There’s A Big Difference Between Commitment and Involvement

TEXT: JOSHUA 24:1, 14-16

 

LIFE IS FILLED WITH CHOICES –

  • We must choose when to go to bed and when to get up.
  • We must choose what to eat and what not to eat.
  • We must choose what to wear and what not to wear.
  • We choose what to do with our time.
  • We choose when we’ll go to work and where we’ll go out to eat.

Now I must admit since I’ve gotten older and retired 15 years ago, the choices have changed…a lot!  But there are still choices to make.

Some choices are easy to make while other choices are more difficult to make.

WE ARE WHO WE ARE TODAY BECAUSE OF THE CHOICES WE MADE YESTERDAY.

The CHOICES we make today have an impact on the decisions we’ll be making tomorrow.

They establish a PATTERN and a FOUNDATION for our life.  That said, most of us haven’t always made the right choices…Okay, ALL of us haven’t.  You and I may never be able to undo those choices…BUT….I have some good news for you.  HE, who holds our tomorrow, is more than able to turn it around for us.

So after reading through the Book of Joshua and writing several Blog-studies, I want to focus on the only RIGHT CHOICE we each can make.

In the last chapter of JOSHUA, it begins presenting what is often called Joshua’s FAREWELL ADDRESS.

The first mentioning of Joshua given is the picture of an HONORABLE MAN–one that you would want to follow.  In his early years, he was sent as a representative of Ephraim to spy out the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:1-33).  He and Caleb seem to be a different standard than the other spies–the exciting voice speaking out with enthusiastic optimism about their ability to take the LAND–

  • Let’s do it!
  • We can take it!
  • We can take them!

I wondered as I read in Joshua what it was that caused this nation to follow a leader such as he.  Was it FAITH?  Was it youthful exuberance”

Who can tell, but a leader is what Israel needed as they awaited moving forward in the new campaign–CROSSING THE RIVER!

A Brief Review of Joshua’s Life –

JOSHUA is now quite old in the last chapter, and he has seen a lot over a period of 110 years.

His early formative years he spent in service to Moses.  In his later years, he spent leading God’s people into battle to the promised land.  He’d seen the PLAGUES OF EGYPT, the parting of the Red Sea.  He has endured the trip through the desert to the edge of the promised land, then the trip back into the wilderness for 40 years of wandering in the wasteland.

He saw God part the Jordan river.  He saw God crumble the walls of Jericho, sending the enemies into a panic.  He also saw the PUNISHMENT OF ACHAN after his sin,  He then saw the RESTORATION OF THE BLESSING–not ‘a blessing’ but “the blessing.”  The presence of God.

He’s led a full life and he has known the POWER and the PRESENCE OF THE LIVING GOD in his life and in his leadership.

At the ripe old age of 110, Joshua recognizes his death is near.

JOSHUA’S Last Days Are Where We Find Ourselves –

I wonder what the Israelites might be thinking at this point of history.  They understood after all those years, their campaign was now coming to a close and a LEADER is leaving his parting words on his people.

Joshua’s Life Is Coming to an End.

There’s a transition to take place.  From a people consumed with getting the other people out of the land to being a people in the land.  So Joshua asks this nation, who will you SERVE now that you are NOT FOCUSED on the conquests?  Will you return to the gods you used to worship, or will you SERVE YHWH?  Like me and my family.

There’s a back and forth going on between Joshua and the gathered ELDERS-HEADS-JUDGES-OFFICERS.  They are gathered at the same place where after Ai was finally captured, in Shechem–Joshua calls his people together for another COVENANT invitation.

JOSHUA 24:1 (AMP)

[1] THEN JOSHUA gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders of Israel and their heads, their judges, and their officers; they presented themselves before God.

In this FIRST VERSE, as I read in preparation for this BLOG study, really caught my attention.  Joshua called for the LEADERS of God’s people and they were where they were supposed to be.

We should know where the LEADERS of the Church are located.

They were on their post and Joshua knew, if no one else was around, the LEADERS were at their post and were committed.  You cannot LEAD if you can’t be found.

LEADERS then should be out front in the congregation.

Joshua before addressing the nation of Israel called upon and challenged the Leaders FIRST.  He challenged them to be more than INVOLVED…to be COMMITTED!

THE POLITICAL AND MILITARY CENTER OF GOD’S PEOPLE –

Joshua challenges their ABILITY TO BE FAITHFUL.  Now that’s an interesting thought!  If we can’t be FAITHFUL to God, we can’t be FAITHFUL to the Church.  If we’re not FAITHFUL to God, we won’t be faithful to any ministry we’re in.  To put it simply, if not FAITHFUL to God, you don’t have the ABILITY to be FAITHFUL!

  • Staying at home on Sunday mornings don’t bother you.
  • Staying home on Thursday nights from prayer and private worship don’t bother you.
  • Staying at home at 3:30 PM on Fridays at the Alzheimer/Dementia section in town doesn’t bother you.

Then You are Involved and not Committed.

YOU ARE FAITHFUL TO THOSE THINGS THAT YOU ARE COMMITTED TO –

This, of course, applies to all areas of our lives.  As an example, if we’re not committed to weight loss, then we will not be faithful in the process.  Ever start college or trade school?  If we’re not committed to the process then we will not be faithful in going to class and study (been there!).  And when it comes to marriage…ok, I’ll leave that alone.

The Mood Has Changed from the Beginning of this OT book…

When God’s people were wandering in the wilderness, they found themselves fighting and defending their little nation.  Joshua now reviews the conquest campaign, as well as a history lesson with God, being good to God’s COVENANTAL AGREEMENT.

He then concludes his message with a personal statement regarding his family’s FIDELITY in VERSE 15:

NOTICE, Joshua doesn’t say, “as for me and my people,” rather, he states, as for me and MY FAMILY, or “household”.  WE WILL SERVE THE LORD.

It appears Israel was fit for a battle campaign but now the question arises, are they fit for settling in the land and trusting God in a new way campaign?

Ultimately, isn’t that the most any of us can say?

  • In spite of what I decide to do…
  • In spite of my commitment level,
  • In spite of what I want to do with my time,
  • In spite of how I feel about supporting the Church…

Me and My Family Will Serve the Lord!

With POSSESSION of the Promised Land comes great Responsibility –

It now becomes your DUTY to take what you have already secured and passed it along to the next generation.  But as far as Joshua goes, his BATTLE DAYS are coming to a close.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know there are plenty more battles to be fought but Joshua’s time has come to a close.  After all the BATTLES, the slaughter, and the delivery of land, the ONLY THING Joshua can have control is he and his family.

Opportunity Is Knocking At The Front Door –

I’m sure the compiler of the conquest narrative more than likely lives in the aftermath of these days, in the time of Judges– when the people of God were all too quick to forget this covenant.  So they knew Joshua’s hesitation reaffirmed the COVENANT for a good reason.

But the people say: “No! We will serve the Lord.”  

They could have said:  “Well Pastor, this weekend is my time to sleep in.”

Here was the opportunity to walk away, to be more honest, to pledge just partial commitment, to say, “Pastor you know I work all week!”

BUT THEY DIDN’T!

Joshua needs them to know and understand the gravity of their being A COVENANT PEOPLE.  To ensure they really wanted to be God’s people IN THE LAND, not just A PEOPLE IN THE LAND.

A STANDARD OF SERVICE DEMANDED (24:14 NIV) –

“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness.”

Joshua doesn’t leave any room for CASUAL FAITH, for serving God when it’s convenient or when things are going well, or when life is easy.  He doesn’t leave room for doing FAITH on our terms.  He calls us to SERVE ‘with ALL faithfulness.’

What if in our serving there’s no reward, no appreciation?

Joshua says, “serve Him in sincerity and in truth” (AMP).

There is A RESPONSIBILITY OF CHOICE that goes along with Commitment –

With the right to choose comes the responsibility to choose.  You can’t defer this CHOICE to anyone else.  It’s easy to say if I had a better Husband or Wife; if we had a better Preacher; to say if only others in the church were committed.  We cannot defer or place our CHOICES on others.

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”  (24:15)

I just want to add here…THE RECORD OF CHOICE.

It has always been LIFE or DEATH, BLESSING or CURSES.

  • Adam and Eve CHOSE Death.
  • Ananias and Sapphira CHOSE Death.
  • The Rich Young Ruler CHOSE Death.
  • King Agrippa CHOSE Death.
  • Pontius Pilate CHOSE Death.
  • Judas CHOSE Death.

BUT…

  • Lazarus CHOSE Life.
  • Abraham CHOSE Life.
  • Paul CHOSE Life.
  • Peter CHOSE Life.

There is a Record of the Repercussions of the Choices you make.

Which Do We Choose?

WHO ARE YOU GOING TO SERVE?

It was fairly easy for the Israelites to worship other gods–these gods didn’t demand much.

  • It was EASY to carry a wooden carving.
  • It was EASY to throw a bit of grain at an altar.
  • It was EASY to bow to the sun.

BUT GOD DEMANDS “ALL”!

It’s relatively EASY for us to carry our own dreams and desires and live for them.  It’s also EASY to throw a bit of money at a charitable cause.  It’s relatively EASY for us to raise our hands and shout praise to a local sports hero.

BUT GOD DEMANDS ALL!

Maybe Joshua is getting less patient with age.  I recognize I’m less patient since growing older.

So Joshua lays it out bluntly–either SERVE the Lord WITH ALL FAITHFULNESS or, if you don’t like that, CHOOSE some other god to serve.  It will probably be a lot easier serving another god for they don’t demand much.

AND BY THE WAY, NEITHER DO THEY OFFER MUCH IN RETURN.

Because of GOD’S GRACE, we are invited into relationship with God.  Because of GOD’S GRACE, Jesus came and died for us and bridged the chasm that separated us from God.

Now we are invited to be in a relationship with God, invited into a reunion with the Holy and jealous God Joshua describes. 

God gives us the GRACE to SERVE Him for we can’t serve Him on our own efforts.

But Here is the HEART of the Gospel:  We can serve a holy and jealous God because He has invited us to by His Grace.

NOW IT’S TIME TO MAKE A CHOICE.

  • To put that god of Alcohol away.
  • To throw away the gods of drugs, opioids, pornography…

To come to the altar, on your knees if you need to.

Today is the day to CHOOSE LIFE and follow God.

“Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”

 

LISTEN TO THE WORDS TO THIS MUSIC/VIDEO:

 

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CREDITS –

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search – Settings advanced.

Music Video:  As for Me and My House – John Waller/Youtube.com

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP).

 

 

 

Nehemiah: Healing Brokenness–Never Give Up!

Never Giving Up!

Nehemiah 4:14-23  (NIV Translation):

After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work.

From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor.  The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall.  Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.  But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.

Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall.  Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there.  Our God will fight for us!”

So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out.  At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and workmen by day.”  Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

Samuel Smiles was a political advocate in Scotland in 1837.  As my investigation began this week, I ran across the following quotation of Doctor Smiles:

“The battle of life is, in most cases fought uphill; and to win it without a struggle were perhaps to win it without honor.  If there were no difficulties there would be no success; if there were nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to achieve.”

Looking back over my life, I have been in certain circumstances (uphill battles)–reaching a point where I was ready to throw in the towel and give up.  We sometimes become so tired and frustrated in ‘fighting the battle’, we get exhausted and feel like there’s no use in continuing to even try.

Whether it’s a job, a relationship, health related problems, school, trying to lose weight, etc…we sometimes just don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.  We would rather just quit the whole process–the FIGHT.  Have you been there before?

And then someone comes up to you, who doesn’t know where you’ve been or what you are going through and asks:  “How have things been going with you and your family lately?”

And you answer, “Well, it’s been an uphill battle of late.  How about you?”

Their answer is often the same as yours, “an uphill battle” or they don’t realize in the slightest that you are going through stress and pain; they smile and say something like  “Well, nice seeing you again.  Say hello to your wife/husband for me.”

WHAT ARE THE “BATTLES” WE FACE?

“After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people,  “Don’t be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes”  (Nehemiah 4:14).

1.  WE BATTLE FEAR AND ANXIETY:

Remember the Lord and focus our thoughts on Him in our circumstances no matter what they are:

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him”  (Nahum 1:7).

The presence and peace of God comes when we put Him in the middle of our circumstances and issues of life.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”  (Philippians 4:6-7).

When my wife went through breast cancer several years ago, we of course were both anxious in the outcome of surgery and radiation.  We both used the above verse in our quiet times and confessed the words verbally to one another.  Did anxiety completely disappear?  No, it didn’t but…the peace of God, which transcends–goes beyond understanding, gave us PEACE; guarded our hearts, minds and soul.  We were that confident because God said so; His Word promises that our hearts and minds will be guarded against the attacks of anxiousness, fear, and doubt.

ANXIETY and FEAR causes us to ignore the God of possibilities or potential:

FEAR can force believers into re-activity, disastrous and concrete thinking:

*  Pushes us from God.

*  Injures our trust in God’s deliverance.

*  Avoids healthy spiritual disciplines.

*  Distracts us from our faith.

*  Chooses circumstance-centerness.

There is an answer…but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving.

2.  WE BATTLE ISOLATION:

“From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor.  The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall.  Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other,”  (Nehemiah 4:16-17).

I LOVE THIS!  Each builder had a TROWEL in one hand in which to build, the other hand carried a sword to defend himself.  These two weapons or instruments should be in the hands of believers today, and carried always.  There is nothing like preparedness before we are faced with difficult circumstances that will come our way.  And yes, they will come your way!

The Trowel–

The TROWEL represents the fact that believers should build themselves up in the FAITH.  I disagree with folks who say that when a person is first saved (“born again”), they should immediately jump in the body and start serving.  I don’t think new converts to Christianity should be used to quickly in the ministry.

THE FIRST NEED is to learn by experience that Jesus saves and keeps and satisfies.  It’s wonderful to hear So-and-So was saved Sunday morning or last week; but let us hear from that person a year or two from today to see if they have been BUILT UP in THE FAITH (“discipleship”).

The Sword–

We need to hold the SWORD of the Spirit: the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God where we defend ourselves.  We need the TROWEL in one hand and the SWORD in the other.

3.  WE BATTLE INDEPENDENCE:

I Thessalonians 5:11:

“THEREFORE encourage one another and build each other up…”

Standing there at the wall with a trowel full of mortar is going to BUILD UP anything that is broken.  You have to work at it and not all by yourself!

4.  WE BATTLE IGNORANCE OF GOD’S WORD:

Psalm 119:19:

“I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17:

“All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

So, how then are we going to WIN THE BATTLE?

BY FIGHTING WITH OUR GOD–remember that our God fights for us:

Romans 8:31:

“If God is for us, who [can be] against us?  [Who can be our foe, if God is on our side?]”  (Amplified Bible).

Joshua 23:10-11:

“One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord you God fights for you, just as He promised.  So be very careful to love the Lord your God”  (NIV Bible).

2 Timothy 1:7:

“God doesn’t want us to be shy with His gifts, but bold and loving and sensible”  (The Message Bible).

WE HAVE POWER: (dunamus)-

“DUNAMUS”, the Greek word for power can be translated into the English language as “dynamite; explosive power”–strength, power, ability–

–  power for performing miracles.

–  power for maintaining purity.

–  power and resources to use in the Assembly (the Church).

–  power to overcome in anything we face in life!

John 14:27:

“Peace I leave you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”  (NIV Bible).

Isaiah 43:1-2:

But now, this is what the Lord says–he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

What I like to do when I’m going through trials–passing through, deep waters, passing through rivers of life and even walking through the fire…I like to read out loud a certain Bible verse such as Isaiah 43:1-2 and make it personal.  *[use a concordance for help]

Every time I see the word “you”, I replace it with Mel: He created Mel, He formed me in my mothers womb; He has summoned me by my name, “Mel”–Mel you are mine.  I think you get my drift.

We Fight With PERSEVERANCE!

Nehemiah 4:21-23 NIV Bible:

So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out.  At that time I also said to the people,  “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve as guards by night and workmen by day.”  Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went into the water.

Being clothed today–

–  They had a mind-set to work,  v. 6

–  They had a heart to pray,  v. 9

–  They had an eye to watch,  v. 9 [seeing the spirit world]

–  They had an ear to hear,  v. 20.

Nehemiah says, “of course when we took a bath we took of our clothes”  (You see, there is HUMOR in the Bible.  Even in a crisis like this, the Lord inserted a little humor.)

Otherwise, they never removed their clothes–day or night in their struggles.  They were on guard all the time.

Oh, to be so clothed today with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-18).

ALWAYS BE PREPARED AHEAD OF TIME; grab your trowel and your sword and start patching and building up the ‘holes’ in your life today, never giving up!