“6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Yesterday, Paul and I attended a luncheon of local Douglasville preachers and ministers. A local pastor who served as our host read this passage of scripture from Joshua as a devotional thought to us. I was mediating on this verse this morning and I believe that these words have significance for the leaders of Velocity.
Planting a church is one of the most difficult things to do in ministry. In the same ways that God told Joshua to be “strong and courageous” because the task of leading the people of God into the promise land would be very difficult so it will be for us. I see three keys in this passage:
1)It will take strength and courage if we are to be successful in establishing a church that is concerned about the lost and is outwardly focused. Courage to try something new and out of the ordinary and strength to stick to our convictions and values when we are criticized and challenged.
2) It will force us to “keep the book of the law on our lips; mediating upon it.” Reading and mediating upon scripture is a learned activity and does not come easy. As leaders we must train ourselves to spend time each day connecting with God. I can think of no greater weapon than the Word of God.
3) It will require God to go ahead of us as he did with Joshua. He has already has! Why do we continue to doubt that he is the God who does not go back on his word? Lord I pray that he would increase my faith so that I can pray with confidence that he has given to me all that I ask and require. He has also promised to go with us and tonight at 7pm we will gather as a team to walk and to pray that God will continue to go ahead and with us as we plant Velocity Church. Amen!
As I continue in my reading from the book of Nehemiah, I am struck by a number of things that I read. These include these passages:
“So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.” – Nehemiah 8:2,3
“Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” – Nehemiah 8:5,6
“Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.” – Nehemiah 8:9
- In these passages we see the people of God showing respect, awe, and reverence for scripture in a way that we have lost today. The people were crying when the word of God was read to them! When was the last time that you or I cried when we read God’s word? Notice how Ezra spend the greater part of a whole day reading the scriptures aloud to the people. We often have a hard time reading our Bible’s for five minutes let alone half a day! The people of God in Nehemiah’s time shame us in their there respect and attitude toward the word of God. I pray that I might posses the same approach to God’s word as these people
And one additional insight from Nehemiah:
1 On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and having dust on their heads. 2 Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers. 3 They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the LORD their God. – Nehemiah 9:1-3
- Notice here again the role of scripture but also the elements of worship and of confession. We don’t talk much about confession in the modern church much. Perhaps we are trying to distance ourselves from our Catholic brethren who require it as apart of their tradition and theology. Perhaps we believe that since we are living under grace we do not need to confess our sins. I John says that “if we confess our sins that he is faithful to forgive us.” I believe that is the ideal we are to strive for as followers of Jesus who also taught and spoke to us about confession.
- Worship was such apart of everything that they did in the Old Testament and we have reduced to the hour an a half that we gather together on Sunday morning! Our lives are to be lived in worship and the people of God that we read about in Nehemiah remind and challenge us to live this way.
I thank God for books like Nehemiah who remind us of what is truly important in our guest to be more like Jesus!