Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sermon for LaJunta Church of the Nazarene, Colorado - Sunday, April 11

I had just arrived back at our cabin last Sunday afternoon when I found a note on my facebook from friend Jim Garlow of Skyline Wesleyan Church describing the earthquake that rocked southern California that afternoon. He described running out of the house into the backyard and watching as his house literally moved and water started splashing out of the pool.

One reporter, describing such a quake said: “when the noise and shaking reached their peak, the spectators fell silent.” Such stories carry the spirit and fear of a narrative recorded in Joshua 6.

Now, turn with me to Joshua chapter 6:

Joshua 6:1-5 (NIV)
1 Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. 2 Then the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in."
Joshua 6:12-16 (NIV)
12 Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. 13 The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the LORD and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets kept sounding. 14 So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. 15 On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16 The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, "Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! 
These verses contain one of the stories we learned quickly as children. Not only in verse, but in song. “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumblin’ down.”
There is a bit of romance in our minds as we hear the story over and over. We listen to the words and in our minds we are marching with Joshua. We are on his side in this epic confrontation….for we are on God’s side. We delight at seeing our hero with a much smaller army capture the Canannite city without a blade bring drawn...until after the walls collapsed.

We marvel at the simplicity of the instructions given by God and the willingness of Joshua and his people to carry them out.

And in our day, we’re almost surprised as we see such a vivid portrayal of obedience and cooperation between the clergy (priests) and the laymen. Each group did its assigned job. And this brought about the completion of their objective.  THE TOOK THE CITY.

It’s fun to read the story and let our imaginations paint Technicolor—widescreen—stereo images of what took place.

A rag tag group of refugees cross the Jordan River and immediately they are faced with an enormous obstacle. The City of Jericho. Strong, powerful, imposing.

A fortress with wide walls, tall and strong. Populated with people who not only were good at war, but they seemed to like it.
And our group swarms over the river, waits on a hilltop for spies to Jericho to return and then they plan their assault.
Ah yes! But they were not mapping out strategy alone. Joshua had been spending time with God.  Do you ever wonder where God gets these plans?  “March around the city.” He said, Seven priests, with seven trumpets made from rams horns were followed by the sacred ark of God (a chest containing the 10 commandments, Aarons rod and a container of manna) the armed guard marched ahead of the priests and the rear guard….they followed the ark.

While they marched, the trumpets were sounding. But the people were to remain silent. You do not detect fear or concern on the part of the people. Because they had a promise from God delivered by Joshua “…the Lord has given you the city.”

For six days they circled the city once a day. What a sight. Trumpets blasting, carrying a chest or a trunk around the city.
But the 7th day they got up at day break and marched around the city 7 times. And the 7th time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast Joshua raised his voice to convey instructions to the people….and to remind them of God’s promise.

“SHOUT! For the Lord has given you the city.”

It was a loud shout, a battle cry calculated to instill fear in the enemy.  The people shouted…the walls collapsed…and almost any words used to describe an earthquake would pale into insignificance when compared to the destruction and loss at Jericho.

The city was in shambles, the citizens were in panic and Joshua’s army stormed the walls and took the city.

I have been intrigued by Joshua’s command in verse 16 to “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city.”

I’ve decided that it is an OT way of declaring a NT truth. “We are more than conquerors.”

Joshua told them before the walls ever fell that it was a victory already won. Look closely at his command and I think you might see that he was instructing his people to lift….


The LOUD voices are usually those who say it can’t be done. We are inundated with pessimists. Folks who look on the dark side, at the glass half empty, and see battles lost.

Ah, but God has given you the city…we are more than conquerors.

We have, for too long, been willing to listen to those who are long in the face…the downcast, the pessimist. But I want to tell you something from an “outsiders” point of view. “God has given you the city.”  What a promise.  How that applies to you and your church. This city is yours for the taking. After serving as your interim pastor since the middle of January I’m totally convinced that few churches…anywhere…any size…have ore opportunity than this church.
Folks, you’ve got so much:
·       An excellent young pastor coming.
·       Finances
·       A city that’s large enough to offer a great harvest, and is just waiting for someone to lift the banner and declare war on the enemy and love for folks.
·       Incredible membership of people willing to work. I’ve been so impressed that you haven’t needed a pastor to carry on.
·       Lovely facilities.
·       You have the respect of the community and so many intangibles that money can’t buy.

This city can become a bastion of faith in Almighty God. And they can look to the faithfulness of this fellowship and other churches in town who took God at His word.

Listen, the lost aren’t looking to the church for GOOD ADVICE, they’re looking for GOOD NEWS. And you have that news. You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of or to hang your head about. You’re doing so much better than you think you are.

SHOUT!  A shout of praise, not pessimism, for God has given you the city.

But not only is it a shout of praise, it is also….


At this point in time, Joshua and the boys weren’t looking back to past exploits, and they could have…NO, they were staring a new challenge dead in the face….Jericho. and this challenge was bigger, meaner, tougher more imposing than anything they had faced.
Folks, the only value yesterday may hve had was to give them courage and confidence in a God of infinite variety…who never let them down.

The Christian life is a process. It is a journey. Something we are working on and something we are having worked out in us day after day.

During these days of “retirement” I have been brought back to a verse that has been an anchor for me across the years. Isaiah 43:18 says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! you not perceive it?”

These words  are God’s voice to His people. He didn’t want them to never again embrace fond memories of former glory. NO, the verse is indicating something far more positive than that. When it says, “I am doing a new thing,” those words actually mean, “What I am doing in you and for you and through you will make the former things pale in comparison.

Folks, that’s true of this church. Every pastor who has filled it’s pulpit over the past (how many years) has helped set the course of the church to accomplish new things for God that the former pastor couldn’t or wouldn’t have accomplished. They all had a purpose.

I believe that God is doing a new thing in you and this church and together we can “SHOUT! For God has given you the city.”

“We ARE more than conquerors.”

Finally, it’s….

But this power God has for us is not there so that you will be enabled to do great signs and wonders and all kinds of fabulous, amazing spectacular things so that people will say, “Wow! That’s power!”

John the Baptist performed no recorded miracles yet Jesus called him the greatest man born of woman.

No, this power is amazingly down to earth. We are STRENGTHENED with all power according to His glorious might so that we might have ENDURANCE AND PATIENCE. You can’t get more practical than that.

The power of God is made available to people in great measure in order that they might live purposefully and powerfully down here in the normal circumstances of life

ENDURANCE means God’s power enables me to respond properly to my external circumstances.
Endurance means you’ve got the strength to finis the race and win the prize.
The church is an interesting ORGANIZM. There is often an ebb and flow to church growth and when we find we’re in the “ebb” we can easily panic and wonder if it’s going to be alright.

But listen. God is with YOU. He wants you to win at life and as a church. In fact, He’s done everything in His power to make it happen: “For God so loved the world….”

“SHOUT! For God has given you the city.”

“We are more than conquerors.”

1 comment:

  1. My favorite passage of all time! I love the way you preach it.