Sunday, January 31, 2010

Public Consequences of Private Sin

Most people in our culture would argue that private sins have no public consequences. A Babylonian garment, a wedge of gold, and two hundred shekels of silver coveted are  taken. The city was going to be burned anyway. Who would be hurt?
36 people died. The hearts of the enemy were strengthened. Joshua foresaw the doom of the nation if they could not stand before their enemies. While Joshua was on his face mourning, God said "Stand up... Israel has sinned." The repeating phrase "liable to destruction" (Joshua 6:18; 7:1; 7:12) described their condition. Worse, God says "I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction."
Leadership is knowing where those under our care stand in relation to God. It is confronting sin, to rescue the offender when possible, to protect the body, and to restore a right standing with God. Now Achan, his sons, his daughters, and all the wealth of his house lie burned in a heap in the Valley of Trouble.
The "Valley of Achor" became a byword (Hosea 2:15). There is a new memorial, however grim, to warn the next generation against unfaithfulness. Like the rocks drawn from the midst of the Jordan, the valley is a teachable moment. Trust, respect, and obey the Lord who leads you. Personal disobedience is corporate trouble.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Even I Can Take Ai

The name of the city was "heap." The spies returned with great confidence. They had made a careful assessment of the city, considered the cost, and presented a plan. There were "few" men in the city. If they could conquer the power of Jericho, Ai was hardly a bump in the road.
Joshua rubber-stamped the plan and sent 36 men to their deaths. How could the spies have been so wrong? What did they miss? How do we, as leaders, avoid the same mistakes?
*Yesterday's victories are God's, not ours
*We are powerless in both big battles and small ones
*Prayer, even on the "easy" decisions, is important. The Lord of the universe is angry and his people are clueless. If they had sought God, they might have found repentance and restoration before lives were lost.

Father, teach us to walk with You so nearly that we know your heart before we find ourselves running from the enemy.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Liable to Destruction

Jericho was the first display of the Diving Warrior on the west side of the Jordan River. The battle plans, odd as they were, underscored the power of God. If trumpets and marching and shouting could bring about the destruction of the chief city in the promised land, then everyone would have to know it was God that did it.
Jericho was to be "devoted to God." It was to be totally destroyed as an offering. It would show respect for the Divine Conqueror- giving Him the first fruits of all the bounty they were about to receive. The obedience, submission, and self-restraint of each warrior would prove a solid wall of respect for God. Every warrior was expected to pass by the wealth of Jericho, leaving it in a fiery heap, in recognition that God would soon abundantly supply. Those who would steal from God, who could not wait out of respect for God, would make themselves liable to destruction. They, their families, and their nation would suffer the consequences of their private sin.
If the solid wall of respect for God had gaps, it meant that someone had contempt for God. We commonly think of contempt as words and actions that show we despise another. In the case of Achan, contempt for God lay hidden in a quick decision, a rash judgment to profit privately from items that were going to be burned anyway. It makes good sense if respect for God is not taken into account. And of course, that is the definition of contempt.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Melting Hearts" and Rebellion

God does an unusual thing when he talks to Joshua about the upcoming battle with Jericho. He says, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands." In God's eyes, the war was already over. God was the deciding factor. The weapons and defenses and soldiers of Jericho do not need to be taken into account before an omnipotent God. It was time again for the nation to trust, to witness, and to prepare for building another memorial of faith.
While such faith is laudable (see Hebrews 11), God did not mean it to be rare. Such trust is the only possible answer when the circumstances are understood as they really are. The problem comes when our eyes fix on the circumstances of war and not on the Lord of Hosts. The people become big in our minds and God becomes small. And God calls that rebellion.
"How long will these people treat me with contempt?" he asks Moses (Numbers 14:11). God argues that refusing to believe in spite of the miraculous things he has done (Remember the Red Sea parting?) was equal in His mind to rebellion. God's glory and reputation were bound up in His activity. His people had seen miracles yet refused to believe. God says that first generation tested Him 10 times, the full measure of His patience, and that not one of them would see the land He had promised to them.
In the passage in Numbers, Caleb provides the laudable pattern of response. "My servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly." If we are going to see miracles, then we need a spirit of submission, humility, and obedience. We need a desire to follow Christ wholeheartedly. May God grant us a tribe of Calebs.

God, forgive the focus of my eyes. I did not mean to turn them from You. Remember my weakness. Restore a right spirit in me.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Melting Hearts" and Faith

"When all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites." (Joshua 5:1)

Memorials of faith serve two purposes in glorifying God. First, they display to the next generation that God is dependable. He fulfills all His promises. A lifestyle of faith serves to display to children and grandchildren in a powerful way that God loves and cares for His own.
Memorials also serve to warn the enemy. Who wants to fight an army blessed in a supernatural way by an omnipotent God? Defending yourself against such power is futile. You become desperate (ask a Gibeonite, Joshua 9). When you survey those who stand with you, their power and yours is wholly inadequate for the needs of the hour. "When they heard... their hearts melted."
It is here that the starkest difference can be seen between the first generation of Hebrews under Moses and those under Joshua who are standing in the promised land. When the first generation heard the report of giants in the promised land, their hearts melted: "That night all of the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud." Then they grumbled. The cries of Moses, Caleb, and Joshua fell on deaf ears: "Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us."
The second generation believed those words and saw them come to pass. The Canaanites fully understood their peril because they saw the hand of God at work. They felt the sting of being alone against a powerful Enemy, the despair of finding yourself without protection. It is ironic that the Canaanites of Joshua's time saw their situation much more clearly than the Jews of Moses' time. An inability to take God into account in their military strategies cost them the promised land.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Leadership Memorials -part three

Is it legitimate to ask God for memorials yet to come? May I ask for greater things? Impossible things? Things that shout the glory of God in my life? Things that witness the sovereign goodness and joy of God in the lives of my children? Experiences and provision that, like the stars, proclaim the glory of God? For what may I ask?

*mercy and pardon to cleanse me, free me, and cause me to rejoice
*Help to fulfill my roles as husband and father so that my children are godly seed
*Opportunities to display the Father's glory in my own life and to show myself to be Jesus' disciple.
*Anything that would mean buying up Jesus' invitation to "Ask anything in my name and I will do it."

When he does it, I have my memorial. Perseverance before a loving Father who withholds no good thing produces "amazing things". May God increase our faith.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Leadership Memorials- part two

What about my life? Does my life have Jordan River moments- experiences that are stone memorials for my children, examples for my daughters? Can I look at my past and see God's hand?

*I didn't like school much. I wasn't serious about study. I got by, but didn't try. Then, God took me to college and seminary for the next nine years (and I loved it).

*I went to Korea to teach and I found a thousand opportunities to minister, encourage, stretch, mature, and learn leadership. I met friends who loved Christ and gave themselves wholly to children close to God's heart. I served as pastor, chaplain, school administrator, Field Council chair, school board member, and KATUSA instructor. And I was never ambitious.

*I have pastored for 20 years and it has been an incredible opportunity to work, serve, persevere and love God and our local church body. And I'm shy.

*I have been married for 17 years to a beautiful, godly woman who turned me down the first 20 times I asked her out. Then, three years later, she asked me.

May God grant more stones...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Leadership Memorials

Elizabeth Elliot once asked, "What is there in your life that is unexplainable apart from the Lord?" God wanted to make sure they remembered His intervention in their lives. He instructed Joshua to have 12 stones removed from where the Ark had stood in the bottom of the Jordan river as the young nation passed by. The stones were stacked as a memorial and witness to the next generation.

The memorial was to inspire questions: "Dad, what is this for?" The door was open for a story about God. "Son, God is great, God is good... Without Him, we would not be free. Without Him we would not be where we are. God can always do what we cannot. He has proved Himself. You can trust Him..."

God had a special concern for the next generation. He created many memorials. Passover, a collection of stones, and in the current age- bread and wine. God remembers that we are dust so He builds into our religious experience opportunities to remember...

Friday, January 8, 2010

God-Centered Leadership

"Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you."

The most important thing about leadership is to be God-centered. God's people are to mark themselves as His people and recognize his authority in their lives. They are to put away sin and find in Him their joy and satisfaction. He is the One who will bring change and power and maturity. He is the One who has great plans for them to witness:

*The previous generation had the Red Sea parting; the new generation saw the Jordan River divide.
*The previous generation built the Ark of the Covenant. The new generation walked past it on dry ground in the bottom of the Jordan River.
*The previous generation celebrated the Passover and headed out of Egypt. The new generation celebrated the Passover as they headed into the Promised land.
*The previous generation saw manna begin to sustain them in the desert. The new generation saw the manna cease as they ate the fruit of the promised land.

God has amazing plans for all of us, no matter what generation. He has plans to give us a future and a hope. He has plans to show Himself strong on behalf of all those whose hearts are completely His.

My job now is to prepare my heart. Throw out the idols. Beg for holiness. Drop my self-assurance and depend on Him. Plead for mercy. Ask for faith. Wait and witness what only He can do. Amazing things.

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."