Be strong and courageous

The book of Joshua in the Bible starts like this,

“After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of nun, Moses assistant, ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.”

Moses, the inspirational leader, the man who led the people out of captivity is dead, the river Jordan lies before them and the Israelite people are not the most exhilarating company- their preferred method of communication is to moan and grumble.

This is where Joshua finds himself, tasked with leading God’s people into the promised land after forty years of wandering through the wilderness. Challenging stuff, challenging circumstance.

In the first nine verses of Joshua God says this phrase to him three times…YES THREE TIMES…

“Be strong and courageous.”

It’s not because he is hard of hearing it’s because God knows we need reminding to be strong and courageous in light of the challenges of life. We all have ups and downs, mountain top experiences and valley lows- in all these things God wants us to in faith trust him, to be strong, to be courageous.

So then how can we be strong & have courage to face whatever this world throws at us…

1. Promise

God keeps his word, he keeps his promises. This is foundational to having strength and courage. God made promises to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob that his people would be given a land.  Now on the brink of the fulfillment of this promise he reminds Joshua, every place the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you… I keep my word…
We need to know the promises of God for us, the bible is full of them

Come to me all you who are weary, I will give you rest (Matt 11). Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength (Isaiah 40). If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us (1 John 1). If I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me (Psalm 23).

That’s only four of the hundreds of promises that God has made and therefore keeps…

2. Presence

Joshua 1:5 says this,

“Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you…”

God’s presence is key to our strength and courage, not merely knowing in our head that God keep his promise, but knowing in our heart that He is in control and with us.

“You have received the Spirit of adoption of sons, by whom we cry Abba Father! The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” (Romans 8)

God the Holy Spirit testifies to our spirit our soul that we are children of God. If you are assured that God loves you, He goes with you, goes before you, when fear strikes- God has not abandoned you. More ofthen that not we supress God’s spirit, we grieve Him we turn the other way, but if we turn around and live to please God then you will have strength and courage.

3. The Book

The most popular book in the whole world tells us all about who God is and what he has done- the Bible provides the platform and confidence for us to have strength and courage.
Joshua 1:7 “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law. That Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.”

A life that pleases God does not arise from feelings or mystical stuff, it comes from God’s word and obedience to it. Trusting in the relevation of Gods word and living by it pleases God, life in the kingdom of God must be lived out of a love for the word of God- it’s a massive foundation to us having strength and courage. We can’t base our faith on the ever shifting sands of our feelings but on the reliable, trustworthy words of God. The world changes but God doesnt, circumstances come and go, God remains.

So which way you going to go? The world we live in can be hard, it can be difficult to live out our faith, challenges come from every side, but we are called to be strong and courageous… go God’s way… rely on his promises, his presence and his book…

Forkpath

To see a fuller explanation of Joshua 1 check out the message I brought at RK as a part of our Joshua- Taking Ground series.

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Advent- Brokenness Restored

I love Christmas, the season, the build up but I have noticed that it has grown into this picture perfect time of year.
Its not limited to commercialism either, the nativity story has become this lovely story of cute baby Jesus being born, the famous carol Away in a Manger says “Little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” Really?

Jesus was born into a world full of hurt, pain and brokenness. He was born not in a palace but a grimy stable, not to wealthy perfect parents, but to a teenage mum! It was gritty and real.
Christmas is not a time to pretend that everything is okay but a time to be reminded of our saviour, our need for heavens intervention, Jesus the Son of God entering the brokenness of this world because he loves us.
On the cross Jesus takes our sin, our brokenness and restores, through faith in Jesus life is eternally transformed.

The Christmas story, is the story of God’s rescue, of Gods light shining brightly into the darkness.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9.

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Advent Devotional- Hope

If I could sum up what I think about advent I would use the word hope. Not in a wishy-washy ‘I hope this works out’ way, but hope as the bible describes it, the confident expectation of good things to come.

Titus 2:11-13 describes what as Christians we are hoping for:

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

It’s a word to us today to keep going, keep trusting, keep looking up, to be full of hope.  If through hope we can keep looking to Jesus it will give us a heavenly perspective on the ups and downs of life.
As we celebrate advent and remember when Jesus came for the first time, it reminds me that just as God kept his promise to rescue us, he will keep his promise to return & take us home and for that I am full of hope!

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Glory to God

The church which I am involved in leading- Redeemer King is super blessed to have a whole bunch of creative people serving on the team.
They have written and performed this brand new original track called Glory to God.

It’s a really apt title track for our debut EP, the heart behind planting RK was to bring glory to God, so it brings me joy that people within the church are now creatively streching out that others can worship, connect with God and bring him glory.

 

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Tanzania- drawing to a close

I am sat looking at Lake Malawi- one of Africa’s Great Lakes. Some argue it belongs to Tanzania others Malawi in fact there is an on going international dispute as to where the border is. For the purposes of me seeing a different country lets say it is Malawi. 

Kyela is the last location for the pastors conferences that I have taken part in(where I am now) and that takes place tomorrow. Today has been a travel and rest day, we travelled 30km on a dusty rocky road which reminded me of some  of the roads you would see the old top gear boys on- it took a while! But boy was it worth it. Lake Malawi, washing up against the feet of the Livingstone mountain range- an obvious reminder of the beauty of our planet and how awesome our creator is. The fact is we don’t have to look far, whether it’s the night sky or each and every person we see, we should see the beauty of creation and of course it’s creator, but sometimes something spectacular brings it all into focus. 

It’s a real honour to be able to serve The Lord in this part of the world and I am thankful for my prayerful supportive church family for making this possible, I hope not only will this time impact the pastors here but my heart and I hope our church too. 

To date we (that’s me and my Father in law) have done four conferences in Mbozi, Tunduma, Mbeya and Tukuyu. Each conference has around three to three and a half hours of bible teaching plus a lunch which we provide for all the pastors. The food provided for them is a real treat- rice, sauce and meat, it may sound standard but for most it is a meal they at most may enjoy once a month. 

I have so far taught from Exodus, Luke and Romans 12 with Peter focussing on Matthew 16 and the book of Titus. Romans 12 has been great as I have explored with the pastors that the gospel message should shape our life and our faith should shape our actions. Many of the pastors think you have to earn Gods favour through works, where as the book of Romans teaches that because of Gods mercy and grace to us in sending Jesus to die in our place we can be made right with God- and because of this we should and can live in such a way to bring him glory, we can draw attention to Jesus with the way we conduct ourselves in this world. 

The pastors, churches and families we have seen and ministered too have been so thankful- some of them remembered me from three years ago so it was great to see those guys again alongside many new faces, they have been incredibly welcoming and hungry to know more of The Lord – they rarely get any bible teaching– so it is awesome to be able to share that and show them the gospel. Many of them are experts on creation or the last days but the heart of the bible is the revelation of Jesus Christ as Gods son and him coming to rescue us- that gospel (good news) message is what we have been sharing time and again- if the pastors get that, then so do their churches! It’s this message that transforms and saves lives not whether we believe in six literal days of creation or not!

It has been a joy to be here and as this trip to Tanzania draws to a close I pray that the effect of the teaching on the pastors and churches would bear lasting fruit in seeing the kingdom of God advance and multiply in South West Tanzania. 

There’s so much more to say and of course to do, but for now… This time draws to a close. 

   
 

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Jambo Jambo 

Hi everyone, I have arrived in South West Tanzania and all is  well. Today we took our first pastors conference in a town called Mbozi, it is south of Mbeya on the way to Zambia just off the great north road which runs the length of Africa. 

Around 25 pastors from villages all around turned up and we got to share the good news of Jesus with them encouraging them in their faith. None of them have had any training, they have zero resources , no access to any books or online stuff so they were incredibly thankful. It’s an incredible privilege to be able to share a little. 

I am now in the city of Tunduma (right on the Zambia border) tomorrow we have another conference with hopefully over fifty local pastors from both Tanzania and Zambia.
Please pray for the next few days I hope to be sharing from Romans 12 on the gospel & living that out and seeing the kingdom advance here in TZ. 

It’s an amazing country and the people so friendly- be amazing to see God move and transform communities In this part of the world. I was going to say beautiful as a landscape but it’s not the serengeti or Mount Kilimanjaro- it’s a dust bowl- a harsh terrain, poor, but full of character! The people, just beautiful their hospitality, kindness and hunger for God should inspire us to greater things. They live out the truth of verses like philippians 3:8,

“I count everything as loss compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

Really humbling. Thanks for reading. 
That’s all for now. Cheers. 

  
 

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Rahab- An unlikely hero.

Life is an adventure, consisting of plenty of ups and downs, good days, bad days, moments of triumph and moments to forget.
How do we retain peace in who we are and what we are here for when our world and our lives are just roller coasters of emotion. How can we have any security & hope for the future based on our past?

As Christians thankfully our identity is not based on our past achievement or failures, consider Rahab.
You can read her story and how the bible comments on her life in Joshua 2, Joshua 6: 22-25Hebrews 11:31 & James 2:25.

Rahab literally means pride, insolence, savagery- hence there’s not many little girls called Rahab, she was a Caananite who were the enemies of Israel and their God, her chosen profession was prostitution- in fact it’s debated as to whether she was a madam operating a brothel out of her own home, oh and she was a convincing liar. She is not stand out material for hero of the year. Yet, despite all that, her past, her choices, God transforms her life, she puts her trust in God and she goes onto to become the Great Great Grandma of King David, and she appears in the family tree of Jesus as seen in Matthew 1.

She faced a choice as we all do, whose story are we trusting in? Are you defined by your history or by the history of God?
What is your faith borne out of? Is it the greateness of God or faith in our own ability?

This is what it says of Rahab who hid the spies and so saved their lives,

“I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, & that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt…..the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” Joshua 2.

Here is a woman whose own history and life is stacked against her, yet she hears something and acts upon it. Don’t let your past, your darkest present moments continue to be a barrier to God: sin is massive- yet grace goes further, all too often our past is a hang up that minimises grace. Your own history does not shape all you have to offer and all you can be, God’s does.

And his history centres around Jesus the God-man stepping into the breach for you in order to rescue. When Jesus hangs upon a cross- he hangs with the weight of our sin and wrong before God on his shoulders, his death and subsequent ressurection secure a new future for those who put their trust in Jesus, the Bible as God’s story is one that says to you, come home.

So like Rahab, whatever our depths, in faith lets centre on the one who moves mountains, the one who breached the gap between us and God so we could be welcomed into the family of God.

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