Walking With God

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Joshua was an exceptional person. Joshua is the Hebrew word for Jesus. Joshua first appears on the scene as an assistant to Moses. The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” (Numbers 13:1)

From the tribe of Judah, Caleb was selected. From the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea was selected. Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua. When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live in?

“At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. Then Caleb said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” (Numbers 13:25 NIV)

Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman philosopher, identified the following traits of a successful person: Consciousness of an honest purpose in life. A just estimate of himself and everyone else. Frequent self-examinations. Steady obedience to what he knows to be right. Indifference to what others may think or say.

We know that Moses served as a mentor for Joshua. But what is it that makes Joshua such a great man. What is it that makes any of us a great person, especially an outstanding Christian? “When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:21). Now remember, Adam and Eve, prior to their sin, “walked” with God.

We hear a lot about sin and what we shouldn’t be doing. But the wonderful thing about Joshua is that he was a good man. Jenny Lind, the great Swedish soprano, disappointed many of her friends because she turned down so many big contracts that would have made her world famous. One day a friend surprised her sitting on a sunny seashore reading the New Testament. The friend, in conversation, rebuked the singer for not seizing her chances. Quickly, Jenny Lind put her hand over her Testament and said, “I found that making vast sums of money was spoiling my taste for this.”

Obedience pleases God and disobedience displeases God. Paul writes to the young Timothy who is learning how to live a Christian life. “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”(1Timothy 2:1). This is good, and pleases God our Savior, have you ever tried to sin and pray at the same time? You can’t!

A few centuries before Christ, a man named Alexander conquered almost all of the known world using military strength, cleverness and a bit of diplomacy. The story is told that Alexander and a small company of soldiers approached a strongly fortified walled city. Alexander, standing outside the walls, raised his voice and demanded to see the king. When the king arrived, Alexander insisted that the king surrender the city and its inhabitants to Alexander and his little band of fighting men. The king laughed, “Why should I surrender to you? You can’t do us any harm!” But Alexander offered to give the king a demonstration. He ordered his men to line up single file and start marching. He marched them straight toward a sheer cliff. The townspeople gathered on the wall and watched in shocked silence as, one by one, Alexander’s soldiers marched without hesitation right off the cliff to their deaths! After ten soldiers died, Alexander ordered the rest of the men to return to his side. The townspeople and the king immediately surrendered to Alexander the Great. They realized that if a few men were actually willing to commit suicide at the command of this dynamic leader, then nothing could stop his eventual victory. Think how much power Christ could have in our area with just a portion of such commitment.

There are benefits to walking with God and living a godly life. “To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God” (Ecc 2:26). Each of us was designed to be something beyond ourselves. We are designed with a great capacity for God; and sin and our individuality are the things that keep us from walking with God. God delivers us from sin: we have to deliver ourselves from individuality; from the “me,” to present our lives to God and sacrifice lives until they are transformed into a spiritual life by obedience.

He listens to the godly man who does his will. 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”(John 9:31).

Finding God’s Will For Our Lives

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A story circulating for years among the clergy, tells of a minister who was invited to pastor a church at which the salary was four times what he had been receiving. Being a devout man, he spent many hours in prayer to discern the will of God. One day a friend met the minister’s little boy on the street and asked, “Well, what is your father going to do?” “Well,” said the boy, “Father’s praying, but Mother’s packing.” The father was saying to God, “What will you have me do?” The mother, no less good-intentioned, was saying to God, “This is what I am going to do, I hope you approve.” Doesn’t that sound like us? Lord, this is what I am going to do, bless it!

As the church today gets more and more contemporary, more and more need-oriented, responding to the buttons that people push in their pews, I find myself longing for more of an old time faith. Most of us decide what we want and then claim that this is God’s will, whether God had anything to do with it or not. The change is seen in why we worship God. Some properly come to worship God and seek to serve their Lord any way that they can. However, the more contemporary trend, is what can God offer me! The person who looks at it with “what is in it for me” will never find God’s will for their life. It is too selfish and too self centered.

“Be careful,” runs the old saying, “or you may get what you want.” One who would agree is a man who lived in a squalid tenement on a side street in East Boston. He was a tailor and worked long hours each day to eke out a meager existence. He allowed himself but one luxury: a ticket each year to the Irish Sweepstakes. And each year he would pray fervently that this would be the winning ticket that would bring him his fortune. For fourteen years his life continued in the same impoverished vein, until one day there came a loud knocking on his door. Two well-dressed gentlemen entered his shop and informed him that he had just won the Sweepstakes. The grand prize was $250,000! The little tailor could hardly believe his ears. He was rich! No longer would he have to slave away making pant cuffs, and hemming dresses. Now he could really live! He locked his shop and threw the key into the Charles River. He bought himself a wardrobe fit for a king, a new Rolls Royce, a suite of rooms at the Ritz, and soon was supporting a string of attractive women. Night after night he partied until dawn, spending his money as if each day was his last. Of course the inevitable happened. One day the money was gone. Furthermore, he had nearly wrecked his health. Disillusioned and ridden with fever and exhausted, he returned to his little shop and set up business once more. And, from force of habit, once again each year he set aside from his meager savings the price of a Sweepstakes ticket. Two years later there came a second knock at his door. The same two gentlemen stood there once again. “This is the most incredible thing in the history of the Sweepstakes,” exclaimed one. “You have won again!” The little tailor staggered to his feet with a groan that could be heard for miles. “Oh, no,” he protested, “– do you mean I have to go through all that again?” We always fail to ask, is it meeting our needs or meeting God’s desire?

We falsely believe that God forces His will upon our lives! And we can validate that with scripture. Moses, Jonah, Job, Paul, etc. As a Christian we set our will completely aside and accept God’s will for our lives. If we do not, and only take our will, we end up like Judas. The Lord’s Prayer sets a much higher example for all of us. MAT 6:10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (NIV) How is it done in Heaven? Do we lose our individualism? No! That is an invitation not to smash our will but to merge God’s will with our will. Jesus prayed, LUK 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (NIV) Jesus still had a will – He didn’t want to die. God, the Father’s will wins out.

Picture in your mind children playing beside a tiny stream that runs down a mountainside to join a river in the valley below. Children can divert the stream and slow the water but not a one can prevent the water from reaching the river. In regard to God we are very little children. Though we may divert and hinder God’s purposes, we never defeat God’s purposes. How much better to flow in God’s channel, blending our will with God’s will.

Gideon sought to merge his will with God’s will. Gideon was a farmer, not a minister, not a professor. An ordinary man with an ordinary faith. Gideon puts out the fleece to find God’s will. Faith goes looking for God’s. God’s will is not something we resign ourselves to. God would not have given us a will if we were only meant to surrender it. The will is a gift of God and there is a stewardship to using it. It is not so much a matter of surrendering our will as it is a matter of “being in partnership” with God’s will. If our will is suppressed or destroyed we lose our excitement, our drive, our creativity. However, when our natural will is partnershipped with God’s will, the spiritual, we are complete. JOH 10:30 I and the Father are one.” (NIV)

Chuck Givens says, “When I was a kid, I wrote down 181 dreams I wanted to achieve in my life. To date, I’ve made 160 come true.” Givens got his first wish — to write the hottest song in Nashville — at age 22 with the hit tune “Hang on Sloopy,” which earned him enough to build a recording studio. Givens remembers, “A few weeks after I opened the studio it burned to the ground. I drove out there alone and stood in the ashes. Then I just started to smile — I had survived this! I left feeling 10 feet tall and bullet-proof.” A decade and many ups and downs later, Givens found himself selling real estate in Beach Mountain, N. C. “I hadn’t made a sale in two months, and the boss said, ‘You’ve lost the vision. Start selling people their dreams, instead of just dirt.'” That day, Givens closed his next sale. Seven months later he had earned enough to start his own company. Today, Chuck Givens has achieved a whole slew of his dreams: He owns 43 other businesses and $10 million in real estate. But there are still those 21 dreams to go — some large, like building a broadcasting empire, and some small, like building his own home from scratch. Givens notes, “Most people go out in the real world, get kicked around and let go of their dreams. I just never stopped thinking like a 10-year-old.”

Partnership with God is just as exciting and wonderful.

One More Night With The Frogs

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There is a tragic but true story of one man’s search for wealth. The man was a farmer who settled in Africa. When he learned of other settlers like himself making millions discovering diamonds on the rich African continent, he sold his farm to join them. He searched for years but found nothing. Finally, broke and hopelessly beaten, he threw himself into a river and drowned. In the meantime, the man who bought his farm found a large stone on his property which turned out to be a diamond of enormous value. That was only the beginning. The farm was covered with millions of dollars in the gleaming gems. All within easy reach of the first farmer who had wasted his life searching for something that was there all the time. The farm became the famous Kimberly Diamond Mine.

All of us would agree that we believe in God. But there are some who believe in God who still live empty lives. Something is missing! The irony is that we waste our lives frantically searching for something already within our reach.

After 420 years in Egypt it was time for the Hebrew people to return to their home and be free. God sent Moses to Pharaoh to ask for their release. To prove that it is God, Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. It didn’t mean a thing to Pharaoh, why? Pharaoh then summoned his sorcerers, and they also did the same things by their secret arts. A second time God offers proof – He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts. At what point is Pharaoh going to believe God and become faithful? We think that it is at the point, where Pharaoh can’t do it for himself.

I will plague your whole country with frogs. The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt. But there was one thing they could not do, get rid of them. Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.” Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.” “Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said (Exodus 8:1-11).

Can you believe that? The frogs are everywhere and Pharaoh is willing to spend one more night with those frogs. Tomorrow I will stop sinning! Tomorrow I will stop smoking. Tomorrow I will not take another drink. Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow! When will the people of God be obedient and faithful, tomorrow?

Giving to God is not a request, it is a command. I firmly believe that God is seeking to bless those who are faithful and obedient to His word. And we will never understand the full measure of that blessing until we comply. MAT 7:2 …and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. The more that we have the higher the tenancy not to give.

What preacher hasn’t heard all the excuses? 2CO 9:7 God loves a cheerful giver. So if I can’t be a cheerful giver, I won’t give. But when are we going to become a cheerful giver, tomorrow? Tithing is not a New Testament concept. Jesus said, MAT 5:18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Jesus re-enforces that by saying, MAT 22:21 Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” When are we going to believe that the scripture calls us to be faithful givers, tomorrow? I have too many bills to pay to give to God. Now scripture commands to “give the first” to God. MAT 19:21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” We have never gotten the message, it’s not our money! If you manage a company you spend the money in a wise and prudent fashion. You spend it as the boss tells you to spend the money. After all, it is the bosses money. The problem, we spend it as if it is ours, not His. I’ll give it to Him when I die, tomorrow. LUK 12:20 “But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?

The issue is one that is bigger than our gifts, it is one of obedience. So, when are we going to be obedient? Tomorrow, which never comes? A 1000 years before the 10 Commandments were ever given, the Law of giving was in effect. Cain and Able were required to present their gifts to God. When was Cain going to give God the best and the first of his gifts, tomorrow.

“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, `How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” (Malachi 3:8-10).

God invites us to test Him in the truthfulness of this principle. LUK 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

It is the difference between living to the world’s standards and living with God’s standards. I challenge you today to begin that journey of faithfulness. Do not spend one more night with the frogs.

Living With Courage

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Joshua writes (1:6) “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 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, that you may be successful wherever you go. 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 you will be prosperous and successful. 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.

I read about a teenage boy in a large American city describing an incident that happened to him. He was walking from the bus depot to his Dad’s apartment when he realized he was flanked by two young men. “Give me your wallet.” “No.” “This is a gun. Give me your wallet or I’ll shoot you.” “No.” “Hey, man. You don’t understand. We’re robbing you. Give me your wallet.” “No.” “Give me your wallet or I’ll knife you.” “No.” “Give me your wallet or we’ll beat you up.” By now the robber was whining. “No.” The young man had continued walking and after a while he noticed he was no longer accompanied. When he told his Dad about it, he asked him, “Weren’t you scared?” “Of course. What else would I be?” “Why didn’t you give them your wallet?” “My learner’s permit in it.”

Unless a person has courage, they have no security for preserving any other character. Courage is a basic virtue! If one doesn’t have courage, all the other virtues in one’s character will not stand up under severe testing. For instance, where courage is lacking there is no certain guarantee of integrity. Without courage the chances are that the person under pressure will lie when, regardless of the cost, they should speak the truth. They will give in when they should hold out.

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. (Matthew 26:33)

Regardless of what other virtues a person has, once courage collapses the sand washes out from all the others. Of what use is wisdom, if one hasn’t courage to act wisely? Of what value is love, if one hasn’t courage to love? Of what result is truth, if one hasn’t courage to speak it? Of what consequence is faith, if one hasn’t courage to embrace it? No virtue can stand without the underpinning of courage.

There was displayed in a variety store a small plastic tray of assorted crosses. Some were pins, some were pendants. The gold plate on many was tarnished or scratched; on others the enamel was cracked or chipped, and some, set with imitation pearls, were missing a pearl or two. All were the left-over odds and ends from an Easter sale. The sign above the tray read: Crosses At Reduced Prices.

To hear some of the preachers on television and radio you would think that life is all wonderful. They are offering people a false sense of strength and security with quack receipts that you can have power by merely willing it. We cannot escape the problems of life because they are difficult or because we have found no adequate solutions for them. Difficulties grow faith and mature our knowledge of God. Better it is to help people find courage to hit their hardship head-on. It is easy to be brave when all behind you agree with you, but the difficulty comes when 999 of your friends think you are wrong. Then it is the brave soul who stands up, one among a 1000, but remembering that one with God makes a majority. However, with God, it is not so much the visible that shows our courage as much as the invisible. Courageous acts often take place in small rooms with closed doors.

How does the Christian develop (or get) courage? For 420 years the Hebrews are in bondage in Egypt. Only to come out of bondage and spend the next 40 years in the desert. During this 40 years of time Joshua has witnessed a lot. The Red Sea parts and the people walk on dry ground. A cloud has been over their heads each day protecting them from the heat of the sun. A pillar of fire every night to give light and warm them from the desert’s cold. Manna was on the ground every morning and quail every evening. Now Moses has died and Joshua is selected to be the new leader. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous.

Do we seem to get the point that God is trying to establish courage in Joshua. Be careful to obey all the laws my servant Moses gave you; obedience is a prerequisite for courage. Paul says, ROM 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. We get courage from what we know to be true. If you know the winning number in the lottery you have more courage. Jesus said, JOH 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The story of “Wrong Way Riegels” is a familiar one, but it bears repeating. On New Year’s Day, l929, Georgia Tech played UCLA in the Rose Bowl. In that game a young man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for UCLA. Picking up the loose ball, he lost his direction and ran sixty-five yards toward the wrong goal line. One of his teammates, Beeny Lom, ran him down and tackled him just before he scored for the opposing team. Several plays later the Bruins had to punt. Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety, demoralizing the UCLA team. At halftime the UCLA players filed off the field and into the dressing room. As the others sat down on the benches and the floor, Riegels put a blanket around his shoulders, sat down in a corner, and put his face in his hands. A football coach usually has a great deal to say to his team during half time. That day Coach Price was quiet. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do with Riegels. When the time keeper came in and announced that there were three minutes before playing time, Coach Price looked at the team and said, “Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second.” The players got up and started out, all but Riegels. He didn’t budge. The coach looked back and called to him. Riegels didn’t move. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.” Roy Riegels looked up, his cheeks wet with tears. “Coach,” he said, “I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you. I’ve ruined the university’s reputation. I’ve ruined myself. I can’t face that crowd out there.” Coach Price reached out, put his hand on Riegels’ shoulder, and said, “Roy, get up and go on back. The game is only half over.” Riegel finally did get up. He went onto the field and the fans saw him play hard and well. All of us have run a long way in the wrong direction. Because of the forgiveness offered in Jesus Christ, however, the game is only half over.