Friday, June 28, 2013

A brief reflection on Joshua’s ordination as a leader.

Pastor's notes for the 30 June 2013 bulletin

A brief reflection on Joshua’s ordination as a leader.

In my reading this week, Numbers 27:18-20 caught my special attention. In them Moses is told by God to “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.  Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and you shall commission him in their sight. You shall invest him with some of your authority, that all the congregation of the people of Israel may obey. (ESV)

The phrase in verse 19: “in whom is the Spirit” emphasizes that Joshua position of leadership is God ordained. It marked him out as different from all the many capable leaders of Israel.  It made me ponder again why God chose Joshua to take over from Moses. There were others who were surely eligible for this position. There were for example 70 elders who had experience in leadership, there was Eleazar, Phinehas and even Caleb.
Perhaps the most obvious reason would seem to be that Joshua was a skilled military commander. But it is clear in the book of Joshua that while this may have been so, God was the one who was responsible for the victories using humanly speaking at times using questionable strategies. Before the battle, God sent and angel to Joshua, who identified himself as the Commander of the Lord’s army (Joshua 5:13-15) to make it absolutely clear that God was in charge of the battles not Joshua. And the way their first major victory was won, as was their first defeat made left no doubt about this (read Joshua 6 and 7).
I think though that the most probable (and main) reason was that Joshua was a consistent, humble and faithful assistant to Moses. This is how Exodus 33:11 describes Joshua:
Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.”
The phrase “would not depart from the tent” is very revealing. It is a description of faithfulness to Moses and his responsibility before God. It is a description of humility to take his place outside and not demand to be in the inner circle. It is a description of his consistency to do for around 40 years for remember Joshua was already Moses assistant when Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:13).
Biblical Christian leadership is not primarily about skill and intelligence. It is about faithfulness to God, humility in service and long consistency in doing so.  Jesus himself modelled and taught this.

24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. (Luke 22:24-27)

The common language of brokenness

For the 16 June 2013 bulletin

The common language of brokenness

I read a fascinating story some months back which I filed away that I would like to share. It was about a North Carolina Judge Jesse Caldwell who told a story of Vietnamese woman who was waiting her turn to be examined in a crowded hospital emergency room.

She gradually became aware of a frustrating “non-conversation” being attempted a few seats down. A nurse was trying to ask a new patient for some details on her illness. The patient spoke Spanish. The nurse did not.

The Vietnamese woman listened for a minute then realized that while she didn’t speak Spanish she did understand the broken-English bits and phrases the Spanish speaking patient offered as answers. Because of her own experience of learning to communicate in “broken English,” the Vietnamese woman could hear the heart and gist of what this other woman was trying to say. The Vietnamese woman offered to “translate” the broken English of the Spanish speaker into something the nurse could understand. She was so successful at bridging the brokenness of their languages that eventually the Vietnamese woman was hired by the hospital as a kind of generic translator.

“Broken English” is actually acknowledge as an actual language!

While broken English was clearly the common language of so many hospital patients, there is large common denominator of broken-ness that we all share. All of us at one point of our lives (if not already on numerous occasions) will have our hearts broken as part and parcel of our human experience. While that may not certainly be a comforting thought, what is comforting is that God not only intimately understands broken heartedness, He is able to heal our broken hearts and our broken lives because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross.

Isaiah 53 is just one of many passages in the Bible which reminds us of this. May this passage encourage us to turn to a God who cares in our times of need.

He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
       and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
      Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
       yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
      But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
       upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
      All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
       and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

How do we use the time God has given to us?

For the 9 June 2013 bulletin

How do we use the time God has given to us?

Earlier this week, someone posted on FB a link to a NZ Herald story in which a 19 year old Whangarei man who was "sick of playing Xbox" while on home detention asked and was granted his wish to serve the rest of his sentence in jail. He had already served 10 months of an 11-month home detention term and with one month to go "had run out of Xbox games to play", and told the police that if he wasn't picked up and taken to jail, he would breach his home detention sentence..
Apart from the usual expected incredulous reactions to this story, I found myself wondering how I would spend my time if I could not leave my house for 11 months. Psalm 90:12 came to mind: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom”And it made me wonder: Would I have wasted my time like this young man or would I have been able to use it wisely?
There’s a lot of teaching in the Bible concerning time, but just a couple of thoughts
In the Old Testament, M.H. Cressey in The New Bible Dictionary aptly points out that “ … the most frequent contexts of the words translated ‘times’ and ‘seasons’ suggest a concern for appointed times, the right time, the opportunity for some event or action …. In particular, all these words are used to refer to the times appointed by God, the opportunities given by him (e.g. Dt. 11:14; Ps. 145:15; Is. 49:8; Je. 18:23).”
The start of winter will restrict or take away (for some of us) some of our regular fun daily activities. Cold wet nights for example may “force us” to stay indoors, but surely it should not create a situation where we quickly find ourselves bored or wasting time?. It is a good time to ask God how we should be spending our “home detention”.  Perhaps these times are simply God’s appointed opportunities for us to slow down, or reflect on the direction of our lives and how we use our time?
Paul’s admonishment to us in Ephesians 5:15-17 is worth meditating on.

1Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 

Jesus Loves Me

For the 2nd June 2013 bulletin

Jesus Loves Me

Anna B. Warner, 1820–1915

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. (Luke 18:17)

The story is told of a brilliant professor at Princeton Seminary who always left his graduation class with these words: “Gentlemen, there is still much in this world and in the Bible that I do not understand, but of one thing I am certain—‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so’—and gentlemen, that is sufficient!”

Without doubt the song that has been sung more by children than any other hymn is this simply stated one by Anna Warner. Written in 1860, it is still one of the first hymns taught to new converts in other lands.

Miss Warner wrote this text in collaboration with her sister Susan. It was part of their novel Say and Seal, one of the best selling books of that day. Today few individuals would know or remember the plot of that story, which once stirred the hearts of many readers. But the simple poem spoken by one of the characters, Mr. Linden, as he comforts Johnny Fax, a dying child, still remains the favorite hymn of countless children around the world.

Jesus loves me! this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is strong.

Jesus loves me! loves me still, tho I’m very weak and ill, that I might from sin be free, bled and died upon the tree.

Jesus loves me! He who died heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, let His little child come in.

Jesus loves me! He will stay close beside me all the way. Thou hast bled and died for me; I will henceforth live for Thee.

Chorus: Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

William Bradbury, the composer of the music, was one of the leading contributors to the development of early gospel music in America. He became recognized as one of the pioneers in children’s music both for the church and in the public schools. In 1861 Bradbury composed the music for Anna Warner’s text and personally added the chorus to her four stanzas. The hymn appeared the following year in Bradbury’s hymnal collection, The Golden Sower. It had an immediate response.

For Today: Genesis 33:5; Psalm 127:3; Matthew 11:25; Mark 10:16
“If there is anything that will endure the eye of God, because it still is pure, it is the spirit of a little child, fresh from His hand, and therefore undefiled.” Ask God to give you this kind of spirit.

Source: Osbeck, K. W. (1996). Amazing grace: 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions