Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sermon for July 24

Faith Moves: Hosea the Steadfast Spouse
1 John 4:7‑12; Hosea 1: 1‑ 11; 3:1‑5

During a wedding rehearsal, the groom approached the pastor with an unusual offer. “Look,” he said, “I’ll give you $100 if you’ll change the wedding vows. When you get to me and the part where I’m to promise to ‘love, honor and obey,’ and ‘forsake all others to be faithful to her forever,’ I’d appreciate it if you’d just leave that part out.” He passed the minister a $100 bill and walked away satisfied. The day of the wedding came, and the bride and groom moved to the part of the ceremony where the vows are exchanged. When it came time for the groom’s vows, the pastor looked the young man in the eye and said, “Will you promise to prostrate yourself before her, obey her every command and wish, serve her breakfast in bed every morning of your life and swear eternally before God and your lovely, wife that you will never even look at another woman, as long as you both shall live?” The groom gulped and looked around, and said in a tiny voice, “Yes.” Then the groom leaned toward the pastor and hissed, ‑I thought we had a deal?” The pastor put the $100 bill into his hand and whispered back, “She made a better offer.”

The relationship sounds doomed from the start. From the beginning of the marriage, the bride and groom show lack of trust in each other. This morning we are going to look at a different marriage. It is between a man named Hosea and his wife Gomer. Hosea was a prophet in the nation of Israel and a contemporary of Isaiah. God tells him to do something unusual – a faith move that will take a lot of courage and humility.

The nation of Israel is in dire straights. The bloodthirsty nation of Assyria is a world empire. Assyria conquers neighboring countries, brutalizes the conquered armies, and reduces the inhabitants to slaves. Assyria’s grip slowly starts to squeeze Israel. Israel’s government is in anarchy. At one time the rulers only saw one way out. They paid money to the king of Assyria as a bribe for protection. Israel gave gold, silver, ivory, and purple robes, and became a puppet government in order to secure their borders. The rulers of Israel get tired of paying off Assyria for their security, so Israel forms an alliance with the their neighbors, the king of Damascus and the king of Tyre. If the three countries can show some strength and raise enough revenue, they hope to get noticed by Egypt and form a political and military alliance against Assyria. Israel is guilty of political promiscuity. The government of Israel goes from country to country, desperately looking for protection. In return, Israel is being led to the brink of destruction. While this is going on, the people of Israel have also turned their backs on the God of the covenant and have given their devotion to the seemingly harmless local gods of the area ‑ the fertility gods Baal and Asherah. God’s people need salvation but they are turning to other gods and other nations to help them. They turn to every one except their Lord and Maker. They worship the gods and rulers of the land rather than the Creator of heaven and earth who demands righteousness, mercy, love, and faithfulness

God decides to use a prophet named Hosea and woman named Gomer to speak to the people of Israel. Gomer is a prostitute, and God tells Hosea to marry her. After giving birth to three children, Gomer leaves Hosea and returns to the streets to sell her body. I can just imagine Hosea’s heartbreak. The woman he loves with all his heart, the women who bore him three children, leaves him to go back to her old life. She thinks her former life, with men giving her nice things and wanting to be with her, is better than her life as a wife and mother.

Then God says, “Hosea, I am going to use your broken, aching heart to let my people know that their actions are like the betrayal of an unfaithful spouse. My people have put their trust in political alliances instead of the Lord. My people have trusted in idols instead of worshiping the Lord their God. I love my people, but Israel has forgotten her Maker.” Then God says, “Hosea, no matter what Gomer does, I want you to stay true to her. Have faith, trust in me, and I will make things right again.”

God uses the symbol of marriage to speak to his people. It is easy to sentimentalize marriage. Life would be easy if marriage was only about romance and red roses, butterflies in the stomach and long walks on the beach. But marriage is more than that. Matrimony has to do with duty, responsibility and commitment. God accuses Israel of being an adulterous spouse who fails to show her commitment to the relationship. When the honeymoon is over, Israel forgets her greatest love. She can’t trust in the Lord when she needed him most, and turned to other lovers instead.

When I began reflected on this text I thought that this story demonstrated the way the world scorns and rejects the things of God ‑ how unbelievers turn away from the Creator. But as I thought about it more I realized that the Lord is not talking to the world. Hosea doesn’t address Egypt or Assyria, Damascus or Tyre. God is talking to his called people, his beloved. The people of the covenant are the ones who have rejected their Lord.

So, let’s not think about “Them” for a moment. Let’s think about “us.” After all, the church is called the New Israel, the people of the new covenant. We could all probably say, “I know a Christian person who ______ . . . fill in the blank with your sin of choice. I know a Christian person who cheats. I know a Christian who is a pain in the rear end. I know a Christian with a mouth like Howard Stern. I know a person who sleeps around. I know a Christian who’s self‑indulgent. I know a Christian who acts holier than thou but is rotten to the core.

What is usually our response to these people? Do we throw our arms around them and say, “We love you?” Can we really hate the sin but love the sinner? Do we take every opportunity to reach out and demonstrate that these people belong to God? I wish we acted this way. It seems that more often our first impulse is to judge and condemn. Maybe we feel betrayed and back away. Maybe we look at their situation and say, “Better them than me.” Maybe we say to the offender, “I’ll pray for you,” and that’s the end of it.

This is not Hosea’s reaction to Gomer. Hosea is committed to the restoration of his marriage. He knows that he can’t abandon his wife. And because Hosea is steadfast in the midst of betrayal, he knows that God will neither reject nor abandon his people.

God is in love with his people. He is in love with you. He is in love with his wayward children who have taken a detour in their spiritual journey. Friends, God is not going to let you, or them, or any of his covenant people go. The past few weeks we’ve been talking about faith moves. Well, here’s where I think the faith move comes into this story. God says to Hosea, “Go show your love to your wife again, even though she is used by another men. Love her as I love Israel.” Hosea finds her at the prostitute market, and buys her back. You have to understand, law and emotion prevented a husband who was publicly betrayed by his wife from renewing his marital life with her. It was bad form to chase after a promiscuous wife. Because of Gomer’s unfaithfulness, the marriage should have been over with. But God’s love is greater than custom and emotion.

God says, “Hosea, forget propriety and etiquette. Don’t listen to your betrayed and shattered heart. Go and get Gomer, and bring her home, and love her.” The name Gomer means “complete.” In the Bible, a person’s name says something about one’s destiny. I don’t see a woman who was forced to come back to a husband and lifestyle she hated. I imagine Gomer as a woman who is brought back with more love than she thinks she deserves. Gomer realizes that she is right where she needs and wants to be. When Gomer returns to Hosea, she is complete.

Isn’t this is exactly what God has done for us through Jesus Christ? We are all Gomers. We all have moments when we are tempted to wander away from God. We all get ourselves in places where our choices redirect us away from a relationship with God. We are all Gomers, and God paid the price to make us complete. The cross is the proof of the everlasting, sacrificial love of God. God loves you. God is serious about not wanting us, his people, to succumb to the effects of our faithless desires. God is so serious about completing us, that he placed the punishment for sin on his Son as atonement for human rebellion. Through Christ, God says, “I’m buying you back. I love you because you belong with me.”

There’s an appropriate response to such great love. 1 John says it best. “Let us love one another, for love comes from God.”
If you have ever been touched by the hand of God,
if you have ever caught a glimpse of God’s wild affection for you,
if you have ever felt free because of God’s forgiveness,
if you have ever felt restored, or healed,
or saved by the power of God Almighty,
then you should love in return.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? It’s harder than it sounds. This is our faith move ‑ bold love. I’m not talking about wimpy love ‑ that mushy, gushy, warm fuzzy love. I’m not talking about love as some philosophical ideal. I’m talking about bold, audacious, determined, faithful love toward those who are unlovable. Love, as a faith move, is about reaching to those who have betrayed us. It’s extending the open hand of companionship instead of the fist of judgment. Bold love is our attempt to graciously embrace those who have sinned against us. It offers restoration to those who harm us. Bold love reclaims the potential good in another person, even at the risk of self‑sacrifice and loss. Love means using our lives to reclaiming the kernel of good in those who are lost.

God loves his people, and he will not let any of us go. That’s God’s commitment. He demonstrated that to Hosea, he proved it to Israel, and he is still dedicated to us today. Let us commit ourselves to loving everyone, with no strings attached, as our thankful response to God’s faithfulness.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Sermon for July 17

Faith Moves: Jonah and the Famished Fish
Jonah 1:1-17

There was this young minister who was serving his first church in a rural area. Let’s call him “Bill.” One day, while out visiting, he saw a major winter snow storm coming toward him and within minutes Bill was in a whiteout condition. Wondering what to do, the words of his father came back to him: If you get caught in a storm, just follow a snow plow and the road will always be clear before you. Sure enough, a plow came along and Bill followed it. He turning when the plow turned. He stopped when the plow stopped. After a while the plow parked and the driver got out and walked back to the car that had been on his tail. “Are you following me,” he asked? The young preacher admitted that he was following. Bill said, “My Daddy always said: If you get caught in a storm, just follow a snow plow and the road will always be clear before you. “Okay,” said the driver. “Just to let you know that I’ve finished the Mall parking lot and now I’m heading over to Wal-mart!”

Sometimes we need to be careful who we follow!

Clarence Jordan was a prophet for racial integration in the South. In 1942, after receiving his doctorate at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he returned to his native Georgia and established Koinonia Farm. Koinonia Farm was an experiment in Christian interracial communal living. Jordan envisioned an interracial community where blacks and whites could live and work together in a spirit of partnership. You can imagine how scandalous this was in Georgia in the 40’s. Throughout the 1950s and early 60s, Koinonia Farm remained a witness to nonviolence and racial equality, as its members withstood firebombs, bullets, KKK rallies, death threats, property damage, excommunication from churches, and economic boycotts. On one occasion, after preaching to a Southern congregation on the spirit of equality found in the New Testament, an elderly woman stopped Jordan. She cried, “I want you to know that my, grandfather fought in the Civil War, and I’ll never believe a word you say.” Jordan replied, “Ma’am, your choice seems quite clear. It is whether you will follow your granddaddy or Jesus Christ.”

I want us to answer a simple question this morning. When God asks you to do something outside of your comfort zone, who do you follow? Do you stick to what you think you know, or do you follow Jesus? Are you led exclusively by tradition ‑ by what you’ve always been told is the right way ‑ or do you follow Jesus? Do you only listen to the voices of your family and friends, or the voices of your past, or do you follow Jesus? I already know my own answer. I think of all the people who have become MY enemies because of what they believe, or say, or do. I think of the people I criticize, dismiss, and want to have no contact with. I think of those who have disappointed me. I think of all the people I’ve decided are unlovable, and I want nothing to do with them. Sometimes I hear the voice of Jesus telling me to go beyond my preconceptions ‑ to love and serve the people I’ve rejected, and I’m presented with a choice: obey Jesus, or stubbornly cling to my prejudice. Quite often, I am adamant in my intolerance. How about you? Who do you follow?

Why is it that we find it so hard to go beyond ourselves and do the challenging things God asks us to do? I think it has to do with a failure of faith. We fail to trust that God is sovereign and has a broader vision of what life and salvation really mean. It is hard to have faith when God’s plans go against our expectations of how we think God is supposed to act. The prophet Jonah struggled with the same problems. In today’s reading, Jonah God calls Jonah to extend God’s good news to the gentile city of Ninevah -- the capital city of the Assyrian empire. Jonah disagrees with God’s plan from the very beginning. Even though God says he loves Ninevah, Jonah wants nothing to do with this city. He tries so hard to resist what God wants, even while he clearly understands that God is open‑hearted and merciful to the enemies of Israel.

Last week I said that when faced with any situation there are two ways of handling it: Our way or God’s way. Jonah decides that God’s way is no good. God chose Jonah for this specific assignment, and Jonah thinks he has a choice to say no. Verse 1 begins by telling us that the word of the Lord came to Jonah. God’s voice must have stirred Jonah with a sense of awe and a profound experience of God’s presence and power. It is a life‑changing event to hear the word of the Lord. Yet, in the next sentence, before Jonah can even enjoy his encounter with God, shock waves begin exploding in his mind. His heart sinks when he hears God say, “Go to Ninevah.” I can just imagine Jonah’s inner protests. “God, you can’t really, mean Ninevah, the capitol city of Israel’s avowed enemy! They are scum. They capture and torture their enemies. Prisoners of Assyria pray for death to come and relieve their suffering. You aren’t going to use me to preach forgiveness to these cruel and violent people! I am a prophet for Israel.”

So, instead of traveling 500 miles east to Ninevah, Jonah turns the opposite direction, trekking to the seaport city of Joppa on the Mediterranean. From there he heads toward Tarshish, on the Atlantic coast of Spain. Just to get to Tarshish by ship meant a year and a half journey to the straits of Gibraltar. Jonah figures he’s escaped the Lord and has all the time in the world. What Jonah is really doing is abandoning his obligation to minister to the people of Ninevah. It’s an act of sinful rebellion. Jonah is a faithful prophet as long as God wants what Jonah wants. But when God’s command goes against what Jonah wants, Jonah decides he knows a better way. He is finally put out of commission. In the midst of a turbulent storm, the sailors are scared out of their wits. The boat is about to be pulled underwater because of the storm. The men toss the faithless Jonah overboard. Instantly, the sound and the fury of the storm, and the yelling and crying, and praying, and screaming cease. The sea is peaceful. The sailors shudder with wonder and praise God. But not the reluctant prophet. Not yet, at least. Jonah’s going to get some time to find new perspective in the belly of a great fish.

Let me ask you again, who do you follow? We should show some sympathy for Jonah before we get carried away with judgment. We shouldn’t condemn him without facing our own failure of faith. At one time or another we will all be faced with a command from God that’s difficult to hear, an instruction from God that sends us into a panic, an assignment that will cause us to run in the opposite direction, a calling that will prompt us to say, “Anything but that, Lord!” It is tragic for each one of us when we refuse to obey God’s clear command, because the result is that it puts us out of commission spiritually. Disobedience robs us of our credibility. Others see us and wonder why the “Christian” can’t get it together enough to carry out what he or she talks about. Disobedience puts us out of commission because if we call ourselves Christians, but we don’t have the faith to be totally obedient to God, our words and actions are hollow to a lost world that sees the church as a bunch of self‑absorbed hypocrites who are out of touch with the world and its problems. When we call ourselves Christians, but show lack of faith in God by doing things our own way, then the world has every right to question our credibility. Who do you follow? If you are afraid to follow God, then those around you, those who are looking at your words and your life for some glimmer of hope, will have no reason to put their hope in the Lord.

I think it’s interesting how God responds to disobedience. Let’s turn again to Jonah’s story. God responds with action. God doesn’t ignore Jonah’s rebellion. He doesn’t just sit by and allow Jonah to drift in his sins. Jonah is God’s chosen agent for a specific purpose, like it or not, and the Lord is prepared to offer correction. However, God also offers affection. I love verse 17: God arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. The Lord doesn’t allow Jonah to drown in the sea as a punishment. God keeps Jonah alive. He pursues and protects Jonah in his time of need.

Eating lunch at a small cafe, Mark Reed of Camarillo, California saw a sparrow hop through the open door and peck at the crumbs near his table. When the crumbs were gone, the sparrow hopped to the window ledge, spread its wings, and took flight, It was a brief flight. The sparrow crashed against the windowpane and fell to the floor. The bird quickly recovered and tried again. It crashed in to the window. So, it tried again and crashed in to the window. Mark got up and attempted to shoo the sparrow out the door, but the closer he got, the harder it threw itself against the pane. He nudged it with his hand. That sent the sparrow fluttering along the ledge, hammering its beak against the glass. Finally, Mark reached out and gently caught the bird, folding his fingers around its wings and body. It weighed almost nothing. He thought of how powerless and vulnerable the sparrow must have felt. At the door he released it and the sparrow sailed away. The sparrow only found freedom when it was lead to flight by Mark’s hands.

God’s response to our disobedience is twofold. Yes, there is discipline. But God is also compassionate. God understands our fear and our frailty. He sees our inability to go beyond our own plan. He knows how hard it is for us to recognize the reality of his love. And in those times he not only corrects, but God takes us in his hands, as if we are little birds, and God protects us from ourselves. God guides us with caring hands to the truth of what wonderful things can happen when we are obedient to God’s voice. God takes opportunities to confront us, to redirect us, to let us know that his ways are best, and to fill us with faith enough to trust his plans.

So, let me ask you again, who do you follow? Let me tell you about a man who did just the opposite of human nature. On January 3, 1865, King Kamehameha V of Hawaii issued a decree that obliged all lepers to make themselves known so that the incurable patients could be sent to a leprosarium on the island of Molokai. Despite their protests, victims of Hansen’s Disease were tracked own like game animals and captured and sent to the island. Contrary to newspaper reports there was nothing prepared for their reception. There were no beds or doctors in the hospital, and not enough huts for the people to live in. Those who died got neither a coffin nor a proper burial, and no one attempted to alleviate their suffering. The people gave up all sense of dignity and any desire for cleanliness or order. They had been treated like mangy animals, and being no longer respected as human beings, they proceeded to make beasts of themselves. By 1873, the public began to find out what was going on. One paper wrote, “Those whom the lepers most need are a priest and a doctor who would sacrifice themselves for the lepers by imprisoning themselves with them.” Until that time, the Catholic Bishop had set up a rotation of priests, to visit the island once a year. And while he knew that the lepers needed more pastoral care, he did not want to sentence a priest to go to the island as a full-time resident with the risk of catching the contagious disease. One priest volunteered to go. His name was Father Damien. He told the Bishop, “I want to go there! I know many of these unfortunate souls, and I ask only to share their lot and their prison. The Bishop gladly accepted the young priest’s offer.

Despite his quirks, Damien gave the lepers new a new church, an improved hospital, better living conditions, and a sense of dignity. He shared the love of God with these men and women. He went to the place where everyone else feared to venture, and he turned it around by obeying Christ. In 1889, 16 years after his arrival at Molokai, Father Damien died of leprosy. But thousands of men and women found healing through his sacrificial touch.

Jonah chapter one demonstrates the consequences when one fails to trust in God. Father Damien is an example of one who went to the Ninevah of his time, and obediently served the Lord. I encourage you to think of the Ninevah’s in your life, and to know that God may be calling you there. It may be a place. It may be a person or a relationship. God calls us, in faith, to trust him when as we go out as agents of reconciliation. So, go to Ninevah, following the Lord who wants all his people to know his mercy and love.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sermon for July 10, 2005

I was on vacation on July 3rd. This week's post is a bit late, but here it is . . .

Faith Moves: Fools for Christ
Joshua 6:1-20; 1 Corinthians 1:18‑25

There was this guy at a bar, just looking at his drink. He stays like that for half of an hour.

Then, this big trouble‑making truck driver steps next to him, takes the drink from the guy, and just drinks it all down. The poor man starts crying. The truck driver says, "Come on man, I was just joking. Here, I'll buy you another drink. I just can't stand to see a man cry."

"No, it's not that. This day is the worst of my life. First, I fall asleep, and I go late to my office. My boss, outrageous, fires me. When I leave the building, to my car, I found out it was stolen. The police said that they can do nothing. I get a cab to return home, and when I leave it, I remember I left my wallet and credit cards there. The cab driver just drives away."

"I go home, and when I get there, I find my wife in bed with the gardener. I leave home, and come to this bar. And just when I was thinking about putting an end to my life, you show up and drink my poison."

Sometimes you have to have a sense of humor when you face tough situations. When I read the story of Joshua and the Israelite’s conquest of Jericho, I wonder what was going through Joshua's head. We don't have any indication in the text that Joshua thought the Lord's instructions were strange. But if I were in his shoes, I would have found the whole situation a bit unnerving, maybe even humorous. The Lord presented a strange battle strategy ‑ a plan which must have seemed foolish to a 70‑year old leader like Joshua. I'd like to explore what we can learn from Joshua as we continue our series on faith moves. Today, we are going to think about how we respond when God asks us to act in foolish ways.

There is not a lot of archaeological evidence from the Jericho of Joshua's day. The city of ancient times is represented today by an imposing mound that is 70 feet high and 10 acres in area. There is no evidence of a mass destruction of the city in the 13th century B.C. because it's remains have been completely eroded from the summit of the mound over the centuries. Jericho probably began as a small settlement in 8000 B.C. It was known as the oldest walled city in the world, and it grew into an impressive city with a 25-foot wall and extraordinary buildings on its slopes. Joshua's spies discovered that the key to taking the promised land began with occupying this strategic city. It was a huge obstacle that had to be removed from their path.

Let's stop for a moment and think about the unmovable obstacles that confront us in our own lives. As you stand on the banks of life and look at what lies ahead, what barriers do you see? What are the Jerichos in your life? What keeps you from enjoying the covenant blessings that God has promised you? Scripture is clear that sin and temptation are universal problems that stand in the way of our enjoyment of God. Sin is an obstacle that can never be removed by our own efforts or good deeds. No matter how hard we try, sin separates us from God.

There are other obstacles as well. Some face the obstacle of grief. Perhaps you can't imagine going into the future without a lost loved one. It is difficult to believe God's promises when life just seems barren and hopeless.

Some face the barrier of disappointment. Maybe you can't go on because a loved one, or a friend, or even God has let you down. You have lost faith because it seems that a trusted person has betrayed you, and so you face the future with cynicism.

Some face the obstruction of broken relationships. Maybe you feel rejected, or isolated, or unloved, and the road ahead looks lonely and bleak.

Maybe you’re jus tired and you don’t have the energy to face the obstacles of the next day.

At one time or another we all face obstacles that seem to lock our path to happiness. The question is: how can we move past the Jerichos of our lives, and live in the promises of God?

Let’s get back to Joshua and the Israelites for a moment. Try to picture them faced with the conquest of a menacing city. Its walls are high. Its gates are locked tightly. It is impenetrable. And what does God tell his people to do? God says, “Josh, I want you to take your soldiers and your priests and march around the city once a day for six days. Then on the seventh day I want you to march around the city seven times with the priests blowing their trumpets. And on your last lap around the city, the trumpets will make a loud blast. Have all the people shout at the top of their lungs, and the walls of the city will collapse.” That’s an unusual battle strategy, isn't it? In every situation, there are two ways of facing the challenges of life; our way or God's way. In this case, God's way went against established human logic. It's as if the Lord said, "Joshua, I'm not going to allow you to rely on human wisdom and tricky military strategies. This is my battle, and I will be the one who gives you the victory." Israel's job was to carry out God's crazy orders .

God's plan of attacking the obstacles in our lives can seem unusual to us, too. God says to us, “I will defeat the roadblocks in your life if you will let me. But, I want you to do it my way.” It's exactly the kind of talk that sounds so foolish to us. We don't like to hear that we can't do it on our own. We like the idea of being rugged individualists and self‑made people.

A man brought his boss home for dinner. The boss was blustery, arrogant, and domineering. The little boy in the family stared at his dad's boss for most of the evening, but didn't say anything. Finally, the boss asked him, "Why do you keep looking at me like that?" The little boy said, "My daddy says you are a self‑made man." The boss beamed and proudly admitted that indeed he was a self‑made man. The little boy asked, “Well, if you're a self-­made man, why did you make yourself like that?"

The problem with self‑made people is the illusion of self‑sufficiency. They allow no room for God to do something miraculous in their lives. As long as we retain complete control, the barriers in our lives may not be moved. We may pick away at them, and even find some happiness, but it’s not the same as letting God have total control. God's plans are not always the same as our plans. Sometimes God’s plans are hard to believe, often because they seem so utterly foolish.

Just stop and think about God's plan of salvation. God knows that our biggest obstacle in life is sin, which separates us from his presence. We regularly praise God for sending Jesus to die on a cross, rise from the dead and take away our sin. But it's really foolish when you think about it. We gather each week to praise and remember some guy, battered and bloody, who died gasping from breath while nailed to a cross for crimes against the state and his own religion. His closest friends abandoned him in his time of need. They forgot all about him and fled to save their own hides. But still we remember him. And not only that, we claim that his dead guy came back to life and then a few days later got beamed up to heaven. You see how ridiculous this message can sound? But God's plan is for us to find hope in that story, so that we might receive new life in Christ.

And how about the unusual ways God tells us to approach our Jerichos? Instead of going it alone, God calls us to be baptized so that we may belong to a covenant family. Instead of devising our own schemes, God tells us to submit our problems to him in prayer, and he will answer. Jesus encourages us to find peace through loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us. Even more, God calls us to live lifestyles of holiness and modesty, honesty, faithfulness, and trust. It goes against everything the world stands for. Behavior like this makes us look like dimwits or outcasts ‑ fools for Christ. Our text from 1 Corinthians reminds us that God chooses what is foolish to shame those who think they are wise. God chooses the avenue of weakness to shame those who think they are strong on their own. God chooses ways that seem lowly so that we can't boast of anything except Jesus Christ and the redemption we can experience through him. God uses his unusual methods to destroy the obstacles to his presence, change lives, to give his people hope, to heal our wounds and lift our burdens.

How do you respond to the seemingly foolish requests of God? Joshua gives us one model. To Joshua's credit, he accepted God's unusual plans without argument. Without a second thought, he put God's orders into action. Why would he do this? The only answer I can come up with is because of faith. In fact, Hebrews 11:30 confirms that by faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. Faith is having complete confidence or trust that God will do what he promises, even if God's methods don't make sense. And because of faith, Joshua made sure that the strategy of God was followed to the letter.

There has never been a time when God has expected anything less than full obedience. Like Joshua, our obedience calls for faith ‑ an earnest trust that God will help us face the obstacles in our lives. And even more, as we face them obediently, we will see God clear the path for us. So let me ask you, how's jour faith? Are you tired of facing the Jerichos of your life alone? God is ready to take the walls of sin and temptation, or grief, or loneliness, or broken relationships, and clear a path through them so that you may have hope for the future.

What stands in the way to experiencing all that God has for you? I encourage you to continually hand them over to God, and be open to his unusual plans to make a path through them, even if they seem foolish.

Sermon for January 21, 2018

How Far Would You Go? 1 Samuel 17 I had a sermon all ready to go today. It was a NICE sermon. You would have felt really good about i...