Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sermon - Joshua 1:1-9 - Courage for the Coming Year

This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached on December 20, 2012. There is no video of the message, but I wanted to share it with you anyway. As always, please leave your thoughts below.

In just a couple of days, 2012 will be over and 2013 will be starting. For many of us this is very exciting and for some of us, this is completely terrifying. We are standing on the edge of something new and we are not sure what is going to happen. Could this be a good year, one full of excitement and adventure? Or is this going to be a devastating year, one that drops us to our knees at every turn?

This is the exact place that we find Joshua in our Scripture passage today. Joshua is on the edge of something that will go very, very right or go very, very wrong. The leader of the children of Israel, Moses, has just died and Joshua has been picked to take his place. The children of Israel have never known another leader. Moses has been the guy for the past 40 years. Those are some big shoes to fill!

Illustration: A few weeks ago, I was questioned by a number of the men in our church in preparation for my ordination. One of the questions, and forgive me because I don’t remember the exact wording of the question, had to do with me stepping into the role of senior pastor were something to happen to Bro. Brian. The person who asked the question wanted to know if I would be able to step up to the responsibility. I’ll be honest: I was extremely overwhelmed by the question. Overwhelmed to the point that I was unable to answer the question for several minutes. Just the thought of stepping into the leadership role of something like this church was difficult to grasp.

Illustration: One of the pastors who is extremely influential to a number of pastors, me included, is John Piper. You may have never heard of him, but, trust me, he’s a big deal. He has written a number of books and has been at his church in Minnesota for a ridiculously long time. Recently, he determined it was time for him to step down from the preaching ministry at his church and they began to look for someone to take his place. He preached his final sermon at his church last night. That means next week, the new guy takes over. The thought of stepping into the pulpit that Dr. Piper filled for so many years has got to be incredibly overwhelming.

I am positive that Joshua was feeling overwhelmed. He had just traveled for forty years with Moses and he saw all of the incredible and amazing things that God had done through Moses. He saw God use Moses to part the Red Sea. He saw God use Moses to provide water out of a rock. He saw God use Moses to provide manna and quail. He saw all of these things. And then, suddenly, Moses is gone and Joshua is in charge. It is at this point that God shows up and gives Joshua a pep talk. God sits Joshua down and tells him that everything that had been promised to Moses was still in effect now that Joshua was the leader. God was still going to give Joshua the land that He had promised and that there will be no enemy that will be able to stand before Joshua and the children of Israel.

There were two things that Joshua needed to keep in mind as he began this new adventure as the leader of the children of Israel. First, any strength and courage that Joshua would have must be found in God alone. Second, Joshua needed to make sure that his life was grounded in the Word of God. Let’s take a look at each point as it applies to Joshua.

Point 1 – Joshua’s strength and courage had to be found in God alone.

In verses 1-6 of Joshua 1, there are at least six different personal pronouns where God is telling Joshua something. He promises Joshua He is giving the land to him. He promises that He will be with Joshua. And most importantly, He promises He will never leave Joshua or forsake him. Joshua had only to find his strength and courage in God. Why? Because it was God who was going to do all the work. There was nothing that was going to take place in the life of Joshua or in the lives of the children of Israel that God would not be involved in. Every step that Joshua took, every piece of land that he claimed, every battle that he won would be the direct result of God working for him. Joshua could have strength and courage for what was about to take place because he had God Almighty already working for him. Can there be any greater ally than God?

Point 2 – Joshua’s life needed to be grounded in the Word of God.

Verses 7-8 demonstrate the need for Joshua to be grounded in the Word. Obviously, at that time, Joshua didn’t have the full text of the Scripture like we have today. In fact, at this point, he most likely only had the Law that was handed down to him from Moses. But God tells him that being grounded in that Law is absolutely necessary for Joshua’s strength and courage. Joshua would need to know the Law inside and out, backward and forward. He would need to make it the tool he went to when times got difficult. God made it very clear that he was to know the Law and he was to obey that Law.

And what was the result of Joshua finding his strength and courage in God alone and being completely grounded in God’s Word? The answer is at the end of verse 8: “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Which brings us to this question: What does this have to do with me? It’s great for Joshua and we can read to find out what happens, but 2013 hasn’t been written for me yet. You can’t tell me that everything is going to be great and wonderful this coming year.

You are right and, if you look at our text, God isn’t telling Joshua that everything is going to be great and wonderful. There is no promise of easy days. However, the same things that were needed of Joshua are also needed of us. We must find our strength and courage in Christ alone.

I cannot promise you that 2013 is going to be an easy year. There is no guarantee that everyone who is in this room with us today will be with us this time next year. Not to be morbid, but we are going to say goodbye to some very dear friends this year. Some of us are going to get sick and some of us will have surgeries. This is because we live in a broken world that is screaming out for Jesus to come and fix it. However, as we find our strength and courage in Christ alone, we will be able to face whatever challenges come our way.

At some point in the future, my family and I will have to make a very scary decision, one that will have a huge impact on our lives for many years to come. To be honest, the thought of making that decision keeps me awake some nights. It has been a matter of a lot of prayer and a lot of discussion between Tina and me. I have cried over it, wanting to make sure that I am pursuing God in this decision. And as scary as it is, I know that God will be with me.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Philippians 4:13 says I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

When our strength and courage relies completely on Christ, we will be completely at peace, knowing that God is working for us. Our lives must be grounded in God’s Word. The Bible is full of the benefits that come from being grounded in God’s Word.

  • There is purity from sin when we stay grounded in God’s Word.
    How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. (Psalm 119:9)
  • There is direction for the way we are to go when we are grounded in God’s Word.
    Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
  • There is joy to be found when we are grounded in God’s Word.
    Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. (Psalm 119:111)
  • There is an explanation for the joy we are experiencing when we are grounded in God’s Word.
    but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)

I read the Bible…a lot. I know this is something that you would expect to hear a pastor say. I know, I’ve been told, even by some of you here, that I’m one of those weird guys who just loves to read the Bible. But this is what I’ve found…the more that I read the Bible, the more I want to read the Bible. And as I read the Bible, I am better able to understand the circumstances and situations that come my way. That doesn’t mean that it gets any easier. Doesn’t mean that it is all roses and cupcakes. What it does mean is that I can see God’s hand in my circumstances and I can understand that He has a plan.


As we begin this new year, many of you are thinking about resolutions that you are going to make…and break over the next couple of days. I can’t think of a better way to start a new year than by praying and asking God to help you find your courage and strength in Him alone and to help you become grounded in God’s Word.

If you are here today and you do not have a relationship with Jesus, the Jesus you need to know in order to find your strength and courage in God, why not make today the day that you begin that journey? You may be feeling a tug, urging you that now is the time. If that is you, I would love to have the opportunity to speak with you about the Jesus who left Heaven, was born on Earth, died on the cross for your sins and mine, and who defeated death by rising again. That Jesus wants the opportunity to forgive your sins and present you as holy before God. If you want to talk more, I’ll be down front.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book Giveaway - Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart

Over on his blog, my friend Josh Evans is giving away a copy of J.D. Greear's new book Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart. You can visit his blog in order to get the details of how you can enter to win the book. You have until Thursday, February 7, to enter, so hop to it!

How I Use an iPad for Preaching or Teaching

A lot of youth pastors are fond of technology, particularly iPads or Kindle Fires. We love to find new ways to utilize the apps and functions in order to help us share God's Word.

While there are a number of different ways to use an iPad for preaching, this is the method I use when I am preparing my sermon or youth group lesson.

  1. Type your sermon transcript or notes in a word processing program. I personally use Microsoft Word for this step. I type out word-for-word what I am going to say. I then use the various tools to highlight and accent different areas of my transcript to help me know what sections are what.
  2. Make a PDF of your document. I have a plug-in on my laptop called CutePDF. This allows you to "print" your document and save it as a PDF, color and all. Just make sure to save your original document in case you need to make changes to it later.
  3. Upload your PDF to Evernote. Saving your PDF to Evernote is vital. It keeps you from the losing the file. I would also recommend uploading the Word document as well. After uploading the documents, be sure to sync your device to Evernote. This will ensure that your uploaded document can be accessed on your iPad. You should also open the PDF so that you are able to access it, even without WiFi.
  4. Open the PDF in the Kindle app. This final step is optional, but it is the one I prefer. I read a lot on both my Kindle Fire and the Kindle app on iPad. I like the side-to-side scrolling from page to page instead of the top to bottom way that Evernote does it. This works best for me.

I realize this may be somewhat cumbersome, but I do it so often that the steps have become second nature to me. I hope that some of this technique can help you as well.

What tools or apps do you utilize when teaching or preaching from an iPad or other tablet?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Please Stop Adding to the Gospel

When I was growing up, I heard a lot about how to be a good Christian. Good Christians dressed a certain way. Good Christians only listened to certain kinds of music (none of which were very good). Good Christians did not go to the movies. The only problem is that I wanted to go to the movies. I wanted to listen to Green Day and dc Talk. So I had a lot of guilt.

Because of this, I did some pretty crazy things. Perhaps the worst was throwing away my music. I had a fairly large collection of cassettes and CDs. After a particularly convicting camp or youth conference, I would get a big black trash bag and fill it with all of my "ungodly" music...only to rebuy it all a couple of weeks later. I cant tell you how many copies of Dookie or Superunknown I have purchased in my life. All because some well-meaning preachers were adding things to what it meant to be a Christian.

The apostle Paul face the same sort of thing in Galatia. There were individuals who were trying to convince the church members they needed to be circumcised in order to be a "real" Christian. They were adding works to salvation.

In Galatians 5:1, Paul encourages the church to be free and not submit to the "slavery" this would bring. The church would constantly be trying to live up to an impossible standard, just as I was by trying to give up movies and music.

As youth pastors, we need to be careful of how we present the Christian life. We need to show our students that certain things are good for us, but not because they will save us. We need to demonstrate that prayer is awesome and vital, but not something to beat ourselves up over. Daily Bible reading is necessary and important, but we should not feel guilty if we miss a day now and then.

Christ saved us for freedom. We need to make sure we are conveying that message. Guilt is should not be a tool in our youth ministry toolboxes.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Update on Goals for 2013 - No Memorizing Has Been Done

Earlier this year, I wrote out a number of goals. These included reading at least 25 books this year, reading as much Scripture as possible, and memorizing the book of Ephesians. These seemed liked fairly attainable goals.

It turns out I was wrong about one of them.

For the life of me, I have not been able to get the memorization going. I'm not sure if the passages are too long, if the wording is too complicated, or my heart just isn't into it. Whatever the reason, I have memorized none of it. I tried, but could not seem to focus. I'm not entirely giving up on it, but, for now, this goal is on hold.

Book Review - Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First

It is an interesting event when you are trying to review a daily devotional. Obviously devotionals are meant to be read over the course of a year. To review one requires that the reader read the book in large sections.

This was the case when I read Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First. This book is based on the popular video series called "I Am Second." These videos include a number of famous individuals who have made themselves second. Videos include Josh Hamilton, Lecrae, Tony Dungy, and Brian "Head" Welch.

The book is broken into a number of different topics, each one beginning with a link to a video. The daily reading contains a Scripture passage, a short reading commentary, a prayer for the day, and a few reflection questions. The daily passage also has its own Twitter hashtag for the reader to share his thoughts from the particular day.

This book is an excellent gift idea, particularly for someone who is a new Christian or someone who might be looking into Christianity. The videos are of well-known individuals, giving the book some credibility. The reading is short and easy to understand. The readings may be a bit shallow for the more mature Christian, but, as I said, it would be a great gift for the new believer.

Overall, Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First is a good read and worth sharing with others. Please note: I was provided with a free copy of the book to read and review. It was sent to me by Booksneeze.com. I was not required to give a positive review.