Sunday, May 27, 2007

What Do You Need?
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What Do You Need?

Intro.: Today is the last time we will look at Joshua for a while.

  1. We started the journey a year ago – where we looked at Joshua taking the Israelites across the Jordan River. Last Fall we looked at Israelite conquest of Jericho and Ai and the deception of the Gibeonites. This Spring, we returned to Joshua to examine the lessons presented as the Israelites took the remainder of the Land that God promised to Abraham. And then we looked at the distribution of that land to the Israelite people.

  2. Today, I want to look at three verses that sum up all that we have look at over the last few weeks.

Read: Joshua 21:43-45


Trans: There is a natural three part sermon here -

  1. v. 43 – God gave all the land

    v. 44 – God gave rest on every side

    v. 45 – God kept all His promises

  2. But then that would be missing the big picture.

  3. Let me suggest that Joshua is really telling us something else. He is telling us that

T.S. God gives us everything we need

  1. God responds to our physical needs Joshua 21:43 So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there.

    1. The Jewish nation had been roaming for 40 years. The one thing they needed was a place to live, a place to call home.

(Ill.) In 1943, Abraham Maslow published a paper in which he proposed that there are five basic needs that every human being must find ways of meeting. At the very top of this list are the basic needs of our existance – food, water, air, etc. Just behind that is the need for safety – including a place to live, security for our families, our health.1

A poet put it this way:

A fugitive is one who is running from home,

A vagabond is one who has no home;

A stranger is one away from home,

And a PILGRIM is on his way home.2

    1. I think there are two things we need to remember about those needs:

      1. First – we need to remember that what we need must be defined by God's perspective. Whether it is the life of someone we know or our own lives, it is too easy to apply our standards rather than God's standards. Our faith should tell us that God gives, not what I want, but what He needs.

      2. Secondly – God's meets His needs in His way. I have to be careful not to impose my expectations on God. Rather, one of my tasks to understand and live within God's expectations

      3. Finally, God will use us to meet the needs of others. We live in a world that is full people that cannot meet their basic needs. Even as we celebrate the fact that God is meeting our physical needs, we must never forget that we can also be involved in meeting the needs of others.

  1. God responds to our emotional needs Joshua 21:44 The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them.

    1. Sometimes when I am reading a passage of scripture, something speaks to me on the inside. My stomach shakes, my heart does a little pitter-pat

    2. You know, sometimes life seems like it is always moving. People, things, institutions – all seem to be demanding my time. Life seems like demanding my attention on every side.

    3. And then I read this passage – the people had “rest on every side”.

    4. We all come with emotional burdens.

(Ill.) And when God meets those burdens, he is not talking a about laying around in cotton batting. He is not talking about being free of all labor – with no responsibilities. When He meets our emotional needs, he will not eliminate all of our responsibilities or burdens.

    1. Paul tells us what it means for us to experience God's presense in the middle of our difficult lives. Listen to his words from Galatians 5 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

(Ill.) Phil Simmons was a professor of English at Lake Forest College. In 1993 he was told that he was dying with ALS – which most of us know as Lou Gehrig's disease.3 But in the middle of dealing with his disease, he learned what it meant to find rest. Listen to what he wrote before his death in 2002:

Rest is the promise our Lord made to all, Who faithfully trust Him, refusing to fall.

There remains a sweet rest for people of grace; Who enter that rest while in ‘seeking His face.’

This life, so uncertain, can never destroy, The rest that is found when His will we enjoy.

Rest is secured, the hour of believing. Today you may enter, His will now receiving.

His yoke now is easy, the burden is light. He draws near to comfort and steady your plight.

Rest comes the moment you answer His call. Depend on Him fully, no worry at all.

Rest settles the mind, anxiety none; With love now abiding, the victory’s won. 4

    1. I don't know how many sides you have in your life. Spouses, children, friends, houses, money, work, or even your health. There are probably more – and I suspect that, like me, your need to hear God say – have rest on every side.

  1. God responds to our spiritual needs Joshua 21:45 Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

    1. God met the physical needs of the Jewish people. He met the emotional needs of the Jewish people.

    2. He also met their spiritual needs.

    3. We mentioned last week that “REST” was a key concept in Old Testament theology. “The Promise”

    4. Books have been written on this theme. One of my seminary courses, Old Testament Theology, centered on the Promise.

    5. It is found throughout the OT

      1. Adam and Eve received the promise

      2. Noah was a recipient of the promise

      3. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – all had received the promise

      4. And, now, we are told, Joshua has seen the promises fullfilled. All the promises.

    6. I remember another lesson from that class – the fulfillment may come in pieces. God did fulfill all his promises through Joshua – but he did it again through David, and then again at the birth of Jesus. And He is not finished – because as he plans for the end of time, we will again see the fulfillment of His promises.

    7. And when God is fulfilling His promises, he is meeting the spiritual needs of His people.

    8. But it was not just an Old Testament truth. Jesus said it best, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” John understood that God meets our spritual needs, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

    9. I am convinced that when we recognize that we and those around us have spiritual needs that only God can meet.

(Ill.) In 1898 two men were forced to share a motel room when. It ended up that both men were believers – they stayed up much of the night discussing the spiritual needs of men who had to travel as part of their job. The two men decided to call together a group of men to who traveled. The date was July 1, 1899. But only three men showed up – but what happened at the meeting has effected every one of us. For that night was begun the organization known as the Gideons. Today, the Gideons place 7 million copies of the scriptures every week in Hotel and Motel rooms, to hospitals, nursing homes, domestic violence shelters, schools, colleges, and universities, the military, law enforecement, firefighters, emts, and in prisons and jails. Because three men knew that God met the spirtual needs of others.5

Conclusion: God does meet all our needs -

  1. Our physical needs

  2. Our emotinal needs

  3. Our spiritual needs



2Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.


4AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

5Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (705). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Finding Rest
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Finding Rest

Intro.: I have just finished one of the worst weeks of the year.

  1. There are really two of them – and they both coincided with the time of my final exams.

  2. I find that I am so wrapped up in writing exams, giving the exams, and grading the exams and all the other remaining assignments, it is easy to let other priorities get out of control.

  3. It affects my home life, it effects, in some ways, my health.

  4. Now I won't need to face that stress again – but those know me, know that finals week is stressful.

  5. And during those weeks, I need to find times of rest.

Read: Joshua 20


Trans: One of the great themes of scripture is REST.

  1. It may not look like it as we have moved through the first 19 chapters of Joshua.

  2. Yet, the people are now beginning to settle the promised land, they will find rest.

  3. Oh, there problems are not over, but they have come to the end of their 40 years of wandering.

  4. Just as God was leading the Jews to a place of rest, he also offers us rest.

T.S. Joshua 20 provides a set of principles that will guide our discussion of the believers rest. I would like to look at three principles.

  1. There are times that God gives us rest

    1. I don't know for sure, but I suspect that Joshua was getting tired.

    2. It was over 40 years ago that he and Caleb had first visited the promised land. I expect that he would be tired.

    3. It is time for Joshua to rest.

    4. We all come to times when it seems like life will not slow down. The expectations of a job, the responsibility of a family, and the unexpected events of life – there are times when it does not slow down.

    5. Look over your life this past week – can you remember times when you really wished that God could have slowed you down? When the events of the week seemed just a bit more than you felt ready to handle.

    6. We all get those kind of times. And that is when God will be saying – it is time to slow down.

(Ill.) Rest is not just a theme in Joshua – it is found in the Genesis where God rested after the creation. David found time to rest in the caves in the hills around Israel as he fled from Saul. And Jesus found times to get away – away from the throngs that seemed to find him so often and away from His disciples. One person has counted and found 10 distinct times that Jesus got

    1. We all say that we should follow Jesus' example – but there is something about life in the 21st century that does not allow us to slow down. Yet if we were to follow Jesus' example, we would find time to slow down.

(Ill.) I have a number of preachers say, “Why should I rest? After all, the devil never takes a vacation.” The devil was never intended to be our example – Jesus was. 1

    1. Let me suggest the following – find seven minutes each day to slow down and listen to Jesus, find time each week to slow down and let God bring healing into your life.

    2. Part of the Christian life is to rest – take time to do it.

  1. There are places that God gives us rest

    1. Joshua was expected to set aside six cities that could be places of refuge for those accused of a crime.

    2. Jewish law distinguished between intentional sin and accidental sin and this distinction is particularly important when it comes to the death of another person. The person who was charged could run to one of these cities of refuge and wait for his trial.

    3. It was a place of safety where those who claimed to be falsely accused of a crime could go. They could not return to the location of their crime and if guilty, they still had to face the consequences. In the meantime, they were essentially under house arrest until they were tried.

    4. I have places where I can rest. I suppose I could tell you that it would be my bed or the recliner in our living room. But those are not really places of rest. I have places I sneak to rest – there is the library, and then there is Borders in Henrietta. But my really favorite place to get away to is the zoo. For several years we had zoo memberships that allowed me to visit regularly. Now, as I begin this new adventure, I have again purchased a membership.

(Ill.) When Jesus rested, he found deserted places, He went to the desert, He went to places where there was grass and trees. He found refuge in the mountains and along the coast. He found quietness while He not only found time, he also found places to avoid the throngs. He found places where God could revive Him and prepare Him for the next step in ministry.2

    1. I hope that each of you can find places where God can reach you. I hope that each of you can find a place where you can retreat to and meet with God.

  1. There are ways in which God gives us rest

    1. So if there are times and places to find rest – how do we find it.

    2. One of the biggest obstacles is that we don't know how to relax. We live in a culture that says keep moving, we live in a culture that says never stop. But we must have missed something – if God gives us times and places to rest, he will also give us ways to rest in the middle of this crazy world.

    3. God does give us times of rest and He does give us places of rest. He also gives us a great many ways to rest.

    4. The cities of refuge were not Joshua's idea, they were not Joshua's idea. Rather they were a response to God's requirements. You see, the cities of refuge originated when Moses was talking to God, when Moses was praying.

    • The first way God allows us to find refuge is in prayer. When life is feeling tough, when you find that life getting to you, taking a moment to prayer can allow you rest for the moment.

    1. Another way that God gives us to rest is just stop. Even for a minute or two. Close your eyes relax.

    2. I hope that you never forget that we can find rest in scripture.

(Ill.) As part of the service at Royal Gardens we use read each Sunday's lectionary reading from the Psalms. As we read the selection each Sunday I am impressed with how down to earth the poems are that were written about 3000 years ago. I first chose the Psalms because i wanted to have something that made this second service Over the past year we have read about one-third of the Psalms – and, with the exceptions of one or two, I have found them to be enlightening and they speak as much to today's world as they did to David so long ago.

    1. Certainly, scripture is more important than just the Psalms, so I must remember I can find rest in all of scripture.

Conclusion: One of the privileges that we enjoy as believers is rest. During the coming week, let me encourage you to

  1. Find some time to rest in God

  2. Set aside a place that will allow you to rest in God

  3. Find some way this week to rest in your relationship in Christ.

Don't let the anxiety of the week get in the way of the rest that is available


1Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

2AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

God Did It His Way
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God Did It His Way

Intro.: I recently found a recipe for a cake that mom would like:

1 can of “obedience”

Several pounds of “affection”

1 pint of “neatness”

Some holiday, birthday, and every-day surprises

1 can of running errands (the willing brand)

1 box of powdered “Get up when I should”

1 bottle of “Keep sunny all day long”

1 can of pure “Thanksgiving”

Mix well, bake in a hearty, warm oven and serve to mother everyday. She ought to have it in BIG SLICES.1

  1. Though we will be continuing our study of Joshua in a few minutes, I want remind us all that mothers gave us what they could. Perfect? No. But they gave us what they could.

  2. Let me do two things:

  3. First, if you are a mother, thank you for all you have done.

  4. Second, if there is a mother sitting near you, tell her thank you for being there.

  5. Now, turn to Joshua 14:6-15

Read: Joshua 14:6-15


Trans: I want to look three simple ways in which God keeps His promises.

  1. God's promises in God's Time

    1. I am not much different than most people – there is a part of me that wants what I have coming NOW!

    2. Yet, as we all know, there are times that God says, “Be patient.”

    3. I expect that is how Caleb felt. It had been Moses who had promised him land in the promised land. Now, it has been over 40 years since the promise was given. He knew he had not received any land during first distribution after the Israelites conquered the inhabitants on the East bank of the Jordan.

    4. And then he watched while Joshua and the Israelites took Jericho – still no promised land. And then there was Ai, and the victory over the Kings who stormed the Gibeonites territory. No land. There would be more victories, more cities – and still no land.

    5. It was only when Joshua had finished taking the land that God had given them that Caleb finally felt free to ask Joshua to remember the promises made by Moses.

(Ill.) Someone once said that patience is letting your motor idle when you feel like stripping your gears.2

(Ill) In His time, in His time, He makes all thing beautiful in His time. Lord, my life to You I bring, May each song I have to sing, Be to You a lovely thing, in Your time.

In Your time, in Your time, You make all thing beautiful in Your time. Lord, my life to You I bring, May each song I have to sing, Be to You a lovely thing, in Your time.3

    1. One of the lessons we as a church have learned over the past year is that God does things in his own time. Sometimes we have to wait for God to accomplish his goals.

  1. God's promises at God places

    1. Not only does God do things at his own time, he also does things at places we might least expect.

    2. Eight years ago, I had no idea I was coming to Rochester, NY. I had no idea where I was going. But Rochester, NY, would not have been at the top of my list. Most of you know that 5 years ago, I had no plans to serve the Garland United Methodist Church.

    3. I had no idea, but God did.

    4. As I read scripture, I am amazed at the number of people who seem to having to move because of where God sends them. Starting with Adam moving out of Eden we could list name after name: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, among others. And moving into the NT we would find Jesus, Peter, and Paul.

    5. Though we tend to think of home as a place to stay. I wonder if God would prefer that we feel at home in our world – and we be willing to do what it takes to win that world to Christ.

    6. God is not as concerned about place as we are. There are three characteristics of God that everyone seems to learn first – that he is all-knowing, all-powerful, and always present. Wherever I may go, God is there.

    7. It did not matter what parcel of land the various Israelite families received – God would be there. They did not need to worry about being too far away from God.

(Appl.) There are times in all of our lives when God seems a long way off. When it feels like He has left us in some strange land and we are by stranded here by ourselves. But God is there. God has not deserted us. God will use us where we are – because he is there with us.

  1. God's promises in God's way

    1. God will accomplish his will in his time, God will accomplish his will in the places he chooses. And, finally, God will accomplish his purpose in his way.

    2. Joshua began by distributing the land to Caleb. He then distributed the land to the other Israelite families.

    3. But there is still one more person who would be rewarded a parcel of land. You see, there were two spies who returned 40 some years ago with a conviction that the Israelites could move into the land that God would give them. Caleb was one. Joshua was the other.

    4. Joshua would have been perfectly within his rights to claim land at the same time that he provided a parcel to Caleb. Rut instead he took the last parcel of land.

    5. You see, Joshua had chosen to do what was right, not what was easy. In order to avoid the appearance of unfairness – Joshua stepped back took the last piece of land.

(Appl.) Living the Christian life means living a life that conforms to the standard set in Scripture. It means living consistently – and sometimes, like Joshua, it means making hard choices when it is the right choice.

(Ill.) Oswald Chambers once suggested that we must ask ourselves if we are falling more and more in love with God as a holy God, or are we finding it easier and easier to say, “Oh, well, sin doesn't matter much”?4

    1. Our theology tells us that Joshua was a sinner – but when it came time to make a hard decision, he chose to live a life above approach.

    2. We all have choices to make during the week. What kind of choices will you be making this week. Whether it is on the road, on the job, or in the neighborhood – when presented with a hard choice, my prayer is that the choices we make are consistent with God's desire for our lives.


1Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

2Green, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Bilical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file.). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.


4Oswald Chambers quoted in Rowell, Edward K. (2005). 1001 Quotes Illustrations, and Humorous Stories for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Living In A Difficult World

Living in a Difficult World

Intro.: I wish I understood a great deal about God.

  1. When I get to heaven there are questions I will want to ask.

    1. Some might seem silly – why does it have to get so cold in winter?

    2. Some are a bit more serious – why did you choose me, of all people, to be a pastor?

    3. Then some might be really hard – why in the world did so-n-so get sick, why did I get this dumb disease. Why are there wars, why do some people hurt more than others.

  2. During the next few minutes, I want to look at some answers to the difficult passages in the book of Joshua.

Read: Joshua 10:40-43


Trans: Two weeks ago we gave two parts of the answer.

  1. Joshua is descriptive, not prescriptive.

  2. Though Joshua focuses on the people of God, it does focus on people.

T.S. Let me suggest three myths that make the events of Joshua difficult for us to accept.

  1. Myth One – God is like us

    1. As a believer, I cannot get away from it.

    2. There are times that it might be easier to walk away from the kinds of descriptions given here

    3. Yet it is clear that God was involved in all that stated here.

    4. There is a problem – but it is not God. The problem is this, we expect God to be like us, rather than requiring that we be like God

    5. It is important to remember that God is not required to live by our rules. We can spend a lot energy trying to define what God should be like, but that's not fair – only God can define himself.

(Ill.) As part of my counseling training at the University of Nebraska, we studied the characteristics of an unhealthy relationship. One of the characteristics of such a relationship is imposing my expectations on another person. I can illustrate from my own marriage. Most of you know that 20 years ago, my wife and I were going through a tough, tough time. You have heard me say that both Sandra and I wanted the other one to leave. It was a dark time.
Part of what turned our marriage around came when we allowed each other to be what we were. For me that meant allowing Sandra to leave if she wanted. You know what, when I let Sandra be who she needed to be, our marriage started to change.

(Appl.) The same is true in our relationship with God. We need to let God be God.

  1. Myth Two – The original inhabitants were good

    1. There is another myth – that myth is the the original inhabitants of the Holy Land were good.

    2. Here were a people that worshiped multiple gods. They practiced human sacrifice, The practice of their religion included lewd and immoral practices – that could easily have ingrained itself into the Jewish faith – this religion had to be cutout, much like some cancers have to be removed from the body. 1 and 2

    3. At the same time, Biblically, it is not a difficult statement to make. Paul makes it clear in the book of Romans: What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none that understandeth, There is none that seeketh after God; They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not, so much as one. 3

    4. Of course that also includes us – there is a piece of me that wants to think that I am pretty good. But God says “no”. I am not pretty good. I am not even somewhat good – no one is good.

    5. And the wages of sin is death.4 You see, because I am not good, I do deserve to die. It is the natural consequence of sin.

(Ill.) If you had lived in the first years of the 17th century in the Netherlands you would have faced the beginnings of the controversy that divided those of us that who are Methodist and those who claim the title Calvinist. A conference was called in the Dutch city of Dordt to resolve the issues – an event which did not occur. However, the conference did write an expression of Calvinism that has survived to this day. Though there were a number of differences between the Methodists and the Calvinist, they did agree on the first point:

Since all people have sinned in Adam and have come under the sentence of the curse and eternal death, God would have done no one an injustice if it had been his will to leave the entire human race in sin and under the curse, and to condemn them on account of their sin. As the apostle says: The whole world is liable to the condemnation of God (Rom. 3:19), All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), and The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). 5

    1. I deserve exactly what was happening to the Amorites and the Canaanites and the others that occupied the Promised Land.

    2. If we are offended, it ought not be because of what happened to the people Joshua was conquering. We should be offended because the same thing has not happened to us.

    3. So why has the same thing not happened to us – it can be summed up in one word: GRACE. God, by has grace, loves us so much that he allows us to find our way – and if possible, find our way to Him.

(Appl.) The events in Joshua should not drive us away from God, but allow us to love him more than ever. The greatest saints – the Wesleys, the Calvins, the Grahams, all understood this. They knew they deserved death, and they knew it was God's grace that allowed them to serve. Are you being driven to God?

  1. Myth Three – God showed no grace

    1. If we are convinced that we deserve what these people got. And if we are convinced that it is only by the grace of God that we do not, a natural question presents itself: why did God not show grace to these people who live in the Holy Land?

    2. Let me suggest that this is the third myth – that God showed them no grace.

    3. Let me suggest that there are at least three distinct times that God did show grace.

      1. First there was Rahab and her family. It would be hard for many of us to show the kind of grace that God showed to this woman – but God fully allowed her join the family of God

      2. Then there was the Gibeonites. After the way they deceived the Israelites to protect their culture, God would have been justified to eliminate this city state. Rather he allowed them to participate join into the Israelite culture.

      3. Finally, if take time to read Joshua 13 – you will that there are many places that had never been conquered by Joshua's army. Oh, they may have wanted to, but they did not do it. What was to become of them remains to be seen – God promises to do what needs to be done. But what that is exactly is unknown. For the time being, God shows grace.

(Ill.) The grandest operations both in nature and in grace are the most silent and imperceptible. The shallow brook babbles in its passage and is heard by everyone, but the coming on of the seasons is silent and unseen. The storm rages and alarms, but its fury is soon exhausted and its effects are partial and soon remedied; but the dew, though gentle and unheard, is immense in quantity and the very life of large portions of the earth. And these are pictures of the operations of grace in the Church and in the soul.6

    1. God's grace was active in the lives of these people – whether they saw it or not and whether we see it or not. In the small things, God was working in their lives.

(Appl.) I hope that this week you can slow down enough to see God's grace in the small things that come across your path this week. We need to slow down and see God's grace in the small things. In the rain drop, in the rose bud, in the smile, in the still times that God gives us.


1Wood, D. R. W. (1996, c1982, c1962). New Bible Dictionary (164). InterVarsity Press.

2Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson's new illustrated Bible dictionary. Rev. ed. of: Nelson's illustrated Bible dictionary.; Includes index. Nashville: T. Nelson.

3Romans 3:10-12

4Romans 6:23

5Water, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (58). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

6AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.