Monday, January 23, 2017

Rebellion's Cycle

My Life Group lesson for Jan. 22, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway and bits from Jay McCluskey and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

Have you ever received a speeding ticket?

Were you really speeding?

If the answer to the first question is “yes,” then the answer to the second question is usually “yes” also.

While we might deserve the consequences we receive, we sometimes mistakenly get upset at the officer giving us the citation.

When the Israelites were falling into rebellion and getting caught, they had a tendency not to understand the lessons learned.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

Judges 1:1-3:6

*** We’ve moved from the book of Joshua to the book of Judges.

*** Judges bridges the gap between the Israelites taking the Promised Land and the time of kings.

*** A generation after Joshua passed the Israelites fell into a cycle of rebellion, God’s judgment, and deliverance.

ABANDONMENT (JUDGES 2:11-15)

11 The Israelites did what was evil in the LORD’s sight. They worshiped the Baals 12 and abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods from the surrounding peoples and bowed down to them. They infuriated the LORD, 13 for they abandoned Him and worshiped Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 The LORD’s anger burned against Israel, and He handed them over to marauders who raided them. He sold them to the enemies around them, and they could no longer resist their enemies. 15 Whenever the Israelites went out, the LORD was against them and brought disaster on them, just as He had promised and sworn to them. So they suffered greatly.

*** History repeat itself.

--- Who has a favorite movie or novel they have watched or read more than once?

--- No matter how many times we watch the movie or read the book, the ending never changes.

--- As a history buff, it never fails to amaze that one of the main points of history is that mankind repeats the same destructive paths over and over again.

--- But as a Christian history buff, it’s much easier to see why our sinful nature gets in the way.

--- There’s a familiar pattern to the Israelites throughout the Old Testament:
The nation first served God, then they forsake Him in favor of fake gods.
God delivers them into the hands of their enemies.
The people wail and moan in servitude.
The people cry out to God in distress and repent.
God hears their prayer, raises up a judge to save them from torment and they win freedom again.
Copy. Paste.

*** We can’t be too quick to judge.

--- How often do we do the same?

--- If we aren’t steadfast and if we begin tolerating sin, how quickly do we fall into a pattern of sin-repentance-forgiveness-sin, and you notice yourself asking forgiveness for the same things over and over again?

--- The Israelites lost the will to drive their enemies from the land, and instead of being steadfast in a pursuit of Godly worship they began tolerating and then following the pagan practices of their neighbors.

--- We can’t let ourselves fall into the same behaviors as our unbelieving friends, co-workers, even family.

--- In 2 Corinthians, when the local pagan religions threatened to corrupt the Christians in Corinth, Paul called on the Corinthian believers to live separate lives (2 Cor. 6:16-17).

--- Paul saw it firsthand, too. Demas began as a devoted partner in ministry with Paul, but sadly he left the ministry “because he loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10).

*** Question - How easy is it for Christians today to get in with friends who don’t follow Jesus, and how much more likely is it for us to conform to their sinful ways?

REPENTANCE (JUDGES 2:16-19)

16 The LORD raised up judges, who saved them from the power of their marauders, 17 but they did not listen to their judges. Instead, they prostituted themselves with other gods, bowing down to them. They quickly turned from the way of their fathers, who had walked in obedience to the LORD’s commands. They did not do as their fathers did. 18 Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for the Israelites, the LORD was with him and saved the people from the power of their enemies while the judge was still alive. The LORD was moved to pity whenever they groaned because of those who were oppressing and afflicting them. 19 Whenever the judge died, the Israelites would act even more corruptly than their fathers, going after other gods to worship and bow down to them. They did not turn from their evil practices or their obstinate ways.

*** Actions have consequences.

--- Just as God was aware of Israel’s transgressions, even so today the Lord watches over us. When we seek to obey Him, He is aware of our devotion.

--- Unlike your browser you can’t go through life in “Incognito Mode!”

--- And during those times we deceive ourselves into believing we can live in sin and no one will know, the watchful eyes of the Lord still are upon us.

--- God let the Hebrews experience the consequences of their sinful choices.

--- After they had their way, their enemies became their masters.

--- But He also raised up someone to save them from their enemies when the people repented and cried out for help.

--- The people certainly didn’t deserve divine intervention.

--- But the Lord responded in grace with kindness.

--- When they were unfaithful, God was still faithful.

--- Even in our self-imposed suffering, God is good, offering help.

*** Drink your kids’ rebellious tears.

--- Your kids’ moans and sadness at being punished makes you sad, but what if you let them off the hook every time and they never learn their lesson? You’d be a bad parent.

--- How do they react? Usually with panic, right?

--- Every time something doesn’t go right in our lives, we tend to listen to Satan’s lies of fear, discouragement and despair.

--- Corrie ten Boom was a faithful Christian who hid Jews from arrest and deportation during the German occupation of the Netherlands. Even in that awful situation, she would say that “there is no panic in heaven, only plans.”

--- You may panic when your rebellion causes your world to go topsy-turvy, but He hasn’t quit on you.

--- The phrase “in the LORD’s sight” in verse 11 serves as a reminder to all of us that life is lived under God’s watchful eyes.

--- God watches over us just as a loving father keeps an eye on his children to encourage good behavior or to discipline bad behavior.

--- God has never stepped down from His throne. Jesus has not left His right hand, and the Holy Spirit has not stopped interceding for you.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Americans love a good rebel. We are a country founded by rebellion.

In the South there is still a sense of awe for the rebels of the Civil War.

We celebrate rebels in books, on TV, and in movies.

Of course, as a teenager you think of yourself as a rebel without a care, but your parents know that you’re actually a rebel without a clue.

When we rebel against God, however, we need a swift kick in our Biblical pants, so to speak.

Like the ancient Hebrews, we occasionally need to be reminded of God’s authority.

*** (1) God brings righteous judgment on His rebellious people, with the goal of their repentance.

*** (2) Is there any area of rebellion against God in your life? Ask for God’s forgiveness and make better choices.

*** (3) No matter where we stand in our relationship with God today, His desire is that we draw closer to Him.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Challenged

My Life Group lesson for Jan. 15, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway and bits from John McClendon, John MacArthur and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

Inauguration Day is this Friday. Donald Trump will be sworn in as president, and Barack Obama will scoot out of office, but not before giving a final talk to the nation last week.

If you were asked to give a speech to define your legacy, what key points would you want to make?

At the end of the Book of Joshua, we find Joshua making his last public address to the Israelites.

Joshua would soon die, and he challenged the Israelites to follow the Lord faithfully into the days ahead.

Having personally witnessed many occurrences, he knew the Hebrews could be unfaithful to the Lord.

He remembered many of them dying in the wilderness because of their unfaithfulness (see Num. 14:26-34).

Joshua undoubtedly knew that faithfulness grows through reflection, evaluation, and renewed commitment to God.

Faithful living can help us become the people God wants us to be.

Joshua challenged the people to move ahead in a dynamic relationship with God in light of all He had done for them.

Today, God still uses the faithfulness of His committed followers to challenge and influence others.

He expects His followers to be fully devoted to Him, with no divided allegiances.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

JOSHUA 23:1–24:33

*** We are coming to the end of our study of the book of Joshua.

*** After 40 years of wandering, Joshua led the Israelites from the eastern side of the Jordan River, through it, over Jericho and throughout all of Canaan. Seven years of war and twenty-three years of settling into the land have taken place.

*** Now at approximately 110 years of age and about to pass on to his heavenly reward, Joshua gathers all Israel and their leaders at Shechem for his final words to them.

THE EXAMPLE SET, A SOMBER WARNING (JOSH. 24:14-15; 19-20)

14 “Therefore, fear the LORD and worship Him in sincerity and truth. Get rid of the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and worship Yahweh. 15 But if it doesn’t please you to worship Yahweh, choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh.” … 19 But Joshua told the people, “You will not be able to worship Yahweh, because He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not remove your transgressions and sins. 20 If you abandon the LORD and worship foreign gods, He will turn against you, harm you, and completely destroy you, after He has been good to you.”

*** “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.” (Lou Gehrig)

--- New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games, a seemingly unbreakable record until Cap Ripken broke it in the 90s. In 1939 he was diagnosed with ALS, and he benched himself to end the streak, then retired. And yet, in a speech that summer he said “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”

--- We’re coming to the end of Joshua’s farewell address, vowing that his family will set a good example, and an important warning if the people don’t keep their faith.

--- Joshua was offering the people choices.

--- First, he challenged them to “fear the Lord.”

--- If your relationship with God is one of awe, you won’t need to fear His judgment.

--- Second, he told the people to “worship in in sincerity and truth.”

--- Third, he challenged the people to “get rid of the gods” to which they still clung.”

--- It’s hard to believe that after all the Israelites had seen that they clung to false gods that their ancestors worshiped before Abraham, or Egyptian gods they adopted in slavery.

--- Believers today can also forget God’s great works in their own lives.

--- We can also place idols in place of our worship of God. (Examples: materialism, sports, recreation, pleasure, comfort, success, careers)

*** Question - Who has verse 15, “As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord,” displayed in your home? What does it mean to you that you want people to see that?

*** Say what you mean, Joshua.

--- In verses 19 and 20, Joshua doesn’t hold back. He says that remaining faithful to God is next to impossible for these guys.

--- God is a “holy God” who is separate from His creation and from our sin.

--- God is a “jealous God” who insists on absolute allegiance from His people.

--- Joshua isn’t literally saying that the Lord won’t forgive them, but that they should talk their walk with Him very seriously.

--- Sometimes people think all they need to do is make a profession of faith and all will be well.

--- But God cares a lot about our daily walk with Him.

--- Like the Israelites, we shouldn’t take our commitment to Him lightly.

--- Our relationship with Him doesn’t only make life better – our relationship with God is life itself.

A PUBLIC DECLARATION (JOSH. 24:21-28)

21 “No!” the people answered Joshua. “We will worship the LORD.” 22 Joshua then told the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you yourselves have chosen to worship Yahweh.” “We are witnesses,” they said. 23 “Then get rid of the foreign gods that are among you and offer your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24 So the people said to Joshua, “We will worship the LORD our God and obey Him.” 25 On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people at Shechem and established a statute and ordinance for them. 26 Joshua recorded these things in the book of the law of God; he also took a large stone and set it up there under the oak next to the sanctuary of the LORD. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “You see this stone—it will be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words the LORD said to us, and it will be a witness against you, so that you will not deny your God.” 28 Then Joshua sent the people away, each to his own inheritance.

*** Be prepared.

--- When the reality show “Survivor” premiered, I was hooked for the first few years. Take these people of different backgrounds, throw them into a tough situation and make them compete against each other. It seems like even after the first few seasons, contestants still acted like they didn’t know what they were getting into. They act surprised about the hunger, the rain, and the gamesmanship.

--- God’s people in chapter 24 certainly replied by saying the right things.

--- They promised to worship the Lord and not worship other gods.

--- Joshua gives them one of those “Are you sure you know what you’re getting into?” statements.

--- For the third time in this speech he asks them to make a public commitment.

--- This could reminds us of Jesus giving bold advice about what it takes to join Him:

Luke 14:26-27 – “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”

--- Living a life for Christ isn’t just whistling Dixie.

*** Renewing the covenant.

--- In verse 25 Joshua takes the next step in their commitment by making a covenant for the people with God.

--- There’s no halfway doing this. The Scriptures challenge us to offer our hearts completely to the Lord:

Romans 12:1-2 – “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”).

--- Once everyone agreed what had to be done, Joshua put it in writing and marked the occasion with a memorial.

--- We sing it all the time: “I have decided to follow Jesus ... though I may wonder, I still will follow … though none go with me, still I will follow … No turning back.”

--- Today’s culture presents believers with many opportunities to compromise their faith, and many lesser things try to take God’s place in our lives.

--- Don’t turn back. Keep your commitment to God.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

If you ever talk with nurses or hospital chaplains who talk with patients who are on their deathbed, they’ll tell you that what sick and dying people talk most about are their families.

They talk about the love they gave, the love they received, and regrets for the love they did not give or receive. We believe that God is love, and we learn about God when we love. The first and usually the last example of that is how we treated and are treated by family.

If we post a plaque that says “As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord” and follow it, we should be able to speak well at the end of our journey.

*** (1) Joshua didn’t say, “if you will, then I will follow the Lord.” He drew a line in the sand and said “choose.” He was determined to follow God, even if he and his family were the only ones who would make this commitment.

*** (2) Just as we have been called to share the gospel, we are also telling others about the work of God in our lives. Our testimony can help others to see the redemptive power of God and the forgiveness that He offers.

*** (3) As we reflect upon God’s goodness in the milestones of life, our focus should be on seeing God’s call for devotion and choosing to serve Him daily. We are to serve God alone. He is worthy of all our worship.

Conquest

My Life Group lesson for Jan. 8, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway and bits from John McClendon, John MacArthur and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

We like to root for the underdogs. People - especially Rebel Alliance soldiers – who know they’re going into a battle and that they have to win no matter what but otherwise are outnumbered and outgunned by an evil Empire.

Our heroes in “Rogue One” didn’t have to die for the cause of getting the secret plans to destroy the Death Star, but they made a commitment to do so if necessary. For them, they sought to do the will of the mystical Force.

That’s all make-believe Hollywood magic.

In real life, a long time ago in a country far far away there was another group that had to choose to follow the commitment they had made to follow the Lord’s commands. They were looking back at the Jordan while staring at a large fortified city, Jericho.

The good news for the Israelites is that they had already been promised victory if they fought according to God’s will.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

JOSHUA 2:1–6:27

*** This is the second lesson in our study of Joshua. Last month we talked about how we are to be strong and courageous as we choose to follow God’s path.

*** In Joshua chapters 3 and 4, God stopped the overflowing Jordan River to allow the Israelites to cross safely into the Promised Land. In their path was the fortified city of Jericho.

*** Today we’ll talk about Jericho, and how God’s people had to trust in an unusual strategy to win victory.

PATIENT OBEDIENCE (JOSH. 6:12-14)

12 Joshua got up early the next morning. The priests took the ark of the LORD, 13 and the seven priests carrying seven trumpets marched in front of the ark of the LORD. While the trumpets were blowing, the armed troops went in front of them, and the rear guard went behind the ark of the LORD. 14 On the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days.

*** “We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope.” (Jyn Erso)

--- The Israelites were preparing themselves for war, starting with trusting in God.

--- After the Lord led them across the Jordan River, in chapter 5, the men reestablished the rite of circumcision.

--- Even though those who left Egypt were circumcised, none of the men were circumcised in the Wilderness during the 40 years of wandering.

--- After celebrating Passover, the manna ended and they would eat from the Promised Land.

--- God then sent an angel to show Joshua how God would fight Israel’s battles, starting with Jericho.

--- The instructions were a bit unusual, but the people followed them.

--- Each day for six days they circled the city once with the priests blowing the ram’s horns, and then the seventh day it would be complete.

--- The number seven, used no fewer than fourteen times in this chapter, is the number of divine perfection or completeness. We have seven priests, seven trumpets, seven days, and seven trips around the wall on the seventh day.

*** “Make ten men feel like a hundred.” (Cassian Andor)

--- Walking around a city until the walls fall down is not a tactic you’d probably see in modern warfare.

--- It probably took a lot of trust in God to follow through with this command, but they did so.

--- Notice that there’s no indication that the people complained or questioned this.

--- Think about the maturity the Israelites showed here compared to previous times they had been asked to obey God. (Grumbling, golden calf, doubt, etc.)

--- If God instructed our church to do something that was totally radical compared to the norm, do you suppose we would respond as the Israelites did?

--- Believing in what God says should include the confidence to obey Him, because if we don’t then we may not truly believe.

--- When believers obey God’s commands, they demonstrate their trust in Him.

*** Question - Can you think of any times you trusted that God was working for you, but you didn’t truly believe what He promised would happen?

OBEDIENCE REWARDED (JOSH. 6:20-25)

20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets sounded. When they heard the blast of the trumpet, the people gave a great shout, and the wall collapsed. The people advanced into the city, each man straight ahead, and they captured the city. 21 They completely destroyed everything in the city with the sword—every man and woman, both young and old, and every ox, sheep, and donkey. 22 Joshua said to the two men who had scouted the land, “Go to the prostitute’s house and bring the woman out of there, and all who are with her, just as you promised her.” 23 So the young men who had scouted went in and brought out Rahab and her father, mother, brothers, and all who belonged to her. They brought out her whole family and settled them outside the camp of Israel. 24 They burned up the city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the LORD’s house. 25 However, Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, her father’s household, and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent to spy on Jericho, and she lives in Israel to this day.

*** “I fear nothing. All is as the Force wills it.” (Baze Malbus)

--- On the seventh day, the people walked around the city seven times, the trumpets blasted and then the people gave a great shout to herald the impending victory.

--- The wall fell, and it’s important to note that it was caused by God.

--- The battle was too great for God’s people, but it was not too great for God.

--- One of our first theological lessons as kids is in “Jesus Loves Me” when we sing “I am weak but He is strong.”

--- While it takes courage to fight our battles, it requires even more courage to let God fight our battles for us.

*** “Congratulations. You're being rescued. Please do not resist.” (K-2SO)

--- They destroyed the city but as instructed did not keep the valuables, instead putting them into the Lord’s treasury. (Except for one doofus, but everyone else followed directions.)

--- This demonstrates faithful obedience. It’s hard to keep thousands of excitable soldiers from seeking valuables during a war. (Even just a cool shield or sword, or pots and pans when you know your wife needs a new set.)

--- God was showing that the victory was not for the soldiers to have the spoils of the war; rather, the victory was His. It was a testimony to the fact that the soldiers were not only fighting for God but also fought with Him on their side.

--- In addition, He was protecting them from the influences of the pagan society of Jericho by not allowing them to have any interaction with anyone or anything from that society.

--- During the raid the Israelites also spared Rahab’s family as promised after she hid the spies. (This becomes very important when Rahab is in Jesus’ genealogy.)

--- Her act of faithfulness was rewarded and recorded as a great testimony to God’s grace on her life.

--- Not only was she an ancestor of King David and of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews highlights her in the Roll Call of the Faithful for honoring God (Heb. 11:31), and James uses her example (James 2:25).

--- No one’s life is beyond the touch of God’s grace if they are willing to repent and place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

*** Question - How does obedience demonstrate what we really believe? Can we have genuine belief or faith without obedience?

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

"Be careful not to choke on your aspirations."

Darth Vader in “Rogue One” is a bad dude, reminding us how evil he was before Luke turned him good at the end of Return of the Jedi.

His warning here in “Rogue One” is that evil General Krennic is full of pride and seeking glory for organizing the building of the Death Star.

So Vader actually has good advice, albeit for evil reasons.

We are supposed to be humble before God, to give glory to Him, and obey His commands.

In “Miracle on 34th Street,” Santa Claus defined faith as “believing in things when common sense tells you not to.”

Actually, true faith is doing things when common sense tells you otherwise.

We do it because we trust that in God.

Do you believe that God gives His people victory when they trust Him and obey His commands? If you believe this, then obedience comes easy. If you don't, then it is difficult to experience the work of God in your life.

*** Take time today to thank God for His faithfulness in what seemed impossible situations. Be an encourager to someone who you know is facing a spiritual battle.

*** If we truly believe in God, we will submit to His counsel and follow His commands. Anything less suggests we don’t really believe in Him as much as we say.

*** The question as you face battles is not whether God is on your side. The greater question is to ask whether or not you are on the Lord’s side.

Commissioned: When it's time to move forward

My Life Group lesson for Dec. 11, 2016, using Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway and bits from John MacArthur and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

When you watched “Forrest Gump,” did you think more like Lieutenant Dan, who was hanging on the sail during a hurricane yelling at God. He thinks all of life is predetermined?

Or were you more like Forrest, whose mom always told him that “life is like a box of chocolates” and “you never know what you might get.”

The Bible affirms both.

Jeremiah 29:11 makes it clear that God has a plan for our lives: “‘For I know the plans I have for you’—this is the LORD’s declaration—‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’”

The Bible also says that we have a choice that influences how well our lives go.

As the book of Deuteronomy ends, the Israelites have wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. God says they have a choice.

While God alone directs the ways of history and our individual lives, there remain some wise decisions to help us move forward down His path.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

JOSHUA 1:1-18

*** For the next few months we’re going to study the books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth.

*** Joshua was a trusted military leader under Moses from Exodus 17 and through the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy, and was commissioned as Israel’s next leader (Deut. 27:18-23).

*** Joshua 1 is shortly after Moses as God spoke to Joshua and encouraged him to set his sights on the task of settling the lands that God had promised for His people.

A NEW LEADER (JOSH. 1:1-5)

1 After the death of Moses the LORD’s servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, who had served Moses: 2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites. 3 I have given you every place where the sole of your foot treads, just as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will be from the wilderness and Lebanon to the great Euphrates River—all the land of the Hittites—and west to the Mediterranean Sea. 5 No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you.

*** Ch-ch-changes.

--- God’s people faced two big transitions as the book of Joshua begins:

--- 1) New leadership, as Moses dies and Joshua takes command;

--- 2) Israel was moving from the wilderness into the promised land.

*** Trust.

--- As the people prepared to cross the Jordan River into Canaan, God speaks to His new head honcho.

--- Moses had been willing to surrender his life to whatever God wanted.

--- Would Joshua do the same?

--- It’s hard to imagine the emotion Joshua felt, moving from a serving role into a leadership position.

--- It certainly helps that God assured Joshua of a lot of promises:

--- 1) They would inhabit all of the land that God had promised to Abraham centuries earlier (Gen. 12:6-7).

--- 2) They would defeat their enemies.

--- 3) God would not forsake them.

--- 40 years earlier Joshua was one of the spies sent to check out Canaan. Except for Caleb, the other spies made the people too afraid to trust God’s promises. Now they would have to take that leap of faith across the Jordan River.

--- Today we as believers often face challenges that seem beyond our ability to handle, but we need to trust in God’s grace. He can accomplish more than we ask or think. (Eph. 3:20 – “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.”)

*** Been there, done that.

--- Notice in verse 3 that it’s in past tense: “I have given you.”

--- It’s such a certainty that the writer writes as if it has already been accomplished.

--- In His mind and purpose, the task is as good as done.

--- Paul said that God has raised us up with Christ and seated us in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). We are not yet in heaven, but God’s salvation is so certain that Paul speaks of it as a past event.

*** Question - How can knowing that “God will never leave you or forsake you” help you remain strong when faced with new challenges?

A NEW TRUST (JOSH. 1:7-9)

7 Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. 8 This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. 9 Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

What are your kids’ greatest fears that leave them stuttering like the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz?”

*** Never fear, God is here!

--- 14 times the Bible uses the phrase “be strong and courageous,” including a handful of times in Joshua.

--- Fear is a strong motivator, and the devil knows how to cripple us with it.

--- To take a stand for God you have to defeat fear.

--- We do not need courage for what we know we can handle. We need courage for something we know we cannot do alone and must have faith in God to complete.

*** Do as He says.

--- While God commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous, success would be based on his obedience.

--- God had sovereignly worked to bring the people to this place of entering the promised land, yet He was allowing them to choose whether or not to obey Him.

--- Joshua and the Israelites were on the banks of the Jordan, looking over into the Promised Land. Now they had to choose.

--- 40 years before they chose fear and ended up wandering the wilderness.

--- Joshua was the only other person on the mountain when God gave Moses the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments.

--- To be witness to that awesome experience gave Joshua the courage and determination to inspire his people to take the leap of faith.

--- The same word God gave Moses would now empower Joshua.

*** Think of someone who has inspired you. (A boss, a coach, a family member, etc.) Do you look to their actions? What they say? Or both?

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Two weeks ago the Gatlinburg area was ravaged by fire.

Homes, vacation retreats, stores, were all lost.

There’s a lot of people who don’t know what’s the next step in their lives.

As Joshua begins, the Israelites had lost their beloved leader in Moses.

God’s encouragement to “be strong and courageous” meant Joshua and the people had a decision to make – to obey or disobey, give up or move forward, to trust or turn away from God.

*** (1) The Bible again and again affirms that what God calls us to do, He equips us to do.

*** (2) Here are two keys to stepping out in faith: 1. Remember that God is with you; 2. Remember that God keeps His promises.

*** (3) Are you seeking to be strong and courageous? What hinders you from this? What do you need to do to grow in strength and courage? How can you be reminded of God's presence today?