Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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19 Winning the War on Worry – Part 1

Joshua 1:1-9

“After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. 3 I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you— 4 from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea[a] in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ 5 No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.6 “Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. 8 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. 9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

The book of Joshua begins with the announcement of Moses death and God’s direction for His people. It’s here than we come to a season of change, which for many is unnerving because it can create a feeling of uncertainty. We like our comfortable, and we like control, so change can create fear. But our security doesn’t come from our comfortable problem free circumstances it comes from Christ. The death of Moses could have been an unnerving and chaotic time and its here in the midst of what looks like a loss of leadership that God calls Joshua to step up and serve. Joshua had a choice he could focus on the problem and panic or on God’s plan and experience peace. Fear comes when we choose to focus on the problem instead of the plan. So God calls Joshua to cultivate courage, to call the people together and cross over into Canaan. Remember Joshua is now about 80-years-old, and this call to lead the people across the Jordan to possess the Promised Land probably has him scared. As Joshua looks at the river in full flood stage he is probable feeling uncertain about success and as he looks at the masses of problematic people he is probably feeling a little insecure. Moses has always been “the man” so to speak but now he is dead. God is calling Joshua to step into and fill some pretty big sandals, after all Moses would have been a pretty big act to follow. But it’s here where we are reminded that Moses wasn’t the act, God was. Notice here that when we are following the Lord there is never a loss of leadership, but when we put our faith in “a man” we are always destined to fail because man will always die. Are you following a plan that is destined to die or are you following the Deity? Joshua has a choice here, he can look to God and find courage or look to his circumstances and cower. The real question for us is this, “do we want to live a life of courage or be a coward?” Look living a courageous life comes with challenges but being a coward means continual caving to the challenges. Two different times God calls Joshua to: “Be strong and courageous” (1:6, 9) and in Joshua 1:7 God calls him to be “very courageous.” The root for courage is the word encouragement, which literally means, “to put heart into.” Because God has called us to a life of faithfulness not fretting He calls us out of fear by filling our hearts with courage. Courage doesn’t just displace fear it dispels the fear. This call to courage is also seen in the new Testament where we see very similar words spoken to young pastor Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power…” The challenge that they faced wasn’t just because of a change in leadership, but also a change in where they had been living. God’s plan involves moving them from wondering in the wilderness to possessing the promise. Yet most of their knowledge about the Promise Land would have come from the scary stories that their forefathers would have told them about fearful giants. While the wilderness wandering would not have been fun this crossing over into Canaan would have been fearful. But God doesn’t set His people free from slavery to sit on the sidelines stuck in the desert; He calls us to a successful and significant life. They had gone from slavery in Egypt to disappointment in the desert because they doubted God, but now they were on the verge of victory if they would be willing to walk by faith and not in fear. As people we tend to fear change but notice that this whole story is one of change, from slavery to success. When Christ is in the change we don’t have to fear because He will always take us from heartbreak to hope. The change that God’s children experienced in the Old Testament is the same change we experience today. It’s a change we call conversion, from being a slave to being set free. Egypt is a picture that portrays the pain of sin and suffering. It’s the land of the lost where Pharaoh holds us in bondage. Egypt represents a picture of the world, a picture of the lost person who is bound by sin and broken by Satan. But into this cruel culture comes the Passover Lamb who covers the sins of His people and parts the Red Sea, opening a pathway from captivity to Canaan. Just like them I too was held captive in the far country, I was a slave to sin, but Jesus paid the price on the cross for my sins and set me free. He made a way out of wickedness and into a new life filled with power and promise. Yet instead of pursuing the promise most of the Israelites that left Egypt never made it into Canaan. This is where we come to the carnal experience where we end up wondered in the wilderness instead of living the life the Lord intends. Today many who call themselves Christians have become content with trying to carve out a living in the wilderness. They have been saved by Christ but instead of partaking of the promise they have sold themselves short of His plan. These are the carnal Christians who claim Christ but cling to the culture. God’s plan was not to save us from slavery only for us to get caught up in the carnal. God’s plan involves calling us out of the chaos of sin and into Canaan. Our conversion experience should not result in a carnal experience, but in a Canaan experience. For the Christian Canaan represents several pictures, first:

  • It represents release

God desires that His people be free from the shackles of sin and know victory in every area of life. That is why Paul wrote, “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” Romans 6:14. The sinner is still bound by Satan and his plans for their life, but the saved are set free to serve the Savior. Not only did Canaan represent release, but:

  • It represents refreshment.

The Israelites ate manna in the wilderness for forty years, every day seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. No one ever woke up wondering what was for breakfast, they knew. Yet God had given them a glimpse into the prolific produce of the Promised Land. It was a land flowing with milk and honey, Canaan represented refreshment a land of plenty. Many of us want to be refreshed, and revived by the power of God yet instead responding to His plan we rebel. We settle for surviving when we should be thriving. Not only did Canaan represent release and refreshment but:

  • It represents rest

The Book of Hebrews calls it the land of rest. It does not mean rest from work but rather rest while you work. Jesus said, “Come to Me . . . and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). While the Israelites had come out of Egypt, they had not experienced rest. Like them we often wandered around in the wilderness, going in circles without purpose instead of pursuing the promise. Many today are worn out because they are living in the worry instead of the promise of His Word. If you want His rest, then you must leave the wilderness, let go of the carnal and cross over into Canaan. Some have been in the wilderness so long that they think being worn out is normal. But wilderness living in not normal, it’s not the life that God planed and provided for you. When someone gets excited about the Word and decides to get serious about serving Jesus we tend to mark them as abnormal. We call them fanatical when in reality this is should be normal behavior for those who call themselves Christ followers. It is the wilderness living that is weird and abnormal not the Christian who is living on fire for God. Today we see getting worked up with worry as normal and being worked up about witnessing and sharing our faith as weird. Many believers are living life backwards; God’s plan is not for us to wander in the wilderness but to camp in Canaan. Are you living in the carnal or in Canaan?  It’s time to stop being a backward believer and start behaving like an image bearer of the King. Because the Kings kids don’t cower they conquer with courage.







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18 Worry Warts – Part 3

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? 31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 But Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

After reminding us that worry is a waste, that worry doesn’t work, that worry causes us to waver and that worry wipes out our witness, Jesus now gives us two principles that if put into practice will help us win the war on worry. First we need to start with:

  • Putting God first

Verse 33 begins with the word “But” revealing the contrast between how many people chose to live and how the Christians are called to live. We are called to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,” seeking here means an intense, single-minded focus. This means making God the goal so that we pursue His plans for life and not what the world tells us will be profitable. It’s in the present imperative revealing that the true antidote to anxiety is to make a daily choice to prioritize God’s kingdom. Instead of making material things the axis on which our lives rotate we’re to make the Master and His kingdom our priority. Now before we continue I need to make it clear that this verse does not teach that having or pursing things is wrong. Scripture is not calling us to spend all of our time or energy only in spiritual pursuits. There is a difference between concern and focus, between our first priority and our responsibility. Jesus says “Seek first,” not let it be the one and only thing you seek. God understands that we need to work and live, He just calls us to center our life on Him and His kingdom as we do it. The real issue becomes who or what is being put first. Because trying to offer God second place is offering Him no place. Now I am going to make a statement that many may not like: most of us are as close to God as we want to be and some are stressed out because they want to be worried. The reason many people are burdened down with worry is because they are seeking everything but God first. Notice the promise that Jesus makes is conditional, if we seek Him first, then all things will be added. If we really want to win against worry, then we have to go after God. Our lives have to revolve around His righteousness not worldly riches. He becomes the center of our universe; so let me ask you, is God your gravitational pull or is it the gold? Is it seeking Him and His kingdom or seeking stuff? This is more than just making God prominent in your life, He must be preeminent. Jesus reveals that there are basically two directions we can focus on and follow in this life. We can pursue and become preoccupied with things as our goal or we can seek first the kingdom and righteousness of God as our goal. Most of us default to giving first priority to self, as a result we go after the material things more than the Master’s things. We end up making self the center of the universe, life ends up revolving around our wants instead of God’s wishes. We end up seeing spiritual things as secondary, so we give them a small sliver of our attention. Like the lost world we go after other things, choosing to place the priority for our energies and efforts into providing for ourselves. We make our primary concern the physical necessities of life instead of God’s kingdom and His righteousness. Notice that our call is composed of two parts, God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness. The word kingdom here is that which recognizes and promotes His rule and reign. So to seek first His kingdom is to seek first His rule, His will and His way. Seeking God’s kingdom is losing ourselves in obedience to the Lord. Paul summed it up in his own life by saying this in Acts 20:24, “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” Seeking first God’s kingdom involves looking for opportunities to pour out and invest our lives into the eternal and not just the earthly. Second we are to seek His righteousness. Righteousness revolves around Christ’s character; it means to have His truth and love manifested in our lives. Just as Romans 14:17 reminds us, “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Instead of looking to and longing after the things of this world, we are to hunger for the things of heaven.  Jesus is teaching us that as Christians we are to establish clear priorities in our lives, and that our first priority must be following Him. Instead of being consumed with worry be concerned with His work. Not only are we to put God first but we must:

  • Place our future in His hands

Jesus goes on to say in verse 34: “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” We are reminded here not to reach into tomorrow and ruin today. Many of us are cooking up trouble in our lives because we are stew about tomorrow. Many people are frozen with fear over what might happen next week or even next year. The truth is today has enough trouble, so we need to stop borrowing bother from tomorrow. If we are not careful we can get so caught up and worried in what might not even happen in the future that we don’t deal with what is happening in the present. There will be plenty of pleasure and pain tomorrow and what we need to do is place ourselves into His hands. Instead of trying to find our hope in what our hands can handle we need to hide in His. Lamentations 3:23 reminds us that God’s mercies “are new every morning.” You can focus on the Almighty or on anxiety? Right now you have a choice, you can live for the spiritual or the secular, you can seek the Messiah or the material, the eternal or the earthly. Do you want to live an anxious life or an awesome one?