Friday 10 February 2012

A home for the Lord (Joshua 24)

  ‘As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’.                             
                       (Joshua 24 v.15)
Joshua was nearing the end of his life, so one day he called the leaders of the people together at Shechem to deliver a final message.  This was a most important place in Jewish history. Abraham had first settled there, Jacob bought land, and Joseph was buried there

Joshua was a great military leader who had served under Moses for forty years and when Moses died he became leader for a further twenty five years. At this time Israel had come to a crucial point in its history. They had faced tyranny in Egypt but God had saved and rescued them, God had given them the land of Canaan a good land flowing with milk and honey, and continually blessed them,  and led them where  they had been able to settle down, but problems had arisen.

As peoples throughout time have behaved, once the hard times were over, they began to fall away from and forget God.  History is full of instances where people have turned to God for His help in times of difficulty, but when He has answered, His usefulness to them has been laid aside. In this case, the Israelites began to fraternise with other peoples so betraying God, and even started to worship idols.     Joshua warned them they were guilty of idolatry told them the faced the wrath of God. 
We all have to make a choice in this life.  Joshua was quite clear he had made one and for Him it was quite definite, he and his family would serve the Lord.  The choice we make will decide our eternal future, so we should think deeply.
Joshua’s words have a resonance for us today. We too have to reflect on our lives and face the choice God gives to us, He gives us free will. Everyone has to decide whether to serve God, or the gods of our time. Life is constantly calling on us to make choices, and God allows us to say either yes or no, but we must face the consequences if we make the wrong decision,.  Many people do not wish to consider, but will one day regret not doing so.  Fundamentally it is a case of serving the Lord or His adversary the devil, and so many people are quite happy to serve the latter.  

We may not have the same idols as gods as did the Jews, but we have our own modern day gods. Whilst many people today may not even have heard of the Ten Commandments, one reminds God said we should have no other gods but Him.

People believe they can do without God.  They live as if there was no tomorrow. We see gluttony, alcohol and drug abuse, and unrestricted sex everywhere.    
Following God is a personal decision you must make for yourself, no one else can make it for you.  It has to be accepted however that it may mean personal sacrifices have to be made, we must remain faithful to Him, and give up doing things which are wrong in His sight. So we must consider our priorities.   

We are facing a time of ungodliness.  On every front there is an anti-Christian bias. Discord and discouragement is being sown in the lives of Christian people.  We have to resist on every front so as to maintain a Christian faith and presence.
 In our schools and universities, and in intellectual circles the Bible is seen as some form of hate literature, and religious studies have to include other faiths in as much, if not more so, than Christianity.
The BBC has appointed people of other faiths to be directors of Christian programmes, and the Church accepts it.  You can be assured they would never appoint a Christian to direct Islamic or Hindu programmes. But that is just the BBC anti Christian bias.

The Courts favour those who challenge Christian expression in every case taken before them and reflect no credit on the judiciary who seem determined to eradicate Christian faith from public life.   

We constantly read and hear reports of young people between the ages of 7 and teenage years terrifying whole neighbourhoods.  They abuse, assault, vandalise and rob at will, and if anyone should remonstrate with them that person runs the risk of stabbing or serious injury. On several occasions men with families have been killed whilst defending their property.  Whole gangs roam the streets seeking confrontation with other gangs and their members, which have cost the lives of substantial number of young men, sometimes innocent victims. 
On so many occasions, broken homes have been a cause of such behaviour, with a mother unable to control or showing an utterly irresponsible line.  One 12 years old boy terrified an estate and his mother said he was ‘her little satan, but wasn’t really evil’. An unwitting contradiction in terms, but added he just needs understanding.  He certainly needs something, but more severe than understanding. Yet again an absent father
‘A nation is only as strong as its homes’, said Abraham Lincoln, and today our homes are reflecting the state of the our nation, which is in the deteriorating state of moral and social decay, which should make us fear for the future of our children and grandchildren.
The home now doesn’t mean as much today as it used to do, and to so many people the idea of two people being married as the ideal is old fashioned and rather stupid.  .  Marriage was built on the foundations of the Bible.  It has been said that in 100 years from now, marriage will have ceased to exist, and if some members of the government had their way it would be in a lot less time.

We have so much unhappiness and trouble in the home today because we've got away from God's laws, rules, and regulations governing marriage, When God performed the first marriage, He laid down the rules, and He said if you want to have a happy home, obey these rules. If you want to have trouble, disobey them.
There cannot be division within a family. If a house is divided against itself it will fall. It is of course easier and better if both persons are worshipping Christians.

The Bible says listen to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.   We can learn so much from Jewish parenthood.  Father’s teaching to his children of the Ten Commandments, one for each of the ten fingers, and the history of the Jewish people from the Old Testament, and the mother controlling behaviour.  I have never known nor heard of a Jewish child being involved in violent disorder or crime.  When I have sought an answer, I have been told it is because of the Jewish Mama in the home.
Mothers can indeed have a great effect on children.  I was often required to be away from the home for long hours, and it is a great tribute to my wife that two of my sons became ordained, and have proved to be very wonderful and successful Ministers

Far too many children are left to their own devices.  How can teenagers roam the streets drunk and threatening people, stabbing other teenagers, and forming life threatening other gangs, without the parents knowing of it.  So why don’t they do something about it

Christian standards have gone from many homes, Everywhere, people search for happiness from the wrong things and wrong places.  Many criminals have come from homes where there has been no peace, no discipline nor Christian values or teaching. The biggest cause of young criminals is due to marital breakdown and separation
Children take up home values. When a father dodges working, a son will invariably copy.  God ordered us to work and there would be less poverty if more people were working.
 It is a matter of great regret that government is forcing councils, some of which don’t need that much encouragement, to foster and send for adoption children to two people of the same sex.  A child needs a father and a mother, both of whom are essential to a child’s moral and social development and welfare.  It is therefore irresponsible to make such enactment and reveals contempt for God’s decree.
If any country is to defend its values successfully, it must rediscover the Christian faith in which those values are ultimately rooted.  Marriage and the home are firmly part of those roots. When the founding principles are eroded, and the morality and biblical fundamentals are taken away, there is no foundation for society, which is a dangerous thing and we are seeing some of the consequences developing.
The average person sees the Church as out of date and the Christian message as irrelevant, even though they never go near a Church to establish that, which is why they live as they do without reference to God or eternity. This is just sardonic self justification. Our message then needs to be positive with no uncertain sound.  How heartening to hear the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster saying ‘I am not here to be popular. I’m here to be successful.’ 
As Christians, we have a commitment to serve God. Just as Joshua reminded the Jews of all God had done for them, so must we reflect on all that which God has done for us, and respond accordingly. God speaks to us from the past, to show us the sins His people committed in order to help us decide.  God is still speaking.  We can either listen or ignore. 
Making a promise to God is a serious matter. Each year a Covenant is re-made by Methodists, which many other Churches have adopted. In this covenant members pledge to yield themselves freely and wholeheartedly to God and declare themselves not their own, but His. How faithfully is it kept?  It means obeying, fearing and faithfully following His Word.  God is a jealous God who wants a complete loyalty.  We have to take away from our lives all that is unworthy and against His teaching.  He gave us guidance in Holy Scripture. 
We all have to ask, ‘am I ready to serve the Lord?’   There is no room for neutrality. Every person needs a God and every person must serve the God they choose. You cannot choose the true God by default or by inheritance. 
Joshua made his choice, let us make ours, and say, ‘we will serve the Lord

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