Crossing Jordans (Joshua 3:6-8, 14-17), Part 6 of “Get Ready”

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Joshua 3:6-8, 14-17

The water licked their sandaled feet. You could hear the roar of the rushing waters. Their feet were ankle deep. They were priests, Levitical priests. They alone had been appointed to lift the Ark of the Covenant and carry it to the water’s edge. Joshua, the new leader of Israel, had instructed them to take up the Ark and pass before the people and go to the water’s edge. That moment communicated a bold statement: God is on the move! Something awesome is about to happen. (Joshua 3:6-8)

The timing of the Israelites crossing of the Jordan made little sense. The river was at flood stage. It was deeper, wider, and moving more swiftly than any other time of the year. These conditions were far from ideal for crossing the river.

Christians stand at similar crossroads every day. Will we take the words of Christ to heart? When Christ says, “Go make disciples of all nations,” will we go and tell others about Jesus Christ? When our Lord says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” will we give generously to those in need?

When those priests stood at the edge of the Jordan, the waters upstream stopped and piled up like a great invisible dam, while the waters downstream were cut off. Hundreds of thousands of Israelites crossed over the Jordan on dry ground on that day. (Joshua 3:14-17) Through this almighty act, the Israelites experienced God’s almighty power (cp. Joshua 3:10). Not only this, but God made himself known to the neighboring nations (cp. Joshua 4:24).

A pastor of a Kentucky church challenged the members of his congregation to do something for someone else on Christmas. A six-year-old girl named Julie baked brownies and handed them out at the University of Kentucky. A Muslim student stopped by and asked why she was giving away free brownies. Julie was a sassy kid. So, she put her hand on her hip, and in a no-duh tone said, “Because Jesus wanted me to. That’s why!” This Muslim student had been questioning the essential tenets of his faith for two years. He asked Julie if he could go to church with her. Julie took him to the children’s ministry room, where this PhD student sat on the floor and learned about Jesus’ love for Zacchaeus. Months later, he was baptized before the congregation.

When the people of God become brave enough to do what Jesus tells them to do, awesome things happen. What Jordan River is Jesus calling you to cross?

Looking for more?

Read the book that six-year-old Julie’s story comes from.

Get Ready (Joshua 1:1-6)

Keep this Book of the Law (Joshua 1:7-8), Part 2 of “Get Ready”

Prepare Provisions (Joshua 1:10-11), Part 3 of “Get Ready”

Be Strong and Courageous (Joshua 1:16-18), Part 4 of “Get Ready”

Grace in an Unexpected Place (Joshua 2:1-21), Part 5 of “Get Ready”

 

Because you were foreigners (Leviticus 19:33-35)

Because you were foriegners

Leviticus 19:33-35

In the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, there is a tent settlement. Zoom in and you will see a tent constructed of two by fours, leaking hand-stitched plastic sacks, and cardboard. This is all that shelters a mother and her six children. They gather around a small wood burning stove in the center of the tent. They are being interviewed and filmed by World Vision. Continue reading

To the Glory of God Alone (2 Corinthians 3:12-18), Part 5 of Solas of the Reformation

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2 Corinthians 3:12-18

In the third volume of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, one of the main characters is a young boy named Eustace. Eustace displayed a thirst for power, but went about getting it in mischievous ways. He would irritate and bully his pears, while ingratiating adult authority figures. In Narnia, Eustace discovers a dead dragon’s treasure trove. Elated, he imagines the power the treasure will give him. He slips on the dead dragon’s gold bracelet and falls asleep. Terrified, he awakes to find out he has turned into a dragon. Continue reading

Christ Alone (1 Timothy 2:1-7), Part 4 of Solas of the Reformation

Christ Alone

1 Timothy 2:1-7

There is a seeming inherent tension in God. How can he be both just and loving? Continue reading

Grace Alone (Ephesians 2:1-10), Solas of the Reformation, Part 3

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Ephesians 2:1-10

I used to run with a group of boys who were a mild terror to our neighborhood. Continue reading

Faith Alone (Romans 3:21-26), Solas of the Reformation, Part 2

Faith Alone

Romans 3:21-26

On July 2, 1505 a young student was traveling from his home town of Mansfield in Germany back to law school in Erfurt. The skies opened, and a violent thunderstorm encircled him. Legend has it, he was almost literally struck by lightning. Continue reading

Scripture Alone (2 Timothy 3:14-17), The Solas of the Reformation, Part 1

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2 Timothy 3:14-17

How can we say anything meaningful about God? If God is transcendent, defying our cognitive abilities to fully comprehend him, how can we say anything of certainty about God? This is a critical question. How we answer it determines who we know God to be. If our primary source for knowing God is nature, we can infer a variety of conceptions about God, some of which will be categorically different from one another. If our primary source is human reason or our own experience, still other gods could be fabricated.

The Apostle Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy were among the apostle’s final written words. Paul was intimately aware of external and internal threats against the church. During such trials and tribulations, Paul turned to his dear friend and protege Timothy and said, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have come to trust, knowing from whom you learned it. And that from infancy, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed… (2 Timothy 3:14-16).”

The word translated “God-breathed” is a unique combination of two Greek words: “Theos” meaning God and another word meaning breath. God breathed out his word into human authors, who wrote them down. He did not suppress the author’s personality. He did something more marvelous. He raised the author up to a higher wisdom. He enabled each author to express what he wanted them to say in words that were not only understandable to each of them and those they wrote to, but were true to their personality and adapted to their culture.

How can we say anything meaningful about God? Because, God has spoken to us in the Holy Scriptures.

When the Augustinian monk, named Martin Luther, went back to the Holy Scriptures in the sixteenth century and compared them to the practices of the church of his time, he realized the church had departed from God’s Word. It was following teachings that contradicted that Word. He would later reportedly say, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God.” The reformation and a movement to return to God’s Word began.

There are many teachings that have the appearance of being from God, but our primary source for knowing God comes from his self-revelation in Scripture. “Speak, O Lord, as we come to you to receive the food of your holy Word,” is how one modern hymn writer said it.

 

For further study:

2 Peter 1:20-21

Grace in an Unexpected Place (Joshua 2:1-21), Part 5 of “Get Ready”

Faith of Rahab

Joshua 2:1-21

It was the strangest of sights. Bird enthusiast from places as far as Wisconsin and Indiana flocked to see it. On a wood piling sticking up from the water of Nessmuk Lake perched a white-winged tern. One might have expected to see this bird in Europe, Africa, Asia, or Australia; not in America, let alone Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. People have theorized how this bird got here. Some said a storm pushed the bird from its migration path, forcing it to traverse the Atlantic, and somehow make its way here. The exact cause remains a mystery.

My partner in ministry Pastor Rich Hanlon was the first to spot this rare sight. I asked him if he found a sermon illustration in it. He exclaimed, “Grace.” He took the theme in a different direction, but I thought to myself, “just as this bird was found in an unexpected place, so too is God’s grace.” That’s what happened in the ancient city of Jericho, thousands of years ago.

Before leading the Israelites into the land God promised them, Joshua sent two spies to scout out the land, especially the city of Jericho. In Jericho, the spies found refuge in the house of a prostitute named Rahab. Fearfully, the spies were discovered. The King of Jericho sent messengers to Rahab to apprehend them.

We know today that the prostitution business preys on society’s most vulnerable. One would have expected Rahab to have submissively handed over the spies, rather than risk her life to protect them. But, Rahab showed incredible bravery. She hides the spies on her roof and tells the king’s messengers that the spies were no longer there.

Why did she do this? Because she had heard about the LORD, how he mightily delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Because of things like these, she decided to trust in the LORD. “Swear to me by the LORD,” she said, “that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you (Joshua 2).” The word translated as “kindness” is the Hebrew word hesed. It is frequently used of the LORD’s gracious dealings with his people (Exodus 34:6-7). Rahab is essentially asking for the spies to reciprocate the LORD’s kindness that she has shown to them. Rahab becomes one of the most significant people in God’s redemptive story (Joshua 6:25; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25).

As we engage God’s mission, let us open our eyes to see God’s grace in places we may never have expected. Where might you find God’s grace today?

For further study:

Bird enthusiasts flock to Nessmuk Lake to catch sight of wayward tern

Get Ready (Joshua 1:1-6)

Keep this Book of the Law (Joshua 1:7-8), Part 2 of “Get Ready”

Prepare Provisions (Joshua 1:10-11), Part 3 of “Get Ready”

Be Strong and Courageous (Joshua 1:16-18), Part 4 of “Get Ready”

 

 

 

 

Be Strong and Courageous (Joshua 1:16-18), Part 4 of “Get Ready”

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Joshua 1:16-18

As a federal prosecutor for Brazil’s public ministry, Delton Dellagnol wanted to make his home country a better place. The Brazilian justice system was broken and ineffective. The most powerful were immune to criminal prosecution. Continue reading

Prepare Provisions (Joshua 1:10-11), Part 3 of “Get Ready”

_Tell the people, ‘Get your supplies ready.'_

Joshua 1:10-11

After the attack on the naval fleet in Pearl Harbor in 1941, the nation united behind the war effort. Continue reading