed.

Do you know that the New Testament makes a big deal of her faith and deeds in two different places?

In the book of James, she is commended (not for lying per se) but for welcoming the spies and helping them out. And she is seen as a model of faith working itself out in deeds.

True faith always does.

True faith always works.

If you know someone who says that they believe, but their life doesn’t show it...then you have to doubt that they really do.

Saving faith always works itself out in righteous actions.

Not perfectly but inevitably.

And the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, names Rahab as a woman of faith. There are only two women named in Hebrews 11 by name. Sarah (mother of faith) and Rahab–the pagan prostitute!

This woman had faith.

Isn’t that surprising?

Isn’t God surprising in whom He loves and whom He saves?

The LORD loves to love unexpected people.

And to love them in unexpected ways.

He is so full of grace and mercy.

I would have looked at Rahab and said, “Yuck.”

In fact, as I was marking up a print out of this story and trying to read it with fresh eyes, that’s exactly what I put by her name in verse 1.

“The house of a prostitute named Rahab.” “Yuck.”

But that’s not what the LORD saw.

He saw that, too. He hates sin. He hates sexual sin.

But He saw more than a sexual sinner.

He saw a daughter of faith.

He saw someone that He wanted to redeem.
He saw someone that He wanted to use.
He saw someone that He wanted to rescue.
He saw someone that He wanted to save.

Surprise!

Now, you might be someone right now that thinks that you are outside of the limits of God’s grace.

You’re too far gone. Too messed up. Too spent and worthless and without hope.

No, you’re not. Surprise! The LORD loves you.

Trust Him and Obey Him.

Put your faith in Him and follow Him.

He loves to be gracious to most unexpected people.

Or maybe you’re struggling to love someone right now. You know it’s a dangerous thing to learn about love–you learn how hard it really is.

Is there a “Rahab” in your life that you need to love like Jesus loves?

Maybe the Lord desires to rescue that Rahab through you! I’m sure that the Israelite spies didn’t expect to do any rescuing that day.

But God had other plans. They left a solemn promise to rescue Rahab–one that will be fulfilled in chapter 6.

And it had amazing effects!

This is the most amazing one of all:

Rahab married an Israelite named Salmon who was of the tribe of Judah.

Yeah! She got married. Her life was turned around.

And they had a baby. And they named the baby: Boaz.

Does that name ring a bell? He married a foreign woman, too. Her name was: Ruth.

And they had a baby who had a baby who had a baby named David. He became the King of Israel.

And he had a baby who had a baby who had a baby, etc, etc, etc, who was named Jesus.

Rahab is in the bloodline of the Messiah!

Isn’t that surprising?!

The LORD is surprising. He’s surprisingly gracious.

Don’t doubt Him! Trust Him and follow Him.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

Maybe you ladies from A Woman’s Concern need to hear that. I would imagine that some Rahab’s cross through your doors.

Maybe you should be telling us–about the surprising things that God does in women’s lives through His grace!

The LORD is surprising. He’s surprisingly gracious.

Here’s the last one. Just real quickly.

What’s the upshot of this story for Israel? It’s the good news in verse 24 that this conquest is actually going to happen–and it’s going to go well. V.24

The spies, “said to Joshua, ‘The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.’”

#4. THE LORD OF RAHAB’S RESCUE IS SURE.

“The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands...”

He is faithful. The good news is that God always keeps His promises.

Everything He promised is as sure to be as it is said.

Isn’t that good news?

We can take His promises to the bank for cash every single time.

Because He’s Sovereign. No detail is outside of His grasp.
And He’s Scarey. It’s a dreadful thing to fall into His hands.
And He’s Surprising. You never really know what He’s going to do next–especially who He is going to save.
And when you trust Him, you know that He is SURE.

So, trust Him. Obey Him. Like Rahab, put your faith in Him, transfer all of your allegiance to Him, and let that guide your actions, so that you have both faith and deeds.

And He’ll get the glory.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ledfords Are Moving

My friend, Dan Ledford, and his family are moving to Butler PA.

He's going to be the senior pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Dan is one of my best friends. We are accountability partners in Bible reading, fellow bloggers, fellow strugglers with gluttony, fellow homeschooling dads, and fellow encouragers.

I'm glad he's not moving too far away!

One thing we don't have in common, however, is whom we hang out with on vacations.

Dan vs. Me. [But I love him anyway.]

Congratulations, Daniel!

D.A. Carson Online

Great news!

D.A. Carson is now online--for free.

The Gospel Coalition website now has a comprehensive library of Carson lectures, sermons, and talks in MP3 format--all for free.

I've commended Carson's work many times before. He has had a profound effect on me.

I'm so pleased that now anyone anywhere can access nearly 500 free messages!

Thanks to Dr. Carson and Andy Naselli for doing the work of uploading them for us.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Matt's Messages "Be Strong and Courageous"

“Be Strong and Courageous”
Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
January 11, 2009
Joshua 1:1-18

2009 is an odd-numbered year, and on odd-numbered years, we are embark on a long-term project to study the “Big Story” books of the Old Testament–those 10 or 11 books that carry along the Big Story of what God is up to.

In 2003, we studied Genesis. How many were here for that? Good, I’ve got some pop quiz questions for you this morning. See how much you remember.

In 2005, we studied Exodus. How many were here for that?

In 2007, we studied Numbers. How many were involved in that study?

Now, we didn’t do Leviticus or Deuteronomy, as excellent as those studies would be. And that’s because those two books don’t actually advance the story that much.

Leviticus is a law book that establishes a holiness code for the holy people of God.

And Deuteronomy is mainly a re-telling of the books of Exodus and Numbers by Moses to the second generation of Israelites–the ones that we are going to be reading about in the next few weeks.

So the next major “Big Story” book of the Bible is the Book of Joshua.

Joshua, whose name means “The LORD Saves,” was the son of a guy named Nun and the assistant to Moses. And in our chapter today (chapter 1), he becomes the leader of Israel and gets his marching orders.

But before we read that, let’s take a Pop Quiz.

Now, if you weren’t here for Genesis, you don’t have answer these questions unless you want to.

But if you’ve been here all along, I want you to try!

Question #1. Who was the main character of the book of Genesis?

It was God, wasn’t it? The LORD.

Genesis has Adam and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph.

But God was the star of the book.

Who do you think is the main character of the book of Joshua?

It’s the LORD again. In the very first verse, it is the LORD who speaks. He commands center stage. It’s all about Him.

Question #2. Who was the best supporting actor in the book of Genesis?

We said it was Abraham and then his family.

In Exodus and Numbers it was Moses for good or for bad. Two books where Moses was the best supporting actor. Four if you count Leviticus and Numbers.

But now, the Pentateuch (the first 5 books, the books of Moses) is over. In Joshua, Moses is dead. The greatest figure in Israel’s history up to this point has died.

And the question lingers, will his successor be successful?

Joshua is the best-supporting actor in the book that bears his name. There are some other great names that we will encounter: Caleb shows up again, a woman named Rahab, and a scoundrel named Achan. But Joshua is the best supporting actor.

And we’ll learn a lot from his story.

Third question. God made some promises to Abraham. What do we call them?

We call them the Abrahamic Covenant. What are the main promises of the Abrahamic Covenant?

Offspring
Land
Blessing

God has promised these things.

How are the promises going?

Let’s start with offspring.

At the end of Genesis, how many people were there?

About 70 in all went down into Egypt.

How many came out in the book of Exodus and were counted in the book of Numbers?

There were close to 2 million people! More than 600,000 fighting men.

Even though a whole generation died in the wilderness, a whole generation was born and grew in the wilderness. There is an overflow of offspring.

What about blessing?

We’ve seen it again and again. The blessing of Rescue at the Red Sea.

The blessing of God’s care for His people in the Law and in the provision He made for them as they traveled through the wilderness.

The blessing of protection that they experienced as they encountered enemies.

There will be more and more blessing as Joshua unfolds.

And so what about the Land?

Do they have the land yet?

Not quite yet.

How much Land did they have at the end of Genesis?

A burial plot, that’s all. And they were down in Egypt far away from Canaan.

But in Exodus they came out and started marching towards the Land.

How far did they get by the end of Exodus?

Mount Sinai. They weren’t far at all. And they got mustered up to go into the Land.

How far did they get?

They decided not to go.

Joshua and Caleb and ten other guys spied out the Land. And they liked the land, but they didn’t like the powerful people that lived there.

Joshua and Caleb encouraged everybody to take up their arms and march in, but the rest of the men led them in the Retreat of Unbelief.

And God judged them. For 40 years they wandered in the wilderness until the entire generation had died.

And at the end of the book of Numbers, they were parked across the Jordan River from the Promised Land. Two and a half of the tribes had already almost settled in the Transjordan Area.

But none of the people were yet IN the Land.

All of that is now about to change!

The Book of Joshua is all about taking possession of the Promised Land.

It’s all about God fulfilling His promises to His people.

Question #4. What was the theme of Genesis and the theme of the Pentateuch?

God Always Keeps His Promises.

Here’s the title of our series on Joshua: “Possessing the Promises.”

And I mean that in both ways, having the promises to trust and seeing the promises fulfilled–living off of the promises.

Possessing the Promises.

And that gets us right where we need to be to jump into Joshua chapter 1.

As I read it to you, I want you to see what gets emphasized, especially what gets repeated.

And when I finish reading it, I want you to tell me what the title of our message is today and what the key application of it will be for our lives.

Okay? Listen closely as I read. This is the Word of God. Joshua chapter 1.

[scripture reading, prayer]

Okay. What is the title of today’s message?

What did God tell Joshua most of all?

“Be Strong and Courageous.”

He says it at least 3 times and the then the people repeat it themselves in the last verse!

Joshua, Be Strong and Courageous.

It was probably tempting for Joshua to not be strong and courageous.

He was following the greatest leader, perhaps the greatest leader there ever was beside the Lord Jesus!

He had an unruly people to lead.

I love that part in verse 17 when they promise to fully obey Joshua like they obeyed Moses.

Did they do a good job at following Moses?!

I think that Joshua should have hoped they promised to do better than they had with Moses!

He had a huge task in front of him. Verse 2 says that he was to get the people ready to cross the Jordan River which had swollen at its banks. And then to march in and conquer the land of Canaan.

This was no easy mission that commander Joshua was facing.

I don’t know about you, but my knees would be knocking if that was my assignment.

And God knows that. That’s why He comes alongside Joshua and actually talks to him. And He tells him, “Be Strong and Courageous.”

Stand firm.
Be brave.
Be gutsy.
Be dauntless.
Don’t be terrified (v.9).
Don’t be discouraged.

Be Strong and Courageous.

I believe that God is saying that same thing to you and me today.

Lanse Free Church, Be Strong and Courageous.

We aren’t facing a hostile nation of wicked Canaanites that we are called to dispossess.

But we each have assignments in front of us that we need to shoulder with courage.

Maybe it’s something daunting like a new job.
Or maybe it’s something complicated like navigating a difficult relationship.
Or maybe it’s something as simple as aging with grace. Not giving in to the temptations of old age. The temptations to complain, or despair, or become idle.

I don’t know what mission is set before each of you this morning, but I think we all hear the call of God to us in them: “Be Strong and Courageous.”

Stand firm.
Be brave.
Be gutsy.
Be dauntless.
Don’t be terrified (v.9).
Don’t be discouraged.

Maybe it’s a call to be faithful to share the gospel with someone at work, at school, in the neighborhood, in your family.

Whatever it is, and it’s probably a few different things, God is saying to us, “Be Strong and Courageous.”

You can sense how hearing this filled Joshua’s sails. When he heard that clearly, he got right up and ordered the officers of the people to break camp and prepare for crossing the Jordan.

The time had come, and Joshua called them all to it.

And they responded. They were ready to go.

And they told Joshua they would follow (v.18), “Only be strong and courageous!”

Now, that’s really easy to say here in this nice warm room with our friends.

But our fears are real and they attack us out there.

And we don’t always here the clarion call to “Be Strong and Courageous.”

What you and I need are reasons to be strong and courageous.

And God gave Joshua at least three. Three bedrock reasons that Joshua could take courage in, and so can we.

#1. BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS BECAUSE THE LORD IS KEEPING HIS PROMISES.

Look again at verses 1 through 6.

“After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them–to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates–all the Hittite country–to the Great Sea on the west [the Mediterrean]. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you...Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore [SWORE!] to their forefathers to give them.”

God has made promises. He has sworn Himself to promises.

And He will keep them.

Isn’t that a good reason to be strong and courageous?

Joshua reminded all of the people of this very thing in verses 10 through 15.

He believed that God was keeping His promises. Look at verse 11.

“Go through the camp and tell the people, 'Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.'”
He says the same thing to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. And He emphasizes that word “possession.”

God is going to give the people “rest” and “possession.”

God has said it, Joshua believes it, and that’s where his courage comes from.

Do you need courage today? Think about, take hold of, cherish the promises of God.

Because He always keeps them!

Now, He hasn’t promised you and me that wherever we set our feet, He will give us.

Don’t go walking on that property that you’ve always wanted and believe that God has granted it to you until you get that name on the title.

But there is so much that He has promised us that we can take to bank.

The number one promise is that of salvation. Of rescue from our sins.

God has promised to save all those who trust in Him.

He does it through Jesus, His own Son, whom He gave a ransom for our sins.

And when we turn from our sins in repentance and trust in His perfect sacrifice on our behalf, we are saved!

Have you come to trust in that promise?

The Bible says, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ .... ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” [Romans 10:9-11,13]

I invite you to trust in that promise.

And if you are saved like that, what’s to stop you from being strong and courageous?

You have every reason to be strong and courageous.

Because God is keeping His promises.

And there’s a big promise right here in this passage. It’s encouragement number two.

#2. BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS BECAUSE THE LORD WILL BE WITH YOU.

Did you catch how many times the LORD promised to be with Joshua?

Look at verse 5.

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

That had to encourage Joshua!

Down at verse 9.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

It’s not so hard to be courageous when you know that God is right there with you.

My kids are learning to swim. They have swimming lessons at the YMCA in Clearfield on Saturday mornings.

And it’s a pretty fearful thing to learn to swim for the first time, at least for most folks.

I’ve never really gotten used to the water.

But I’ve noticed that when their teacher is right there next to them. She doesn’t even necessarily have to touch them–but just knowing that she’s there–they can try all kinds of things in the water.

Listen.

God is saying to you today: “I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you....Be strong and courageous.”

He didn’t just say that to Joshua.

He says that to you today. This week. No matter what you are facing.

If you belong to Him, if you are a Christian by faith in Christ alone, He says this to you.

It’s repeated in the Psalms. And in Hebrews chapter 13.

Hebrews 13:5 “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”

He’s right there. He’s right here.

Be strong and courageous!

You don’t have to do it on your own.

You have to do it.

But you don’t have to go it alone.

Joshua wasn’t on his own.

It might have felt like it.

It might feel like it for you right now.

But you are not alone. He never leaves. He never forsakes His children.

Be strong and courageous.

Third reason.

Be Strong and Courageous Because God Is Keeping His Promises.

Be Strong and Courageous Because God Will Be With You.

And #3. BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS BECAUSE THE LORD HAS COMMANDED YOU TO BE.

Now, He doesn’t command you to do something He won’t do with you, that’s point #2.

But He does command it.

V.9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.”

Those are strong words.

God truly wants this from us. He wants us to stand up and stand firm.

To be strong in Him and for Him.

To be brave and do the hard things.

It’s His will, and we are called to obey.

Did you notice the emphasis on obedience in verses 7 through 9?

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left [not even a little bit], that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law [the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, the whole Bible that they had at the time] depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.”

It’s a matter of obedience.

Last week, we talked about Trusting and Obeying and there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey. That’s exactly it.

How much obedience is God calling for? V.7 “all the law.” V.8, “careful to do everything written in it.”

How do we know what to do? We read it. We meditate on it. We talk about it.

When it says (v.8) not to let it depart from our mouths, it doesn’t mean to not talk about it–it means to talk about it all the time! For it to be always on our tongue, always on our lips.

God tell us what pleases Him in His Word, the Bible.

I love it that more than 75 of you have taken purple Bible reading plans this year to attempt the Pastor’s Pancake Challenge!

But the point isn’t getting the pancakes.

But the point isn’t really reading the Bible in a year.

The point is getting the Bible inside of us so that we live it out. V.8 again.

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.”

James says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (1:22). That’s what God was saying to Joshua.

Be Strong and Courageous Because God Commanded It.

I would guess that a few of us today need to hear that.

That’s it’s not just a matter of whether or not we feel like it.

It’s a matter of obedience.

For some of you, it’s taking that public step of baptism–of identifying publically with the Lord Jesus Christ and confessing your faith in Him by the sign that He gave–water baptism.

It’s a matter of obedience.

Be Strong and Courageous Because God Commanded It.

For others of us, it might be screwing up our courage to talk with someone about the gospel.

Be Strong and Courageous Because God Commanded It.

For others of us, it might be making a hard decision to live Jesus’ way instead of our own.

Be Strong and Courageous Because God Commanded It.

And here’s the pay-off!

The Bible again and again demonstrates this: WITH OBEDIENCE COMES BLESSING!

V.8 one more time.

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then [THEN!] you will be prosperous and successful...Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.”

With obedience comes blessing!

Do you want to see the blessing of God in your life?

I don’t mean a flashy car and big bank account.

I mean the best blessings that God has to offer: holiness, joy, peace, righteousness and so much more.

They come as the supernatural effect of obedience.

Not because we earn them, not by works, but by grace. By God’s gift to unworthy sinners who trust in Him and obey Him by faith.

With that kind of faith-filled obedience comes blessing!

I want that kind of blessing for me, for my family, and for our church.

So, we need to be strong and be courageous.

What is the application of this passage for our lives?

Be Strong and Courageous!

Because the Lord is Keeping His Promises.
Because the Lord will be with you.
Beacause the Lord has commanded you to be.

And with obedience to His commands, comes blessing.

May it be so.

Only be strong and courageous!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Plodding Towards Pancakes

It's a new year, and it's time for new things.


This year, I've encouraged our church to read through the whole Bible. Of course, we do that every year, but this year we added a twist: everyone who is successful is entitled to a Pancake Breakfast served by yours truly and my beautiful wife.

Praise God, it's generated a lot of momentum so far! We have had at least 75 reading plans snapped up in the last 3 weeks, and I've heard reports of children as young as 7 who are tracking along.

A little secret disclosed for you faithful blog readers: For many years I successfully read through the Bible myself, but in recent years have had trouble keeping it up.


The secret (and I've known this but haven't done it) is plodding...putting one foot in front of the next. [See this post about Jerry Seinfeld doing this very thing with joke writing.]

If you want pancakes, you'll probably need to plod.

My plan this year involves reading the new ESV Study Bible with the Robert Murray M'Cheyne reading plan.

In a great post about different Bible reading plans out there, as Justin Taylor says:
With this [M'Cheyne] plan you read through:
  • the NT twice,
  • the Psalms twice, and
  • the rest of the OT once.
The plan begins with the four great beginnings or "births" of Scripture: Genesis 1 (beginning of the world), Ezra 1 (rebirth of Israel after her return from Babylonian exile), Matthew 1 (birth of the Messiah), Acts 1 (birth of the body of Christ). John Stott says of this reading schedule: "Nothing has helped me more to gain an overview of the Bible, and so of God’s redemptive plan."

If you go with this route, I'd recommend D.A. Carson's For the Love of God (vol. 1 and vol. 2 are available--vols. 3 and 4 are forthcoming). Carson's introduction and preface--which includes a layout of the calendar--are available for free online.

Since there are four readings each day, it's easy to modify this one so that you read through the Bible once in two years, by reading just the first two readings each day for the first year and the second two readings each day for the second year.
As JT suggests, I am also reading Carson's For the Love of God (vol 1). I've done it before and always profit from it.

This year, I'm enjoying having an accountability/encouragement partner in Dan Ledford. Dan and I send an email to each other each day as we complete our assignment for the day.

Now, that would be enough to keep us busy, but 2009 also brings us to John Calvin's 500th birthday. So, Dan and I have committed to reading Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion in its entirety this year, as well.

We are using the reading plan put out by the folks at Reformation21 and are tuning into their commentary as we go [pdf].

So far, so good. Let's encourage each other to keep up the plodding!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

ccef.org

CCEF has just launched its new website!

Good stuff pouring out from every pixel.

Bookmark it now.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Matt's Messages "Trust, Obey, and Pray"

“Trust, Obey, and Pray”

January 4, 2009
Proverbs 3:5-6

Most of you probably don’t even need to open your Bibles today because you’ve got this one memorized. It’s Proverbs 3:5&6. Back when I graduated from High School, my Mom and Dad asked that people not give me graduation gifts, but instead send words of wisdom for the graduating young man. And I would bet that at least 25 people mailed these 2 verses to me for my graduation present.

Lots of people have this one memorized in either the King James or the NIV.

I’m going to read it in the NIV. Proverbs 3, verses 5 and 6.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

If our little Mitchell family had a theme song, it would be “Trust and Obey.”

Every night around bedtime, we read a Bible story, maybe a chapter or two of a missionary biography, and then we pray together as a family, normally going around the room with each family member praying. Isaac, Peter, Andrew, Robin, Heather, ...and I normally bat last.

And when we are all done praying, we all sing together:

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

That’s our theme song. I want it burned into the hard-drives of our hearts.

And this week, while we were away on vacation, as I was trying to figure out what to say to you this morning on the first Sunday of 2009, that song kept floating through my head.

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

And I thought to myself, that is good counsel for 2009.

That is good counsel for setting our minds and hearts on wise priorities for 2009!

If I could boil down my pastoral counsel for our church for the next whole year into just 3 words, they would be: “Trust, Obey, and Pray.”

Lanse Free Church, in 2009, we need to Trust, Obey, and Pray.

And I think that’s Solomon’s message for us in Proverbs 3:5&6.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

#1. TRUST.

Solomon says that we need to trust in the LORD with all of our hearts.

To trust Him means to place our confidence in Him.

It means to bank on Him, believe in Him, have faith in Him, rest in His promises, count on Him, depend on Him, reckon on Him, hope in Him...trust in Him.

And Solomon says to do it with how much of our hearts?

A-L-L.

That’s the whole thing.

What is our heart? Remember, the heart is the real you, the inside you. The heart is the you inside of you. It is the authentic you.

The heart is the vital worshiping center of our lives–we live out of our hearts.

And this proverb’s wisdom is to call us to trust in the LORD with ALL of our hearts–holding nothing back.

Sound good?

There is only one problem with this plan. ...

It doesn’t always seem like the right thing to do!

Often, trusting the LORD seems like a foolish thing to do, given the circumstances.

As you and I often eyeball a situation, it seems like trusting the LORD in this situation might be the pious, religious, righteous thing to do, but not the thing that would (v.6) make our paths straight! Anything but.

Some of you, right now, might be in a situation where it doesn’t seem prudent to trust in the LORD. You know that that’s the right answer, but it doesn’t feel like it.

Do you know what I mean?

Solomon did. That’s why he wrote the second half of verse 5.

“...lean not on your own understanding...”

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding...”

Do you know what an “artificial horizon” is? I’ll bet Wally and Blair do. Any other pilots here?

An artificial horizon is the gizmo in an airplane that tells the pilot when their wings are level with the ground. As I understand it, the problem is one of inertia. Inertia makes things a little hard to figure out when you’re flying.

Did you ever notice that a full cup of coffee doesn’t spill when the plane turns, even if the wings are perpendicular to the ground? Coffee won’t spill, a magazine will drop straight to the floor, and flight attendants will walk upright down the aisle as if the plane were level. All because of inertia.

Pilots are subject to inertia, too. When flying through clouds or fog, which prevent them from seeing the horizon, pilots cannot feel the plane’s wings beginning to bank to the left or right. In fact, in the early days of flight, pilots followed the myth of instinct: they believed they could feel the turn, and when their planes were accidently engulfed in fog or clouds, many banked unknowingly into a spiral dive that ended in a crash. Pilots quickly came up the statement: “Instinct is worse than useless in the clouds.”

To fly through clouds, pilots must use the “Artificial Horizon.” The artificial horizon is an instrument with a gyroscopically steadied line that stays level with the earth’s surface and unerringly indicates when the wings are banking left or right.

The artificial horizon revolutionized flying, but when it was first invented, pilots resisted using it. The biggest problem flyers had was self-trust. They trusted their feelings more than their instruments.

We all have that problem. We all want to judge our own path, to be self-reliant, self-trusting. But Solomon says, to have a straight path, you must learn to trust the artificial horizon (actually, in our case, it’s the authentic horizon) of the LORD Himself.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding...”

You see, everyone is trusting in something. Whether it is in ourselves, or our families, or our government, or our bank-accounts, or our education, or our wits, or our charm–everyone is trusting in something. But God says, in Proverbs 3:5 that if you want a straight path to God’s best destination for you–it will require faith in HIM.

That’s faith in a personal God. This is not just a generic faith in faith itself. Or faith in some idea of God, some impersonal creator force.

Notice that it says, “LORD” with all capital letters. Remember that that stands for the Hebrew word “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” is hiding there in the original Hebrew text. This is not just any god. This is the God of the Bible. This is the personal God who revealed Himself to Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and David.

This is the God who supremely revealed himself in Jesus Christ. The New Testament calls Jesus “Lord” because He is this God in v.5 of Proverbs 3. On this side of Jesus’ coming, we could read this verse, “Trust in the Lord Jesus with all your heart.”

TRUST.

That’s the heart response that brings salvation.

If you are not yet a Christ-follower yourself, “Trust in the Lord Jesus” is what we say to you on the first Sunday of 2009.

The Lord Jesus is imminently, preeminently trustworthy.

His death and resurrection make Him the way to God for all who put their faith in Him.

On the night Jesus died, He told His followers: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”

If you are not yet a Christ-follower, I challenge you, I invite you, I plead with you to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Trust.

Now, before, we move to #2, I want to talk to you about the big bull’s-eye looking thing on the back of your bulletin.

You’re probably wondering where you are supposed to be putting your notes for this message!

This bull’s-eye represents almost everything important to you in 2009.

This is your life in 2009.

And there are two main things in your life in 2009 that these two concentric circles represent.

Let’s let this outside circle represent “Things I’m Concerned About in 2009.”

And let’s let this inside circle represent “Things I’m Responsible For in 2009.”

This is the circles of Concern. This is the circle of Responsibility.

You may have seen a similar drawing. I’ve sometimes called this “The Circle of Concern” and this “The Circle of Control” or “The Circle of Choice.”

Now, what might go into these different circles?

Lots of stuff. In fact, most everything that you will encounter in 2009 (except for maybe those things that are a part of your life but you don’t know about them!).

But let’s not worry about those. Let’s talk about what we do know about.

Let’s the put “the economy” in the Circle of Concern.

How many are concerned about the economy?

Now, let’s put in the middle circle (which, really, should be a lot smaller, if we were trying to be perfectly accurate), let’s put–“Spending of Personal Finances.”

Okay? Do you see how this goes?

These are the things that we are concerned about–and they truly affect us.

But we can’t do much about those things.

These things, are things we can do something about, and should.

Does that make sense?

Now, what do you think is supposed to be our response to the circle of concern?

[Hint: It’s point #1 today.]

Trust.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding...”

The economy.
Your health.
The relationship between our nation and others.
The other side from you in any of your relationships.
The other cars on the road.
What someone else thinks about you.
Whether your job will still exist in 2010.
The choices your kids make.

All kinds of stuff will come at you in 2009.

And the heart-response that God wants from you is Trust.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding...”

Now, do we always just leave those things to God?

No, we don’t. At least, I don’t! I like to try to take over God’s job.

I help Him out[!] by either trying to manipulate things or people [never a wise choice!] or by a simple little thing I do to help God that I call “worrying.”

Neither is His preferred choice for me.

Sometimes (often), trusting requires repentance.

Trust.

Now, this smaller, inner circle. The circle of responsibility. What do you think is our response supposed to be to the things in this circle?

Remember, this circle is the circle of things in my life that I can and should do something about. The circle of responsibility.

#2: OBEY.

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

These are the things that God is asking us to do in 2009.

Now, strangely enough, I often try to downsize this circle! I try to take God’s job in the big circle, but I shirk my responsibilities in the inner circle! I try to make those God’s job, and not mine.

For example, I’ll say, “I’m not going to reign in my personal spending. I’ll just trust the Lord to supply.”

Do you see how subtle that can be?

We want to take over God’s job, but we don’t want to do our own.

But God says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Me, but to trust and obey.”

Now, I don’t know all of what that obedience will look like for you in 2009.

God has a plan tailor-made for each of us.

But the Bible is His Word to all of us, and it applies to all of us. And so I want to suggest some areas where I think obedience may be the new path that some of us need to take.

Let me very briefly suggest areas to consider:

#1. Get Baptized.

Some of you are adult faith-followers of Jesus Christ who have never been baptized as faith-followers of Jesus Christ.

I think that’s disobedient.

The Lord Jesus Himself was baptized, and He Himself asks us to be baptized.

I think it’s a matter of obedience or not whether we follow Him in the waters of baptism.

Now, I’m suggesting that you rush into it. But I am suggesting that you look into it, if have not yet been baptized as a faith-follower of the Lord Jesus.

It’s a matter of obedience.

Don’t wait for a voice to whisper in your ear. Read your Bible. And follow.

We’re going to be holding some more baptism classes. I’d love to see many of you make a public profession of your faith in Jesus Christ in the way that He called us to.

It’s a matter of obedience.

#2. Get Into the Bible.

God is calling us to read and study and ingest and digest His Holy Word.

The Bible says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

Get Into the Bible.

It’s a matter of obedience.

I’ve been encouraged to see that a number of you have taken purple reading plans for 2009. I, have chosen one, as well, and am reading along with you to try to get the whole thing read in 2009.

If you do, I’ll feed you a pancake breakfast.

But the important thing isn’t ingesting pancakes! It’s ingesting God’s Word. Remember Jeremiah 15:16?

“Your words came, and I ate them. They were my joy and my heart’s delight. For I bear your name O Lord God Almighty!”

It’s a matter of obedience.

#3. Get to Church.

Church is not optional for Christians.

It doesn’t save you. Neither do baptism or Bible reading!

But it’s mandatory.

Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

It’s a matter of obedience whether or not you are in church and worshiping and learning and fellowshipping.

Some of us need to repent of our take-it-or-leave it approach to the Body of Christ.

Get Involved In Church.

It’s a matter of obedience.

#4. Get to Giving.

So many of you are wonderful givers, you don’t need to hear a sermon on giving.

But I can’t assume that everyone here has come to know the blessings of giving or has been encouraged to give as a matter of obedience to the Lord’s command.

The Bible says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

Get to Giving.

The amount is not near as important as the act of the heart in freeing your grip around the gift.

It’s a matter of obedience. Trust and Obey.

#5. Get to Serving.

Some of us love to give of our funds, but not of our time.

But the Body of Christ and our Community need both.

Peter says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Using your gifts in ministry is not optional. It’s a matter of obedience.

What are you going to do in ministry in 2009?

And #6. Get to Sharing Jesus.

Get busy with evangelism.

Get to witnessing.

There is a lost world out there that needs to hear the Gospel.

It’s our job to take to the gospel to our friends, neighbors, family, co-workers, and everyone else.

Get to sharing Jesus.

It’s a matter of obedience.

Jesus Himself said that we should share Gospel with the whole world.

And He’s expecting us to do it.

It’s a matter of obedience.

Who have you shared the Gospel with recently?

Who are you praying for to share the Gospel?

Men, who have you invited to the Wild Game Dinner?

I think sometimes, we ask ourselves, do I want to go to the Wild Game Dinner?

And we need to ask a bigger question. Does God want me to invite someone to the Wild Game Dinner? And if so, Whom?

Men, who are you going to invite?

Get to sharing Jesus.

It’s a matter of obedience.

Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

You might have a different list of biblical commands that God is laying on your heart to fulfill. Maybe yours is forgive someone, or start discipling someone, or something else.

Regardless, it’s a matter of obedience.

Trust and Obey.

Now, I want to point something out.

Notice where the Circle of Responsibility lies!

Is it outside or inside the circle of concern?

Inside. That means that these things that we are called to do in 2009 are things that we are not just supposed to do in obedience, but also things that we are supposed to be trusting God for!

The obedience that God requires from us is a faith-based obedience.

It’s a trusting obedience.

It’s trust and obey. Not just one or the other.

In fact, all true obedience requires trust.

Now, where is obedience in this proverb? V.6

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

In all your ways acknowledge him.

Now, that doesn’t mean to just say, “Hi.”

That’s what we sometimes mean when we say, “acknowledge.”

“Hey, Jesus! How’ya doing? Props to Jesus! I acknowledge Him!”

No, this means in everything we do, to do it His way. To do it to His honor and glory.

It means to obey.

And more than that, it means to obey in a trusting way. And a personally trusting way.

The work acknowledge here means “to know.”

It means to know in a personal way.

We talk about a personal relationship with Jesus. This is a walking, talking, personal trusting and knowing of the Lord–in all of our ways in 2009.

And that’s why I add the word “Pray.”

Trust.
Obey.
And #3. PRAY.

In 2009, God is calling us to prayer.

Praying about everything.
Praying about the lost.
Praying about our concerns.
Praying about our responsibilities.

Notice this.

Everything in this bull’s-eye can be prayed for!

Those things that concern us but we can’t do anything about?

Actually, we can. We can pray about them.

Those things that God wants us to do but we’re not sure if we want to?

We can pray about those, too!

James says “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? [Pray for him, too! ...] The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

In other words, Pray about everything!

Do you have a time every day that you set aside to talk to Almighty God?

Do you have a list of things and people to pray for?

The New Year is a great time to develop a new habit of praying.

Trust, Obey, and Pray.

And what happens?

Blessing.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

You will get to your destination.

Does that mean no Bumps?

No.

But does mean straight paths.

You will get where God wants to be in 2009.

And you’ll be “Happy in Jesus!”

Trust, Obey, and Pray.

Let’s do that together.

In the middle of the night in a small Midwest farming community, the two-story house of a young family caught fire. Quickly, everyone made their way through the smoke-filled house out into the front yard. Everyone, except a five-year-old boy. The Father looked up to the boy’s room and saw his son crying at the window, rubbing his eyes.

The father knew better than to reenter the house to rescue his son, so he yelled, “Son, jump! I’ll catch you.” Between sobs, the boy responded to the voice he knew so well. “But I can’t see you.”

The father answered with great assurance. “No, Son, you can’t, but I can see you!” The boy jumped and was safe in his father’s arms.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”