Thursday, April 28, 2005

The spiritual sin of schadenfreude

Ok I admit it, I like big words! Chambers defines schadenfreude as “malicious pleasure in the misfortune of others.” I guess I have to admit that this is a sin I can struggle with, but I fairly sure I’m not the only one!

I’ve been think a lot recently about the nature of love and the quality of love that God desires to form in us.

Perhaps the most profound of meditations on love that can be found in the pages of the New Testament comes from 1 Corinthians 13. They are words which many know so well. Verse six of that passage unmasks this often secret and malicious pleasure as unloving and sinful as it says of love “it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” E.S.V.

I’ve pondered on the reasons for this inward smugness at the misfortune of another for a while. I suspect that the temptation to feel like this comes because the fall or failure of another makes me feel somehow better about myself.

Of course I do not say that as a means of self justification, I fully acknowledge this attitude as sinful. Indeed I want to understand how to overcome it. I am increasingly convinced that formation of a loving character in us is directly linked to our appreciation for and experience of God’s love for us.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 E.S.V.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I need a miracle...

...and so do you!

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father... …that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you... …know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."

Taken from Ephesians 3:14-20 E.S.V.

It’s one of the best know and loved prayers in the New Testament, and yet its so easy to fail to notice that this is a prayer for the impossible! Paul tells his friends in the church in Ephesus that he is praying for them, and he tells them what he is praying for them. Here he tells them that he is praying for them to know something which is impossible to know! He is praying that they “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” Paul is praying for nothing less than a miracle.

Experience, understanding and knowledge of the love of Christ cannot come simply from reason or logic. The vastness and wonder of the love of Christ demands that we look for help outside of ourselves. The self contained and self sufficient spiritual life will never and can never know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Only the heart open to the whisperings and workings of God the Holy Spirit can know the love of Christ, for to know the love of Christ demands a miracle of revelation.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Sermon Summary: The sign on the door of the church.

This is a message summary. The message was given to the Annual Church Meeting Sunday morning service. 24th April 2005

Presentation1

In preparation for this morning, I’ve been asking myself what sign will we hang on the church door? This morning I want to hang some signs on our door. Two of them don’t belong, but we need to make sure that the third is always there. As we do that, I want us to read three passages of scripture together. Here is the first, it’s 1 Peter 2:4-5 9-12

The first sign that doesn’t belong is a “For Sale” sign. When you sell something, you let go of what you have for a price.

This sign doesn’t belong for two reasons. Firstly, it does not belong because we must never sell out on what we believe, because what we believe defines who we are.

Notice how the passage I read says a lot about who we are. We are living stones being built into a spiritual house, we are holy priests, we are a chosen race, (spiritually) we are royal priests, we are a holy nation and we are God’s people. All that depends on certain convictions about who God is, and how he relates to us.

So who we are is defined by what we believe. What we have in common is what we believe. We are a family because of what we believe.

Secondly the “For Sale” sign does not belong because we are not going to sell out on the issue of Christian behaviour. I have a conviction that what we believe should make a difference to how we behave. Looking at this passage, let me give you four reasons why we can’t and won’t sell out on the issue of Christian behaviour.


  1. Verse 9 says “You are a holy nation” We can’t sell out because God made us holy and calls us to be holy.
  2. Verse 10 says that we have received mercy. We can’t sell out because to do so would be to trample of God’s mercy.
  3. Selling out on behaviour is spiritually perilous and destructive. The passions of the flesh wage war against your soul. V11.
  4. We can’t sell out because honourable lifestyle honours God. V 12

A couple of weeks ago I put up this list on a Sunday evening and preached on values for serving in Priory Street. I commend them because when we embrace them we honour God.

We will value:

  • Bold faith
  • Humble service
  • Christ like love
  • Joyful attitude
  • Honest communication
  • Personal purity
  • Spiritual Surrender

The second sign that doesn’t belong is the “Do not disturb sign” As a church we won’t be putting out the do not disturb sign. Let’s read from the Bible again, this time we are in the Old Testament and this is Numbers 9:15-18

Some months ago I was reading this passage and it really spoke to me about the nature of life with God. Some of you will remember that a number of years ago the theme of our church holiday had to do with God’s people leaving Egypt and travelling to the Promised Land, and we called it “Camping with God.”

One of the things we see in this passage is that for God’s people change could come at any minute, or it might not! That’s up to God. The people moved not when it was logical to do so, not when they wanted to, but when God moved.

One of the mistakes we could make would be to put out the “Do not disturb sign” I guess that after a few days, for God’s people camp could get pretty comfortable, but when God moved on you moved on.

And after a couple of months in the same place, I guess it could get pretty boring, but if God stayed, you stayed.

I think this coming year could be a year in which we experience some change. We have talked about going to two morning services. Will we do that this year? I honestly don’t know. I do know that we need to be ready to do that if that is what God is saying, and ready not to if that is not what he is saying.

We will be bringing to you certain proposals about the way in which the church is led, and some are already working through the uncomfortable aspects of that change.

Finally, and this brings us on to our last sign, I sense at the moment that God is saying something about the way in which we do Sunday morning services in particular. I feel really challenged to seek to make our morning services a place where people who are far from God and people who have know God and walked with him for years can have profound life changing experiences. And there are elements of change involved with that.

So here is the sign that we need to make sure is always on the door. The “Welcome” sign. You know it’s one thing to put the sign up, it’s another thing to do everything in your power to make sure that you mean it.

When you welcome someone into your home, it affects the way in which you behave. You go out of your way to make them feel at home.

I want us to read two things that Jesus had to say Lets read Luke 5:27-32 and then Luke 19:10.

Jesus sees his mission not in terms of being with and ministering to spiritual people but in terms of ministering to those who were far from God.

What Jesus seemed to be able to do is both attract people who were far from God and train disciples, and his whole ministry was strategically focussed around that task.

Now I think as a church I think we have a pretty good understanding of God’s heart for people who are far from him. What I am saying is that we need to work really hard to make sure that the welcome sign stays on the door.

That has implications for the way in which we do a whole load of things. It has implications for what I preach, and how I preach. It has implications for worship, it has implications for stewarding, for projecting, for where you park your car, for who you talk to after services.

In conclusion then we must ensure that the “For Sale” sign never goes up at Priory Street. We must not put up a “Do not disturb” sign, but we must ensure that the “Welcome” sign is always up.

How not to be a Pharisee Part 3 of 3

.....continued from part 2.

Fifth, if you don’t want to be like the Pharisees, be prepared to respond to a rebuke. In Mat 15:12-14 Jesus is confronted by a concerned delegation of disciples, who are worried that Jesus has offended the Pharisees.

Jesus response is "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit."

The tragedy is that the Pharisees had the opportunity to repent, but were unwilling to do so and had become hardened in their thinking.

Here again is a moment for self evaluation. How willing am I to take correction from others? How correctable am I? How do I respond to a right rebuke? Is my response characterized by self justification or contrition and repentance?

Finally, if you don’t want to be like the Pharisees, don’t major on the minor and neglect the major. In Mat 23:23 Jesus says "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

It’s not that God doesn’t care about the small things, if you read on in the passage you will see that he does, it’s that God really is concerned about big things like justice and mercy and faithfulness.

Here is a final moment for self evaluation. How are you doing in the whole area of justice, mercy, faithfulness?

In conclusion, the Pharisees warn us of the spiritual perils that so easily ensnare those who would seek to glorify God. One of the great prayers of the Bible is found at the end of Psalm 139:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

What a great prayer to pray, seeking God’s help to keep walking in the everlasting way.

All scripture quotations in this series of articles are taken from the English Standard Version.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

How not to be a Pharisee Part 2 of 3

.......continued from part 1.

Thirdly, if you don’t want to be like the Pharisees, beware of becoming small hearted. One Sabbath day, Jesus was in the temple where there was a man with a withered hand. The small hearted Pharisees were more concerned about the theological legitimacy of healing on the Sabbath, than the man’s very real need. Jesus insisted that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath and healed the man. You can read the story in Mat 12:10-14. As a result of the healing, the Pharisees began to plot and plan to destroy Jesus.

That the Pharisees were more concerned about a point of law than on human need is for us a warning. Which has the louder voice in our hearts, the letter of the law or compassion for those in need?

Fourth, if you don’t want to be like the Pharisees, take the Bible far more seriously than you take tradition. In Mat 15:1-6 we read of how “ Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat." Jesus responds by challenging their own warping of the Word of God in their tradition. Jesus accusation is that “for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.”

The danger is that tradition becomes for God’s people a distorting lens. We get used to reading scripture through the lens of our tradition, experience and expectations.

Here is the opportunity for a moment of self evaluation. These days, are you more, or less, inclined to accept the Bible as the Word of God than you have been in the past? Are inclined to accept the Word of God as the Word of God and be submissive to it, or are you inclined to rage and battle against it?

continues...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

How not to be a Pharisee Part 1 of 3

Jesus said “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Mathew 16:11

Some time ago I looked through Mathews gospel and tried to note the aspects of the behavior of the Pharisees that I need to avoid. Here are some of them.

Firstly, If you don’t want to be like the Pharisees, make sure that you are walking in fruitful repentance. Jesus says to the pharisees in Mat 3:7-8 "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”

Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees because although they come and submit to John’s baptism there is no evidence of a change of heart in the way that they live. We need to be careful not to look to outward signs to justify the legitimacy of our discipleship, it is what is in our hearts, and comes from our hearts, that testifies to a real change having taken place. From time to time I need to ask myself How I am doing in cultivating a heart characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Secondly, if you don’t want to be like the Pharisees, make sure you avoid spiritual superiority. Mat 9:11-13 reads: "And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

Now I have a responsibility to avoid spiritual superiority myself when I evaluate the Pharisees! How can I avoid the very pitfall I notice? I have a responsibility to evaluate myself before God, to invite God to know and test my heart, and I have to be very careful about judging others.
It does my soul good to remember that in the eyes of God I am unacceptable, unholy and unworthy except for grace, and in only in grace am I a saint.

Continues soon.....

The Lord is my shepherd...

IMG_2223

These words of David are perhaps one of the most comforting parts of the Bible. "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."

With its confidence in the presence of God even in the darkest places of life, the 23rd Psalm is one turned to by many in times of difficulty. But do these well loved words have more to say?

I was leading worship on Sunday night, when for some reason I found myself thinking that the good shepherd does more than simply comfort the sheep.

We know that in Jewish culture the sheep were not herded, but responded to and followed the voice of the shepherd. The Psalm recognises that this shepherd leads beside still waters, and leads in paths of righteousness.

I like Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of verse 3; “True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction”

On Sunday night I asked the congregation “Do you want a shepherd?” Most of us want a shepherd who comforts, but do we want a shepherd who guides? If the answer is yes then we must be sensitive to the voice of the shepherd in all its tones. The good shepherd comforts, directs, guides and from time to time rebukes his sheep. Those who hear his voice and respond are able to share in David’s confidence as they say; “The Lord is my shepherd!”

Monday, April 18, 2005

Sermon Text: Lessons on leadership from the church at Ephesus.

This morning, I’m going to tell the story of the church at Ephesus, and as we go through, we are going to be looking for lessons that we can learn about church leadership. The reason for doing this, is that as I have mentioned we are going to be suggesting a modification to our model of leadership and I want to share some of the Biblical basis for that change.

Four things you need to know about Ephesus

  1. Ephesus was a Major city. We are told that it was the fourth largest city in the Roman world.
  2. It was a centre for trade.
  3. It was a cosmopolitan city. There were people from all over the world, including a large Jewish community
  4. It was Religiously significant, dominated by the temple of Artemis (Diana KJV)

In about AD 50 Paul visits Ephesus for the first time with Aquilla and Priscilla. He is on his second missionary journey. You can read about this in Acts 18:18-21. Paul goes into the synagogue and reasons with them but will not stay for a protracted visit. He leaves but Aquilla and Priscilla remain in Ephesus. At this stage there is no mention of any converts.

Some time later Apollos arrives in Ephesus. (Acts 18:24-28) He knows some of the gospel but not all of it, and Aquilla and Priscilla correct him, but he goes off to Achaia.

Then comes one to the key moments in the life of the church at Ephesus When Paul arrives in about AD53 and begins a ministry in the church of Ephesus that lasted about two years. I’m going to read and account of that to you. Acts 19:1-10

  • Paul arrives in Ephesus and finds a small group of disciples (v1) but needs to correct a defective baptism (v 3)
  • The church in Ephesus is now properly established. There are a small group of 12 men (v7)
  • Paul’s three month ministry in the synagogue comes to an end (v9) in the face of opposition and Paul hires premises for the growing church. (v9)
  • Paul exercises a two year ministry with remarkable impact. (v10)
  • The ministry described (vs11-20) has the characteristics of revival with considerable power evident, and considerable growth.
  • The economic impact of the growth of the church, brings to an end the population’s tolerance of the work. (v23-29)
  • The controversy eventually leads to Paul’s departure (20:1) but he had already been intending to leave (v21).

Now we need to make an assumption in order to make sense of the next waypoint in the church at Ephesus. Paul now goes off on his third missionary journey, and he is leaving a two year old, large and vibrant church.

This is the assumption: During his ministry in Ephesus, Paul selected and trained a group of ‘elders’ to oversee the church in Ephesus in his absence. You might say it’s a big guess, but here are my reasons for thinking that it was so.

  • It was Paul’s normal practice to appoint elders in the churches that he founded before he came to Ephesus. Act 14:23 "And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed."
  • This was probably because there were Elders in the church at Jerusalem. Act 15:2 "And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question."
  • The elders in Jerusalem shared in decision making with the Apostles. Act 15:6 "The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter."
  • We know there were elders in the church at Ephesus about a year and a half later when Paul met with them on his way to Rome.

I’d like you to turn to Acts 20, and I’m going to read from verse 17 to the end of the chapter. I think this is quite a moving passage. Here Paul is saying goodbye to friends that he has made in the church at Ephesus, and they know that in this life they will not see one another again.

I want to draw your attention to Acts 20:28-35, where Paul charges the elders of the church at Ephesus with certain responsibilities. As we hear him speaking to the elders, so I think we can learn some principles about church leadership for ourselves. But here is my first point. Spiritual leadership matters. As you read these verses thay have an urgency of tone. The task that Paul is giving to these elders is an important task.

Those entrusted with leadership of Jesus’ church must pay careful attention to themselves. Don’t you think that it’s remarkable that Paul starts his address here? One of the things that we will see a number of times today is that for leaders, character matters.

The leaders are to pay careful attention to the flock of which you are “overseers” One of the things that I notice here is that shepherding the flock matters (GK episkopos) v27 You are to watch over the church. What for? Why? Well Paul goes on.Their role is to shepherd the flock (GK poimainō) the word having the sense of tend or feed. As a shepherd cares for the flock so these elders are to care for the flock of God. They are to ensure that God’s flock is fed, this being the literal meaning of the word. And as we see in a moment they are to see that the flock is protected from wild animals.

Paul warns that “fierce wolves” will come in and will not spare the flock. The implication being that damage will be done. Paul anticipates that some of those in the church, possibly even some of those who are being addressed will be “speaking twisted things” which will be attractive and will “draw away disciples after them.” With these words we are able to better understand the nature of the “fierce wolves” against which Paul warns. He anticipates that their ravages are principally doctrinal in nature. So elders are to protect the church from the ravages of false doctrine. This is so likely says Paul and so the elders are commanded to be alert. I see here that truth matters

Paul commends them to God and to his word which is able to build them up. We have said that character matters, now I want you to see that spirituality matters These leaders must be people of the word or they will not be able to resist the ravages of the wolves.

Having spoken to the Elders, Paul continues his journey to Jerusalem and then on to Rome.

The next point at which we know something about what is going on in the church at Ephesus is when Paul writes them a letter in about AD60. Now I don’t have time to read you the whole of the letter to the Ephesians, but what is interesting is that if you read the letter you will see that Paul’s fears for the church were not without foundation. In fact I would suggest that you can sense that there is trouble brewing in the Church at Ephesus.

I want to draw your attention to Ephesians 4:11-14. Now the emphasis in Ephesians is on the role of the leaders that God has given to the church. Here we see that the ministry of the church matters. Verse11 says that the role of the apostles prophets evangelists, pastors and teachers is to prepare the church, God’s people, for works of service.

In verse 13, we see that as theses leaders exercise their ministry, the church should be built up so that there is unity, because unity matters. The problems in the church that jeopardized their unity were probably partly down to disagreement on doctrinal issues, and as we read on we see that truth (still) matters. In verse 14 it is expected that the outcome of the ministry of these leaders will involve doctrinal maturity and stability.

The thing that concerns me as I think about the church in Ephesus, is how a church that has seen God’s blessing in remarkable ways can begin to have real issues. This is now perhaps five years since Paul had concluded his ministry in Ephesus and already there are signs of problems.

Now finally I want you to turn with me to 1 Timothy. Paul probably wrote to Timothy in about AD 64 from prison. Timothy has been left in Ephesus perhaps because Paul anticipated trouble in the church. Now there are real problems with the church in Ephesus. The main issues that the letter addresses are the teaching of false doctrine and strange practices. (See 1:3-7, 1:19, 4:1-5, 6:2-5)

In the light of these pressures Timothy is to appoint leaders of character and to set an example to the flock (4:11-16):

Turn with me to chapter 3, and we will read verses 1-7. Here, Paul eager to deal with the problems in the Ephesian church tells Timothy the kind of people that are suitable to serve as overseers. (I think this is the same as elders.) The majority of the list concerns the character of prospective candidates, because character (still) matters.

Paul is not only concerned with character, but he knows how important that is. He also insists that elders are able to teach. Alongside character, competence matters.

Finally I want to suggest to you from this passage that the testing of character matters. If leaders are to demonstrate certain character traits and competencies then it is vital that there be some process of testing where any candidate for this kind of leadership is evaluated in the light of those requirements.

So there you have it, nine things that matter when we think about leadership in the church.

  1. Spiritual Leadership Matters
  2. Character Matters
  3. Shepherding the flock Matters
  4. Truth Matters
  5. Spirituality Matters
  6. The ministry of the church matters
  7. Unity Matters
  8. Competence Matters
  9. Testing Matters

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Ever feel like giving up?

Ever feel like giving up? Ever feel like it’s all a waste of time? Ever feel that your hard work makes no difference?

I suspect that for most who pour time and energy into the ministry of a local church there are times of discouragement when its hard to see fruit, and the temptation is to pack it all in. Here is a great verse to hold on to in times of discouragement:

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 E.S.V.

The verse is an impassioned call to faithful and determined continuation in the service of the master even in the face of discouragement and opposition. I suppose that from the place of despair someone might ask “How can I know that my labour is not in vain.”

This verse is one of those verses beginning with the word “therefore” and so its contents depend on the principles expressed in the previous verses.

In this case the reason for confidence is the complete victory of Jesus Christ. Your labour in the Lord can never be in vain because it is “in the Lord” who is victorious even over sin and death.

Recently, anticipating that such a time might come along, I committed this encouraging verse to memory. It’s a great one to lock away in your mind, sharpening your sword ready to do battle in the day of discouragement.

I’ll end with the verse again, this time from The Message: “With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

WWJD or HDJL?

What would Jesus do? Or How did Jesus Live? Of course “What would Jesus do?” is a great question to ask in any situation. If we are going to spiritually in the place to ask the question, and more importantly answer it correctly, it’s important that we also ask “How Did Jesus Live?”

Some time ago I sat down a read through Mark’s gospel. I wanted to particularly notice what Mark had to say about the spiritual life of Jesus. I discovered that Jesus lived an intentional spiritual life, insisting on taking time out to be with the Father even in the context of busy and effective ministry, sometimes to the consternation of the disciples. I noticed that Jesus recognised the reality of weariness and was willing to take time out in order to rest. I noticed that Jesus too found that from time to time his space for retreat suffered intrusion. (Check out Mark 1:35-39, 6:31-34)

It’s the robustness of Jesus’ spiritual life that maintains the ongoing fruitfulness of his ministry. Jesus takes a time of retreat in Mark 1:35-39. Mark hints that the disciples were a little surprised to find him unavailable for ministry, but Jesus tells them that they must go on to preach elsewhere “for that is what I came for.”

Fruitfulness is not so much the result of strenuous activity as of rightly applied effort. Fruitfulness results not so much from hectic activity in the name of the Father as being about the Fathers business.

I find that I need to keep reminding myself that If Jesus needed to take time out to be with the Father then so do I. If Jesus needed to rest then so do I. If Jesus needed to be still and be clear on his sense of calling then so do I.

Do you want to be fruitful in the master’s service? Do you want to honour Jesus by asking WWJD? Then keep asking HDJL!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Why was there a towel on the cross this Easter?


Posted by Hello

This Good Friday there was a towel hung over the cross.

Earlier in the week we had shared a meal together and shared in worship. At the front of the church worship space, the cross had been erected for the following weekend. As part of our worship that evening, I placed a towel on the cross and shared from John 13, reading the following words:

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
John 13:3-5 E.S.V.

What a proof of Jesus’ willingness to be a servant! Sometimes, I have encouraged people to serve because of the sense of self fulfillment that comes from discovering and using their spiritual gift, but here we find Jesus showing us another model that challenges our motives for Christian service. Jesus takes up the towel and serves. Jesus ministers to his disciples in a menial task that Peter knew was beneath him.

It’s not that I don’t think that Christian service should be rewarding, just that I suspect that the most rewarding service is that which is offered from a heart that desires to pick up the towel and serve in humility that is ultimately most rewarding.

Jesus presents those who would love him and be like him with a wonderful example. Will we pick up the towel and simply serve? That’s why there was a towel on the cross this Easter.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Church resources:Have you tried OpenOffice?

I've moved this article to the sister site http://eikonresources.blogspot.com//

I'll keep this site for sermons and devotionals. Check out eikon resources for information about using computers in the church, photos and powerpoint backgrounds etc.

Sermon outline: Piling up Stones

This sermon was preached on Sunday 10th April in the Morning Service. The following is a sermon outline. As such it's not intended to be read as an article!

Joshua Chapter 4:1-9

Introduction

  • Where we are going in the next couple of weeks.
  • Setting the scene: God's people have followed through the wilderness and now they stand at the edge of the promised land and on the brink of the Jordan river. In order to be obedient to God's call now they we need to cross over.
  • Joshua Chapter 3 tells us what God will do for his people. God promises that as the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the covenant enter the Jordan so the river will be "cut off from flowing." (3v13)
  • The priests enter the river and the river bed becomes dry. As the priests stand in the bed of the river, God's people are able to cross over on dry ground.
  • Now read Joshua 4:1-9

Main point: The importance of spiritual waypoints. In Joshua Chapter 4 we find God's people setting up a spiritual waypoint.

  • What do I mean by a Spiritual waypoint? ** GPS Waypoints. Mark something, remember something, recover something, revisit something, find your direction. I will return to this later.

  • The people take twelve stones from the bed of the Jordan and set them up on the edge of river in the place where they have camped.

  • What is going on?

  • We are told the reason for this pile of stones in v 6, and v 21. These stones are to be a memorial. A permanent reminder that God had acted in miraculous power for them.

  • This was a place where God had acted for them.

  • These stones were from the bottom of the river (How do you do that?)

  • These stones are from the place where God was (Where the feet of the priests carrying the ark had stood (v3) God had been with them in the crossing of the river.

  • These stones are a reminder of their calling. Here God had made it possible for them to obey him and enter into their calling to inhabit and subdue the promised land.

As I read on through the book of Joshua I noticed that there are other piles of stones:

  • A pile of stones to mark a place of sin and rebellion against God. Joshua 7 tells of a pile of stones raised over the body of Achan, punished for his sin against God. A pile we are told that is "there to this day" (Compare with 4:9)

  • A pile of stones to mark victory in a place of previous failure. Joshua 8 tells of final victory over the city of Ai, and of the burial of the king of Ai under a pile of stones, that "stands there to this day"

  • A mound of stones to worship God and celebrate covenant. The later part of Joshua 8 tells of the building of an altar of unworked stones. It is a pile of stones, but in some ways does not fit the patter of the other mounds. (There is no ‘remains to this day’ or similar comment) Nevertheless it does serve as a Spiritual waypoint. Joshua writes the law on the altar.

  • A pile of stones to mark a place of victory over enemies and a time of threat. Joshua 10 tells the story of the defeat of the five Amorite kings. Their bodies are placed in a cave and a pile of stones erected that “remains to this day”

  • A pile of stones to remind Israel to be faithful to God. Again the account in Joshua 24 of Joshua erecting a stone as one of his final acts does not follow the pattern of the other accounts, but the purpose is that it should act as a spiritual waypoint. It is to remind Israel to be faithful to God and not to “deal falsely with your God”

Main point: The importance to us of spiritual waypoints as places for us to Mark something, remember something, recover something, revisit something, find your direction, and make decisions about direction.

What are these waypoints for?

Encouragement

Define us

Places of decision

Places of hope

Places of conviction

Reminders for behavior

Places of warning – sin and the consequences

Places that stir our faith.

Some comments about building waypoints, or what waypoints can we build.

  • Communion. We have been thinking about how God’s word commands us to remember as we take communion.
  • Baptism functions as a waypoint. It means so much more, but it is a way of marking a transition.
  • Writing it down. Encourage people wrestling with the calling of God, seeing God’s powerful intervention in their lives to write it down. So that it’s something to come back to. Did Israel ever think “Does God really want us here?” “Is God really with us?”
  • Taking time to remember. The value of thinking back and recognizing places where God has been at work as a way of finding courage and direction for now. The old hymn “Count your blessings” God has built the places where waypoints ought to bebilt, and all we need to do is visit.

Time of reflection

A time of being still before God to take notice of the spiritual waypoints in our lives. Pray to Invite God by his spirit to remind us of the places where he has been at work in our lives.

  • Remember when you became a believer

  • Remember when you were baptized

  • Remember a place of God’s calling. Remember how he opened the door for you to respond.

  • Remember a place of God’s power.

  • Remember a place of sin. A place of grace and forgiveness and restoration.

  • Remember a place of victory over enemies.

  • Remember a place where you met with God

  • Remember a place where God has spoken to you in his word. A place where he called you to fidelity.

Respond in prayer and song