Mad Enough to Fight?

Have you ever been mad enough to fight? Joshua 22 gives us a story about some folks that got mad enough to fight. It is an important lesson for any group of people in relationship—whether a family, a church, a group of churches, a community, co-workers, or any relational community.

Joshua 22 deals with the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh building an altar to the Lord after Israel has occupied the Promised Land. These 2 ½ tribes were going to remain on the other side of the Jordan. The important verse is verse 12. “When the Israelites heard this (the matter about the altar) the entire Israelite community assembled at Shiloh to go to war against them.” Wow! That’s mad! Why did they get mad enough to go to war? More importantly, how do you keep from getting yourself mad enough to fight?

First, seek to get the whole story before you get angry. The rest of Israel assumed that these 2 ½ tribes were in rebellion against God, but as the story unfolds, we learn that their heart was actually in the right place.

Second, seek to understand the intentions of the other party. Until you know otherwise, be ready to give the benefit of the doubt. The problem in this story begins when Israel assumed wrong intentions on the part of the 2 ½ tribes. Our problems start when we assume wrong motives on the part of others.

Third, seek to distinguish your anger from your selfishness. Verse 10 gives us the clue that this altar was an “impressive” altar. I cannot help but think that the real issue for the rest of Israel was that the altar was better than what they had built. Selfishness was driving their anger.

Last, be ready to forgive when an understanding is reached. In other words, as the cliché goes: “Bury the hatchet” and I add “forget where you bury the hatchet.” This is how Joshua 22 ends. May it be so in our lives as well.

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What Was Jesus Doing When He Called Peter to Meet Him on the Water?

songs of the faithIn our Sunday night services this summer, we are highlighting our favorite songs as a congregation. Our plan was simple. We asked people to give us their Top 3 Songs. We accumulated those into our Congregation’s Top 10. For 10 weeks this summer, we are looking at the theological background to those 10 songs. We started at number 10 and are working our way to number one.

Last Sunday we revealed #9, which is a new song called “Oceans.” The biblical backdrop to this song is Jesus, then Peter, walking on the water, which we find in Matthew 14 and Mark 6. I always think of the book John Ortberg wrote called, “If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get out of the Boat.”

I think we find at least four principles in this story.

1. God plans for us to have episodes that will grow our faith. This experience happened immediately after the feeding of the 5,000. Mark even brought out the detail that the disciples “were completely astounded, because they had not understood about the loaves.” We all have to have our personal faith encounter with Jesus. Seeing what God does in someone else’s life is not nearly as impactful as what He does in our lives.

2. God’s plans for our growth require obedience. Make sure you understand this about this miracle. Peter got out of the boat because Jesus called him. There is a big difference between faith and foolishness. Exercising faith always happens in the context of obedience. It is not faith to attempt to do what God does not call us to do. That is foolish.

3. God’s plans ought to be at the same time fearful to us and capable of failing apart from God. We all know what happened when Peter looked at the waves around him.

4. God’s plans have a desired final outcome—knowing Him! Mark used a word which has the connotation of “passing by.” Jesus intended to pass by so as to help the disciples have a God-sized encounter.

The song “Oceans” contains this line—“Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.” We cannot sing this line lightly.

Finally, let me ask, “What are you depending on God for today that will surely fail if God is not in it?”

(I’ll be speaking Sunday on “The Crisis of Complacency” at 9:45 and 11:11 a.m. I hope to see you then.)

What’s Happening this Week at FBC?

First of all, we are thankful that at this point we have not received some of the flooding rains that others are getting. We certainly pray for all who are experiencing great difficulty. At this point, we are still planning on our usual Mid-week schedule. Come if you can. We will be waiting on you.

This week begins Camp Experiences for different age groups of our church. We have had 75 1st through 6th graders at Bounce Camp Tuesday and Wednesday. This has been a day camp at the church. The “Bounce” refers to recreation with inflatable jumps. I am always so happy to see the faces of smiling children.

On Thursday, our high school students head to Glorieta, New Mexico, for FUGE Camp. Pray for the safety of the travel and each student and adult sponsor to have great spiritual experiences. I am excited to hear about their week.

Join us Sunday and continue to be faithful in your attendance this summer.

What Are You Watching?

If you live in my part of the world (South Louisiana) you likely have seen a headline in recent days that indicated, “All Eyes on Gulf” or something similar. We are waiting to see how much rain we get with a Tropical System. After a similar system last August which flooded us to point that some still have not been able to return to their homes, we tend to get a little jittery with such headlines.

Maybe the headline is not “All Eyes on Gulf.” It might be “All Eyes on Trump” or “Russia” or “North Korea.” The truth is we wait for the next news. Some wait for the next episode of their favorite show. Some watch their online bank account for the next automatic payroll “drop.” We live in a day when we “watch” Facebook or Twitter for our “friend’s” (or “enemy’s”) next post. The point is we live “to watch.”

The writer of Proverbs gave us a wise word about watching. As wisdom is personified, the writer of Proverbs said,

“Anyone who listens to me is happy, watching at my doors every day, waiting by the posts of my doorway.” (Proverbs 8:34)

I heard the weatherman say that the next advisory on the storm comes at 10 a.m. I need to make a decision about something so I am waiting for that advisory.

As I wait, I find myself convicted that my anticipation for the wise counsel from the Lord is not met with the same expectation.

May today and every day find you and me “waiting by the post” to hear the instruction and wisdom of the Lord.

What is your plan for reading the Word of God? What is your time of reading the Word of God? How eager are you for that next encounter with the wisdom of God through His Word?

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One of the Bible’s Great Expressions of Commitment

When we come to the end of the Book of Joshua, we are coming to the final speeches of Joshua to Israel. The context is that these are words for the immediate as well as the future life of Israel in the Land of Promise. Just as Deuteronomy records the last words of Moses, the book of Joshua records the last words of Joshua. The last three chapters of the book are a compilation of speeches or sermons from Joshua. The message of all three chapters is essentially the same. First, Joshua recounts God’s faithfulness. Second, Joshua reminds Israel of the terms of the covenant—Israel must obey the commands of God. Third, Joshua warns of the punishment that will follow if they do not obey the commands of God.

Joshua 24:14-15 contains one of the great expressions of commitment in the Bible.

“Therefore, fear the Lord and worship Him in sincerity and truth. Get rid of the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and worship Yahweh. 15 But if it doesn’t please you to worship Yahweh, choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh.”

Joshua had not only been told by God, but had experienced first-hand, that their success in the future was directly tied to their relationship to Almighty God and their obedience in that relationship. Joshua knew that the relationship to God was not on their terms, but on God’s terms. As an Old Testament saint, Joshua would have recognized and affirmed the language of the New Testament and the specific language about commitment to Christ.

What characterizes the commitment Christ is worthy to receive? In reading Joshua 24:1-28, we find at least these five implications.

1. The Past Activity of God—Joshua’s commitment, as we read in verses 1-13, was first of all characterized by the past activity of God. When we consider the past activity of God in our lives, especially Christ’s work on the cross, how could our commitment be anything other than our life, our all?
2. The Possible Alternatives other than God—Joshua called the people to choose God or the pagan gods around them. Then and now, there are alternatives, but only one true God.
3. Our particular Actions in Response to God—Joshua called the people to “Get rid of the foreign gods…and offer your hearts to the Lord.”
4. Personal Accountability in Keeping our Commitment—Joshua’s “As for me” commitment resonates well with the line from the hymn, “I have decided to follow Jesus. Though none go with me, I still will follow.”
5. Public Acknowledgement to Solidify Commitment—Joshua led Israel in a ceremony to consecrate their commitment.

As you think about your commitment to Christ today, be reminded that true commitment is not in words, but in actions.

(This post is based on the message “Choosing Christ Defined by Commitment” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)

Two Hard Assignments for Dad

This weekend we will celebrate Father’s Day. I love being a husband and a dad more than anything else I do, but sometimes the challenges are great. In fact, the Apostle Paul pointed to two hard things a father is assigned to do.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25 NIV) And “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV)

John Wooden

John Wooden

John Wooden, legendary basketball coach of UCLA, is arguably the greatest coach that sports has ever seen. His ten National Championships at UCLA statistically prove this. The sound bites of his former players give evidence of his legendary status in ways that go far beyond basketball.

John Wooden once said, “The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”

And love her he did! Though his beloved Nellie died in 1985, he continued to write her a love note every month until his death in 2010.

Russ Blowers

Russ Blowers

Russ Blowers, longtime minister at East 91st Christian Church in Indianapolis, was asked “What was your greatest accomplishment in 44 years of ministry?” This successful pastor who had led his church to be one of the largest in Indiana, led the Billy Graham Crusade to Indianapolis, served as president of his denomination’s convention said, “My greatest accomplishment is that I never had to go into my kids’ room and try to find some way to apologize to them for being unfaithful to their mother.” (Bob Russell, When God Builds a Church, p. 101).

Paul’s admonition to love as Christ loved the Church is at the heart of a sacrificing love. Very few of us, if any of us, will be called on to give ourselves up for our wives in the same manner as Christ gave Himself up for the church. However, this is the description of the way in which we ought to love. Isn’t it interesting how sacrifice in the marriage is one of those issues that seem to diminish with each passing year? Sacrificial love is not reserved for Valentine’s Day or Anniversaries; sacrificial love is the way that we should strive to love every day of the year.

Pray with me today that every Christian husband and father will live by the advice of Coach John Wooden and strive for the Biblical perfection admonished by the Apostle Paul.

Now, here’s the second thing. As Dads, we must discipline our children without driving them away.

The Dad who disciplines without driving away will be defined by at least these three characteristics.

1. You must win the right to be obeyed–Dad, you win the right to be obeyed by time, your own obedience, unconditional love, and consistent discipline. I am reminded that earlier in this passage we are to redeem the time. Now, when we encounter this idea in 6:4, I think back to redeeming time with our children. We don’t have long.

2. Teach Godly, Biblical principles. Don’t leave it to someone else to teach your children. Don’t leave it to the school. Don’t even leave it to the church. Dad, you take the leadership in teaching your children.

3. Pray. Having done all you can do, Dad, the very best thing that you can do is pray for your children. Pray with your children and for your children.

Rick Husband

Rick Husband

Rick Husband is an American hero. He was the commander of the ill-fated Columbia shuttle mission that exploded upon re-entry scattering parts over Texas and Louisiana. His wife put his story to words in the book High Calling. In the book, we learn that Rick was not only a great American, but also a great husband, father, and Christian. Though his commitment to NASA was obviously great, Rick never seemed to lose sight of the right priorities. The most inspiring part of Rick’s story is that he taped different devotions for each of the seventeen days of his mission for both of his children so that he would not miss a day sharing with them spiritual food.

Rick understood that his highest calling was the one given to him by his Heavenly Father. What about it, Dads? On this Father’s Day weekend, isn’t it time that all of us who wear the title Father spend some time re-evaluating how we are doing with the high calling God has entrusted to us?

(Join us Sunday at 9:45 or 11:11 a.m. I’ll be preaching on the great expression of commitment found in Joshua 24.)

Help me, Lord, with This Kid!

As we approach Father’s Day this weekend, I find myself thinking about the Prayer of Manoah.

Then Manoah prayed to the LORD, “O Lord, I beg you, let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.” Judges 13:8 (NIV)

Have you ever prayed a prayer like Samson’s father’s prayer as recorded in Judges 13:8? Maybe your prayer didn’t come out quite as eloquent as Manoah’s prayer. Maybe your prayer was simply, “Help!” I believe that Manoah’s prayer ought to be our prayer for our children.

Manaoh’s prayer is, first of all, a prayer of dependence upon the Lord. He knew what all parents ought to know—we are going to need God’s help. Manaoh’s prayer is a prayer of direction. Every child is different, so we need to know what to do with this kid. Finally, Manoah’s prayer is a prayer of dedication. Because he prayed for God’s wisdom, there is the assumption that he would seek to follow that wisdom.

I read a couple of things recently that really spoke to me about my own sons. First, I read “If you are not going to pray for your child, who do you think is?” Second, I read that it will cost somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000 to raise a child these days from birth to 18 years old. If you were going to invest that kind of money in anything else, don’t you think that you would want to do everything possible to make sure that your investment went well?

For those with children or grandchildren, recommit to the investment—pray the Prayer of Manoah for your children.

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What’s Happening this Week at FBC?

First of all, I am incredibly thankful for the great response that we had last night for our VBS visitation follow-up. We had 50 people out last night to follow-up with families whose children came to Vacation Bible School last week.

Tonight, in our mid-week prayer and Bible Study gathering, we will continue our chapter by chapter study of Genesis. Tonight, we are in in Genesis 24. Join us at 6 p.m.

Sunday morning, I will be preaching from Joshua 24. Sunday night, we will continue our Sunday Evening Summer Series on our favorite hymns with #9. You might be surprised!

Rep. Steve Scalise

Rep. Steve Scalise

We woke up this morning to the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise and other staffers and police associated with the House of Representatives. I know you join me in praying for all involved specially Representative Scalise, who as I write, is listed in critical condition.

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Top 10 Songs of First Baptist Church

This summer on Sunday evenings, our 6:00 p.m. services are being built around our favorite 10 songs. We collected these surveys for a few weeks. Last Sunday night, we began with #10. The song was “In Christ Alone,” which is a relatively new hymn.

Indeed, this is a beautiful hymn, and I am happy to see this song so rich in the Gospel message make our Top 10 List. Theologian Timothy George says of the hymn that it is well on its way to being the “Amazing Grace” of this generation.

“In Christ alone” is a central tenet of the Gospel. We are saved by grace, not of works—our works. We go to heaven not because we are good, but because God is gracious to save those who believe in Him. We cannot add any work to salvation and still have a salvation “in Christ alone.”

Any communication of the Gospel that is not “in Christ alone” is guilty of at least three things.

First, if salvation is not in Christ alone, the power of the cross is diluted.

Second, if salvation is not in Christ alone, the need for evangelism is destroyed.

Third, if salvation is not in Christ alone, we have no need of complete surrender to Him.

So, once we have come to believe in Christ alone, we must live the Gospel and share the Gospel.

Stay with us this summer as we continue to explore these favorite hymns of our church.

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Seeing Sin the Way God Sees Sin

The book of Joshua picks up the story of the people of promise to the Promised Land. With a new leader, Joshua, we see God’s continued presence. Joshua is one of the most inspiring books of the Bible.

This book opens with God encouraging Joshua. God called Joshua to awaken to the challenge before him. As God issued the challenge, He also assured Joshua of His presence and assured him that the plan is consistent with the past promises. God called on Joshua to be strong and courageous as he assumed this leadership. Ultimately, God challenged Joshua to align himself with the Word of God.

Chapters 2-5 give us details of the preparation to enter the Promised Land. It has been a long 40 years since Israel should have entered. Now, they are ready. Chapter 6 gives us the details of the miraculous and God-directed conquest of the first city, Jericho. When chapter 6 closes everything is going great.

Then comes chapter 7. As stunning as the victory is in chapter 6, so is the defeat of chapter 7. Not only does the narrator reveal the facts of the defeat, but he also reveals the underlying reasons for the defeat.

And as we hear these underlying reasons, we get a great lesson on sin. In fact, we get 6 basic principles about sin. Read Joshua 7 and then come back to see these 6 basic principles about sin.

Before we get to chapter 7, there is a part of 6 that we ought to read because it sets our understanding of the events of chapter 7.

You will find that background in Joshua 6:17-19.

But the city and everything in it are set apart to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and everyone with her in the house will live, because she hid the men we sent. 18 But keep yourselves from the things set apart, or you will be set apart for destruction. If you take any of those things, you will set apart the camp of Israel for destruction and bring disaster on it. 19 For all the silver and gold, and the articles of bronze and iron, are dedicated to the Lord and must go into the Lord’s treasury.”

Now, we come to chapter 7 and principles about sin. We learn that they, at least one, did take of things that had been set apart for the Lord’s treasury. Because of that sin, we get the 6 principles about sin.

1. Sin always affects others.

2. Sin always carries consequences.

3. Sin always is found out.

4. Sin always has a precise pattern.

5. Sin always leaves us longing.

6. Sin always must be dealt with in death.

Whatever else we might take away from Joshua 7, we had better observe that God is serious about sin.

(This post is based on the message “Seeing Sin the Way God Sees Sin” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)