Series: A New Normal

Joshua 1:1-3

When I was 12 years old my family moved from Los Altos California to Houston Texas. I didn’t want to move I was getting ready to go into 7th grade I liked my school I liked my friends I liked my life but I didn’t really have a choice. My Dad was transferred to Houston and we had to go and so we moved. We moved in August, I had never been out of California at that time. We landed at Houston Intercontinental Airport. And in those days you’d have to walk outside to get to the actual terminal. And when we hit the air in Houston in August, as a 12 year-old, I had never encountered humidity. It was as if we had landed in someone’s armpit. It was just like, ”Yikes! What is wrong with this place?” And I had to go to a new house. And I had to go to new surroundings. And I had to make new friends. And I had to go to a new school. And I was nervous. And I was scared. And I had been there about 2 weeks, and I said, ”I miss my old house, and I miss my old friends, and I miss my old school, and I want my old life back.” Can you relate to that?

We’re starting a new series today entitled, ”A New Normal: Dealing with the Changes of Life.” Life changes, have you figured that out? Have you also noticed the fact that most of us don’t like change? I mean, a few do, but the vast majority in this service, watching on television, listening on the radio, we don’t really like change.

Have you heard the old jokes about changing a light bulb? You know, church people don’t like change. Somebody came up with these stories and jokes about church people changing a light bulb:

How many southern gospel singers does it take to change a light bulb? Five: one to change it and a quartet to sing about how much they long for the old one.

How many charismatics does it take to change a light bulb? Ten: one to change the bulb and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

How many TV evangelists does it take to change a light bulb? One: but for the message of light to continue send in your donation today.

How many liberal theologians does it take to change a light bulb? At least ten, as they need to hold a debate on whether or not the light bulb even exists. There’s some liberal theologians out there didn’t like that one.

How many Catholics does it take to change a light bulb? None: they use candles.

How many Amish does it take to change a light bulb? What’s a light bulb?

How many Southern Baptists does it take to change a light bulb? What do you mean, change it?

It’s the way we tend to be. We don’t like change. But life is filled with change. You can’t get around the fact that life changes. And sometimes life changes drastically and significantly, without warning and without your permission. It just changes. Companies go bankrupt. People get cancer. Kids grow up and move away and have their own kids. And sometimes they move back. Yikes! Now they’re back home. I was just getting used to this change where you’re away, and now I’ve got grandkids living with me. Hey, bodies wear out. People get old. Technology advances. Culture shifts.

Employees get transferred. Ministers retire. Loved ones die. Life changes. And you and I have to learn to deal with the changes of life. Hey, what do you do when life changes without your permission and without your okay and without advanced warning? Life just comes in.

Think about in Japan how life has changed so drastically for the people that live there. I mean, just like that everything’s gone in so many of those towns. It’s just heartbreaking to see that. Life changes. Earthquakes do happen. Tsunamis do happen. Hurricanes do happen. Tornados do happen. What do you do? Do you follow the advice of Job’s wife and curse God and die? Do you blame everyone under the sun for the changes that have taken place in your life? Do you dig in your heels and hold onto the past? Do you become bitter and angry and resentful because of the changes that have taken place? Or do you trust God and embrace a new normal?

Now in Joshua chapter 1, Joshua and the people were experiencing a great big, giant, huge change. Their leader, Moses, who had led them in mighty power, as God did miracle after miracle after miracle through Moses; I mean, huge miracles, giant miracles; Red Sea-parting miracles came through Moses. But now Moses has died and there is going to be a changing of the guard, and things were going to be different.

And the Scripture says in Joshua chapter 1, beginning in verse 1: ”Now it came about after the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, therefore, arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.”

What do you do when life, your familiar life, changes significantly and drastically? I think we can learn so much from what the people of God did when there was that great big change from Moses to Joshua. And I want you to notice three steps that they took, directed by the Lord, that are steps you need to take, that are steps I need to take, that are steps we need to take as we deal with change.

Step number one: You mourn. You mourn. When you experience great loss, you mourn. Look what it says in Deuteronomy chapter 34, speaking of Moses. ”When he died, the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for 30 days.” What was the story behind Moses?

Moses was 80 years old when he went with his brother, Aaron, before Pharaoh. He was 80 years old. And God used him as the plagues came, and Pharaoh finally let them go. And they came out of Egypt with great rejoicing and with all the spoil that they had taken from Egypt. And then, they went to the Red Sea. And Pharaoh had a change of heart. And he chased them, and he tried to kill them. And God performed a great miracle, the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of Pharaoh and his armies. Wow! And then, they were in the wilderness. And they went to Mount Sinai, and God gave them the law, the Ten Commandments, there at Mount Sinai. And then, they went from Mount Sinai to go to Kadesh-Barnea. And from Kadesh-Barnea they were supposed to go into the Promised Land. But they didn’t go in the Promised Land the way God wanted them to go because of unbelief. And so they wandered around in the wilderness for 40 years. And Moses was their leader. Moses didn’t get to go in the Promised Land either. And when it came time for them to actually go into the Promised Land, Moses wasn’t able to go because he had sinned greatly before God when the people had no water. And God said to Moses, ”Okay, I want you to speak to the rock.” Remember last time, Moses, when they had no water, I told you to strike the rock. Now I want you to speak to the rock.” And Moses didn’t do it. He got mad because the people were so rebellious. And he said, ”Shall we give you water from the rock, you bunch of rebels?” And he took his staff and he, BAM, BAM, hit the rock twice, and the water came out. But God said, ”Moses, you failed to hold Me and treat Me as holy before the people. And your punishment, the consequences of your sin, you’re not going to get to go into the Promised Land. I’ll let you see it, but you’re not going to enter into it.”

And so in Deuteronomy chapter 34, the last chapter about Moses, God takes Moses, they’re in the east; they’re in the place called Moab. And to the west of them is the Jordan River and then the Promised Land. God takes Moses up to Mount Nebo and says, ”I’ll let you see the land. This is the land that I swore to give Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. This is the land of promise, and you can see it, but you can’t enter in.” And then, Moses, after he saw the land, he died. And God buried Moses. Nobody knew where Moses was buried. And God had it that way because the people would have worshipped Moses and they would have worshipped his grave. And so God buried him and no man knows where he was buried – somewhere on Mount Nebo and when the people heard and found out that Moses was dead, they wept and mourned, wept and mourned for 30 days. Hey, it is normal, it is natural, and it is necessary to grieve. When you experience great loss in life, it’s normal, natural, and necessary to grieve. Don’t forget that it’s necessary to grieve.

Now the people, they loved Moses, and so it was natural for them and normal for them to weep over Moses and to mourn over Moses, and it was necessary for them to do that.

When I was little and I would be playing outside, I would get from climbing fences and doing stuff that boys do, I would get splinters. And I remember as just a little guy, I would have splinters. And, you know, splinters hurt. And what do you do? You run to your mom. And I remember times where my mom would take my finger and she would take a needle, and she would take tweezers, and she would be poking on that thing and trying to work the skin away so she could get the tweezers to take the splinter out. Because you can’t really, as a little guy, go through life with splinters in your finger. You’ve got to get those out. In order to heal, you’ve got to get that splinter out.

Listen. If you go through a great loss in life, the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a friend, or the termination of a job, or, perhaps, empty nest, or going to a new school like I did in 7th grade, you have to give yourself time to mourn and to grieve, and you have to get the splinter out, so to speak, so that you can go on with life. The worst thing that you can do is stuff it and suppress it and not deal with it and pretend like this doesn’t hurt and this is not a big deal. And if it’s a big deal, it’s a big deal. If it hurts, it hurts.

I have a family member, and he has experienced a lot of traumatic change in his life. When he was 9 years old, his parents got divorced. Then, about a year or so later, his mother remarried and he had to move from his home and from everything that was familiar to him to another city. And he had now a new dad, so to speak, new step-dad and a new step-brother and life was really, really different. And he was one of these guys that thought, Well, you’re being a man if you just suck it up and you don’t let any of your emotions out. So he learned from a little kid to stuff and to stuff and to stuff. And when his mom got cancer, she sat down with him. He was 17 now, 17 years old, and she sat down with her son, and she told her son that she had breast cancer and she was going to have to have major surgery. And she told me, she said, ‘When I told him that, his eyes began to well with tears.” She said, ”He took his thumbs and he pushed right here so that the tears wouldn’t come ’cause he didn’t want to cry. And he was holding them back. And that guy’s been doing that ever since, pushing back the tears, and not dealing with hurts. That’s not the way you do it.

Hey, when you go through significant changes, when something happens to you that is very life-altering, you have to have time to grieve and to mourn. That is normal. That is natural. That is necessary. You’re not going to be able to move on unless you sufficiently grieve, unless you get the splinter out.

Some people are here and you’re not doing what my relative did. You’re not pushing back the tears, but you’re suppressing the hurt through drugs, through alcohol, through escape, through working all the time, sticking ear buds in your ears and constantly having music going and the TV going and this going and that going so you never have to be silent with your thoughts, so you never have to really deal with those things, so you never have to mess with the splinters. It’s necessary to grieve. And Larry Sims taught me this: Tears are not a sign of weakness; they’re a sign of love, they’re a sign of love. My family member pushing back the tears thought it was a sign of weakness. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of love.

My principal from junior high and high school is a dear friend, Mr. Brown. He’s 86 years old. He called me a couple of weeks ago. His wife had been battling cancer. And he called me, and he said, ”Jeff,” he said, ”Ida’s gone.” And he was so heartbroken. Now Mr. Brown is tough as nails. Mr. Brown’s one of those guys that grew up, you don’t cry, and he is tough. When I was in high school, man, Mr. Brown scared everybody to death. Mr. Brown gave swats if you messed up. Do you remember, guys, way back in ancient history when you used to get swats? You know, we don’t do that anymore. They didn’t do that in California. When I moved from California to Houston, all of a sudden it’s like, hey, you know what they do at school if you cut up? They don’t send you outside the classroom. They give you swats. They hit you with a board. It’s another reason I wanted to go back to California. It’s just like, ”Yikes!” But Mr. Brown was legendary. Getting swats from Mr. Brown was like getting canned in Singapore. I mean, this guy was incredible. Praise God, I never got swats from him. But when I talked to him that day, still strong, but his heart was broken, and as I talked to him over the phone, he told me, he said, ”Now, Jeff, the preacher here, he lives in Terrell, Texas.” He said, ”The preacher here is going to do Ida’s funeral.” He said, ”But now, listen, boy. When I die, I want you to do it. I want you to do my service.” He said, ”I watch you every Sunday.” He said, ”You have been my church and Ida’s church because she couldn’t go to church. And we tuned in every Sunday at 1:30 and watched your church on TV.” He said, ”I want you to do the service.” And I said to Mr. Brown, I said, ”Well, Mr. Brown, I don’t want that to be for a long time.” He said through choke-backed tears, ”I want it to be tomorrow.” He was hurting, and he was grieving. And it’s good to do that.

So what is the first step? When you experience tremendous change and tremendous loss, you mourn. That’s what they did.

Second step: You stop mourning. You mourn, and then you stop mourning. Look what is says, Deuteronomy 34, verse 8: ”So the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for 30 days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end.” They weren’t going to weep and mourn for Moses forever. There was a time to cry, and a time to weep, and a time to mourn, and then there was a time to move on. God says that time it’s time for you, now we need to stop mourning. So you mourn, and you mourn sufficiently. For them it was 30 days. Now remember this is national mourning for Moses. This doesn’t mean that Moses’ wife and kids and those very, very, very close to him just could mourn for 30 days and ”You shut it off right now. You can’t mourn anymore. No more tears from you.” God’s not saying that. But as a nation, they mourned for 30 days and then they stopped mourning.

And see, when you have that time to grieve, then there has to be a time to stop grieving, and you have to face the fact that life has changed. I love what it says in verse 2, where God comes to Joshua, God Himself comes to Joshua. Now Joshua was Moses’ right-hand man. It was Moses and Aaron, right, all throughout the situation with Pharaoh and leading in Egypt. It was Moses and his older brother, Aaron. But both of them were held accountable for their sin when they struck the rock. And God told both of them, Moses and Aaron, ”Neither one of you guys are going in the Promised Land.” So Aaron died. He was 3 years older than Moses. He died at 123. And then, not too long after that, God took Moses up to Mount Nebo and, and Moses died. So they’re both gone. But the next guy in line was a guy named Joshua. And Moses had laid his hands on Joshua. And Joshua, the Scripture says, was full of wisdom. And so the Lord comes to Joshua, the leader-in-waiting, and says to him, verse 2, ”Moses, My servant, is dead. He’s dead.” I mean, God doesn’t beat around the bush. ”Here’s the situation, Joshua. I know you’re hurting, and I know you’re grieving, and I know you’re weeping, and I know you’re mourning, but Moses is dead. He’s not coming back. You guys can’t sit around and wait around. This isn’t going to be like a Lazarus thing and 4 days later he rises from the dead. He’s been dead 30 days. He’s not coming back. He’s with Me now, Joshua, and he’s not going to lead My people anymore. Joshua, you’re going to do that. Moses is dead.” You have to face the facts, the brutal facts. You can’t live in a dream world. You can’t hold to the past hoping that somehow the things from the past will come back. And you can’t mourn and mourn and mourn and mourn and mourn forever. You face the fact that life has changed. And you remind yourself of the fact that life goes on. Life goes on.

I love verse 2. ”Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, therefore, arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, therefore, arise, arise. It’s time, Joshua. The time of mourning is over. Now it’s time to get up and get on with life.” As much as we don’t like to hear that, especially when we’re hurting, that life still goes on, it does.

When Debbie’s dad suffered a massive, massive stroke and we didn’t know if he was going to live or die, I remember Debbie telling me about her mother. And she was there at the hospital every day. He was hanging in the balance for 3 months. And Debbie’s mother would see people walking around the hospital talking and laughing and living and she’d be like wanting to scream and say, ”Don’t you know what has happened in my life? Don’t you know what has happened to my husband? Listen. Let’s stop this world because life has so changed for me.” But life goes on. It goes on. And when Gerald Cannon had a stroke, life still went on. And when Mrs. Cannon died, life still went on. And when Debbie’s dad, Gerald, died some years later, life still goes on. And you have to remind yourself of the fact that life goes on.

Now look at verse 2. ”Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, therefore, arise….” Did you know that there are some people who get stuck right there, ”Moses, My servant, is dead,” and they never get to the next statement, ”Now, therefore, arise.” They’re just stuck in, ”He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead.” It’s mourning. It’s mourning. It’s mourning. It’s grieving. It’s tears. It’s crying month after month, year after year, decade after decade. They get stuck there.

I love what God says to Samuel, the prophet, when Samuel was grieving because Saul, the one he had appointed king of Israel, was a bonehead and didn’t do what God wanted him to do. And God said, ”I’ve rejected him from being king.” And in 1st Samuel chapter 16, verse 1, the Lord comes to the prophet Samuel and says to Samuel, ”How long are you going to mourn for Saul, because I have rejected him from being king? Get up, fill your horn with oil, go to Bethlehem. You’re going to find one of the sons of Jesse, and you’re going to anoint him king. Life goes on, Samuel. We’re not just going to sit on our little pity pot and weep and cry because Saul is a bust. We’re not going to do that. Life goes on. How long are you going to mourn King Saul?”

I heard about a couple, Phil and Judy. And they had one son. And their one son died in a terrible, horrible tragic, freak accident. And the church rallied around Phil and Judy, and they were so heartbroken. And the church and the people, their friends, provided comfort for them, and they were there for them for week after week after month after month. And after about 3 months people began to say to Phil and Judy, ”Now, you know, life does go on.” They didn’t want to hear that. And they would snap back, and they’d say, ”What do you know about it? You’ve never lost a son.” And people would say to them, ”Yes, but, but God knows, and God has lost a Son and God wants you to go on.” And they’d say, ”You don’t know anything about my pain. You don’t know anything about my hurt.” And they just lived in their hurt – our son is dead – month after month after year after year after year. And 15 years later Phil and Judy acted as if their son died last week. They never got past, ”Moses is dead. Therefore, arise.” They never went on with life. They just got stuck. Is that true of you? Have you gotten stuck in some change in your life, some hurt in your life? Maybe it was a divorce that you didn’t want. Maybe it was a move that you didn’t want to make, that you went kicking and screaming. And you were a 7th grader and you moved and you didn’t want to move, and it’s just been miserable for you, and you’re just stuck, grieving and mourning and crying. Listen. You mourn, and then you stop mourning, and then, you venture out to a new normal with God.

Look at verse 2 again and following: ”Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, therefore, arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads I have given it to you just as I spoke to Moses, from the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, and all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the great sea, which is the Mediterranean Sea, toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.” He was telling him, ”Joshua, it’s time to arise. It’s time to cross over there in Moab, which is in the east. It’s time to go west, young man. And we’re going to go across the Jordan. And we’re going to take the Promised Land.” Wow! Wow! I mean, this isn’t any little deal. This is a big deal.

Now Moses dying was a big deal, a great loss. And on the heels of a great loss was a fabulous, amazing blessing, the Promised Land, what they had been looking for and longing for since the time of Abraham when God told Abraham, ”I’m going to give you a land.” Wow! Now was the time that they were going to get the land. On the heels of tremendous mourning and loss came tremendous blessing.

Listen. God wants you to experience His abundance, even in the face of great loss, even in the face of great pain and great heartache and great tragedy. God has abundance. Ephesians chapter 3, verse 20: ”Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all we ask or think, according to the power that works within you, to Him be the glory.”

Job had tremendous loss in his life, tremendous loss. All of his wealth gone, all of his children gone his health gone, covered in sore boils from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, he lost everything, his face in the community gone. He said, ”The lowest of the low don’t cease to spit in my face.” Job used to be like E. F. Hutton. When Job talked, people listened. I mean, it was like, ”Wow, Job is incredible. He’s like a rock star.” He’d walk by and people were like, ”That was Job. Did you get Job’s autograph? Let’s get Job’s autograph.” Now Job is nothing. He’s chopped liver. Nobody cares anything about Job. ”Guys I wouldn’t even hire to work in my field,” he said, ”now they spit in my face. I’m a laughing stock. They make fun of me.” He went through tremendous change and through tremendous hurts. And God restored it all double, double! Man, after he got through his time of testing, what was on the other side? Ten more children and double all his wealth and a life filled with blessing.

Listen. As you face change, sometimes it’s hard to see that life can go on. Life does go on. And it doesn’t go on miserably, horribly. There are great blessings out there.

A dear, dear couple in our church, experienced tremendous hurt and tremendous pain and tremendous loss when their daughter was taken away in a flood and they hurt, and they still hurt. But they’ve trusted God. And 8 weeks ago she got pregnant, and it was a miracle that she got pregnant. It’s a miracle of God and how He worked all that out. And I saw them yesterday and there’s just joy. They just know that God is true to His Word. He does give beauty for ashes. You bring the Lord your ashes, and the Lord can turn that around.

Job lost his 10 children, and God gave him 10 children. And as a friend of mine told me, he said, ”You know, God didn’t give him 20 children. He doubled everything except the kids. And you know why He didn’t double the kids? Because his kids really weren’t lost, they were just with the Lord. They were just with the Lord.” So He did double those kids. Ten were in heaven and 10 Job had to enjoy on earth. Wow!

God wants you to experience His abundance. And God wants that for our church. As we go through changes, God says, ”Hey, it ain’t over. Moses might be dead, but I’m not dead. And it ain’t over.” And we’re getting ready to do great things. We’re getting ready to go in the Promised Land.” We’ve been experiencing mercy drops, as the song says, ”Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.” And God says, ”I want to bring the showers, and I want to do exceeding abundantly beyond all you ask or think.” So in your situation, God says, ”I want to bring abundance.” You’re getting ready to go into the Promised Land. Venture out to a new normal with God and that new normal is great.

And God wants you to be strong and courageous. He tells Joshua that 3 different times. He says in verse 6, ”Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.” Verse 7: ”Only be strong and very courageous.” Verse 9: ”Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous.” What do you think God might be saying there? Be strong and courageous, probably what He’s saying. He says it 3 times in just those few verses. Why do you think He said that to Joshua? How would you like to have been Joshua? You follow Moses. You know, I mean, he’s pretty much hit the top. The Bible says in Deuteronomy 34 there had never been, before or since, a prophet like Moses whom the Lord spoke to face to face.

I was talking to a pastor friend the other day, and I said, ”You know, really, when you go to a church, you never want to follow a guy that was like Moses.” Right? I mean, you want to follow a guy that didn’t do very well. It’s always better to follow a guy that didn’t do very well. You who are taking over a different position or getting promoted, and, ”Yeah, my boss, he got fired and I’m taking his place.” ”Okay. Well, how good a boss was he?” ”He was terrible. That’s why they fired him.” ”Well, man, you’re in good shape, because you just have to be okay and everybody’s going to think you’re a world beater.” But if you follow Moses, ”Be strong and courageous, Joshua.” He’s just shaking in his pants there. ”Oh, what do I, what do I do? How am I going to do this?” The Lord says, ”You be strong and courageous. You be a strong leader. You’re the one that I’ve put My mantle on, and you’re going to lead the people from Moab across the Jordan River. And we’re going to take Jericho. And we’re going to take Ai. And we’re going to take the Promised Land. And you – be a strong leader.”

Some of you are here, some moms, and you’re a single mom ’cause you went through a divorce. And you don’t know what to do. And you’re afraid. And the Lord says, ”Be strong and courageous.” Some of you dads have gone through a tough time in your finances and in your health and in your situation and in your family. And you’re saying, ”What do I do?” And the Lord says, ”Be strong and courageous” the word for strong, means, to behave valiantly and courageous, means to be steadfastly minded. When I read that, as I was studying for this message, I felt like God spoke that to me. Said, ”Jeff, the church is going through change. You need to be strong, and you need to be courageous, and you need to lead out.” And I want this place to go into the Promised Land. I have felt that for years that God wants to use this place in a powerful way in our community.

When I first got here 8 years ago, I would meet on Tuesday mornings with Philip and Nathan. And we would pray together and we’d talk about things together. And they were on the Pastor’s Search Committee. And so we would visit about things and just how the church was doing and things like that. And I still remember one Tuesday, Nathan and I were talking, and I think Philip had to go to work. And so we were just talking. And Nathan had told me, he said, ”God has given me a vision for this church that this church, is going to reach out into the whole world.” He said, ”I’ve seen the fountains coming out from this church.” And other people had told me just in the short time I had been here that they had been praying for decades for this church and just sensed in their heart. And a lady in our church told me, ”This church is going to be a praise on the earth.” And God has a special plan for this church in this city to make an impact that would rock the world for Jesus Christ. And I remember talking to Nathan about that. And it dawned on me what the Lord had: the plan that He had for this place. And I just began to cry. ”God, why would You choose me? I’m a nothing, nobody. Why would You choose me? Lord, I’m afraid. I’m like, as Solomon said, ”I’m like a little child. I don’t know how to go out and I don’t know how to come in.” And I had never pastored a church before in my life except the one in Orlina, North Carolina. I raised it from 11 to 15 members when I was there. I mean, it was small. It was a seminary church. And, man, coming here. And you know what? The devil, I believe, senses that God wants to do something great here. And so, what does he do? He fights. He fights. And he uses people, and he uses situations, and he comes at us. Be strong and courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed. And be steadfast.

Listen. I pray, God, not my will, but Thine be done. God, help me, as You showed the people in the Old Testament, as You led Moses by the cloud, with the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, help me to be in step with You. Help me to be sensitive to my surroundings, to be sensitive to Your voice, to people that would come and share with me Your Word that would be, for our church, and that I would receive it. And when the enemy comes in, that I would be sensitive to that, so that I’d be in step and I’d lead our church in step with God. I don’t want us to get off base. I don’t want us to do anything that would hurt our church. But, hey, when I feel like we have a green light from the Lord, and we’re supposed to go forward, and this is what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to do it. I’m not going to let the fear of man change anything that I do.

God says, ”Be strong. Be courageous.” And then, He says, ”Be obedient.” Look at verse 7 and 8: ”Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses, My servant, commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

How do you have success in life? How do you experience blessings in life and prosperity in life and the good things from God? By being obedient, by getting yourself on blessing ground. God is a good God. God longs to bless. But He can’t bless if you’re messing around over here, and He’s saying, ”Hey, blessings are over there.” And you keep fooling around over here. You’re like the prodigal son hanging out in the far country. You’re going to find blessings in the far country? No! You’ll find pig slop. Blessings are over there at the father’s house. Blessings are when you get on blessing ground. That’s when you find blessings.

I remember being in a golf tournament, a church golf tournament years and years and years ago. And you had to turn in your name and we were going to draw names out of the hat at the end of the tournament. And we had a lunch. And at the luncheon they were going to draw names out of the hat, and you could win stuff. But they had this caveat: You must be present to win. You ever been in those kind of things? Have to be present to win. So, if you’re not present, and they pull your name out of the hat, you don’t get the prize. It would be like, ”Jeff Schreve. Is he here? Is he here? Oh, he’s not here. Well, go on to the next one.” And they pull somebody else’s name out of the hat.

Listen. God has your name in His hat. And He wants to pull your name out, and He will pull your name out to bless you, but you must be present to win. And if you’re messing around here in the far country, and He calls your name, you miss out on the blessings. And so many people are missing out on the things that God wants to do in their lives. And they say, ”Oh, I want prosperity, and I want God to give me success.” Well, then, get yourself on blessing ground. Quit living in immorality.

I talked to a couple the other day and they were living together. And they said, ”You know, we want you to do our wedding.” And I said, ”Okay. How long have you been living together?” And they said, ”For several years.” And I said, ”Well, when do want to get married?” And they said, ”Well, later this year.” I said, ”Let’s do it today.” I said, ”If you guys are going to stay together, then you need to quit living in sin. Let’s get married today.” And they said, ”Well, we can’t afford that.” I said, ”Pay for the license and we’ll marry you here for free.” And so they got their license and I married them just a week ago in the Simmon’s Room for free. I want you to be married, I want you to get on blessing ground so that God can bless your marriage, so that God can bless your family. Don’t wait. Don’t wait. Man, the Lord is pulling your name out of the hat. What are you doing over there at the pig sty? God says you need to be obedient.

And then, God wants you to be fully assured. Look what He says in verses 5 and 9: ”No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you. I will not fail you or forsake you. Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Oh, that was the word that Joshua desperately needed to hear. That was the word that caused his knees to quit knocking. I can be strong and courageous because the Lord is with me, and He’s not going to fail me. And the same God who spoke face to face with Moses; and Moses’ face would shine, and Moses had that close relationship with God. ”Just as I have been with Moses, Joshua, I will be with you.”

And God’s Word to you today as you go through changes, as we go through changes, God says, ”I’m still here, and I’m not leaving. And I will be with you through the good times, through the bad times, through the hard times. When you walk through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. And when you pass through the fire and walk through the fire, you will not be burned, nor will the flame kindle upon you, for I will be with you, says the Lord of hosts.”

Hebrews 13:5 is one of the greatest verses in all of the Bible where the Lord literally says this. It reads different in English, but this is literally what He says: ”I will not, never, never leave you, and I will not, never forsake you.” We read it as, ”I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.” But that’s not what God says, because in the Greek He adds all those negatives. ”I will not, never, never leave you. I will not, never forsake you.” Now we’d say that’s bad English, but it’s great theology, because God is saying, ”Hey, get this down in your head. Get it down in your heart. Don’t ever forget it. I will not, never, never leave you, and I will not never forsake you. You can trust Me. I will be with you.”

Where are you today? Where are you today? Are you mourning? Has it not been enough time for you? Are you doing like my family member, pushing back the tears, not allowing yourself to cry, not allowing yourself to grieve over whatever loss has come into your life individually, to our lives with change? Are you mourning today? Is the Lord saying to you, ”It’s time to stop mourning? Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, therefore, arise, because we’re getting ready to go into the Promised Land. We’re going to move on with God.” Where are you today?

I was talking to my friend, Charles Lowery, Fred’s brother, from First Baptist, Shreveport. Charles is going to be here, I believe, in May to share with us. And, you know, Charles had the painful experience of losing his grandson. His little grandson, Jake, was 2 years old. His daughter and her husband and their family had come home. I think they had come home from church. And they had gotten out of the car. And then, Charles’ son-in-law remembered that he needed to get something at the store. So he shot back in the car. And little Jake wanted to go with his dad to the store. And so he ran toward the car. And the dad didn’t know he was there, and he ran over him and killed him. The family saw it. Charles’ 5 year-old grandson saw his little brother die right there in the driveway. Still to this day he’ll say to his grandfather, Charles, he’ll say, ”Poppa, that Jake was really fast, wasn’t he?” And Charles says, ”Yeah, he’s really fast.” He said the reason he asks him that because it’s his way of saying, ”There’s nothing I could have done to save my brother, was there?” Charles would be like, ”No, he’s fast. You couldn’t have done anything.”

And Charles went through all the grieving and their family went through all the grieving and all the mourning. And Charles told me, he said, ”You know, at first you just want comfort because you’re just hurting so badly.” But he said, ”After comfort, then you move to clarity and you quit asking, ‘Why, God?’ and you start asking, ‘What, God? What, God? What do You want me to learn from this, God? I know You’re good, and I know You love me. And I may never understand this, but I’m going to trust You, and I’m going to trust you, and I’m going to press on with You. And, yes, it’s going to be a new normal, but little Jake’s in heaven. We’re going to see him again. And, God, You’re still good.”’

And then, Charles told me, he said, ”Jeff, you know the worst, the worst thing ever was the cross.” When God saw His own dear Son whipped and beaten and spit upon and nailed to the cross, and the pain was excruciating, and the emotional pain and the physical pain and the spiritual pain as Jesus cried out, ”My God, My God, why hath Thou forsaken Me?” And God the Father had to experience all that, and He had to see all that, and He had to hear that. And God took the very worst thing, the cross where His Son was crucified, and turned it around for the very best thing, because it’s the cross of Jesus Christ that enables me to know God. It’s the cross of Jesus Christ that has saved me. ”For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Listen. In your hurt, in your pain, in the changes that come in, give those to the Lord. He gives beauty for ashes. Move on with God. Mourn, and then stop mourning, and then venture out to a new normal with God. He says, ”Trust Me. I know what I’m doing. Trust Me, and we’ll go to the Promised Land together.”

Father, I thank You. Your Word is so alive and it’s so powerful. And, God, I thank You that when we experience loss and pain and hurt and change and divorce and the loss of a job and the loss of income and just growing older and experiencing an empty nest and difficulties in life and changes that we don’t want, but they come anyway, I thank You that You’re the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Lord sat as king at the flood. Yes, the Lord sits He’s king forever. And, Lord, that we would trust You, and that we would get our hearts right with You, and we’d get ourselves on blessing ground, and we’d be fully assured that You’ll never leave us and You’ll never forsake us. Lord, I pray for folks who are going through a hard, hard time today, who are grieving. I pray, Lord, that You’d just wrap Your arms of love around them and that they’d be sensitive to the fact that grieving doesn’t last forever; that You want them, after the sufficient time has passed, You want them to move on. And life goes on, and you’ll be there, and life can still be good and can still be sweet again. And life can even be better than ever as we enter into the Promised Land and leave the wilderness and experience the land flowing with milk and honey. Lord, fill hearts with hope today. Lord, I pray for people who are here today and they long for You to be with them, but they don’t know. God, I pray that if people aren’t sure, Lord God, that You live in their hearts, that they’ve really trusted You, that You’re really with them and have really saved them, I pray today they would just say, ”Jesus, I want to know You. I want You to be with me. I can’t handle this. I can’t be strong and courageous by myself. I need You. So, Lord, come into my life. Forgive me of all my sins. I’ve been living in the pig sty and I want to get on blessing ground, and I want to please You, and I want to be right with You.” God, have your way. Lord, I pray that, that would be the prayer of so many people that have never trusted You.

Life Goes On (1 of 4)

Series: A New Normal

Pastor Jeff Schreve

Joshua 1:1-3

When I was 12 years old my family moved from Los Altos California to Houston Texas. I didn’t want to move I was getting ready to go into 7th grade I liked my school I liked my friends I liked my life but I didn’t really have a choice. My Dad was transferred to Houston and we had to go and so we moved. We moved in August, I had never been out of California at that time. We landed at Houston Intercontinental Airport. And in those days you’d have to walk outside to get to the actual terminal. And when we hit the air in Houston in August, as a 12 year-old, I had never encountered humidity. It was as if we had landed in someone’s armpit. It was just like, ”Yikes! What is wrong with this place?” And I had to go to a new house. And I had to go to new surroundings. And I had to make new friends. And I had to go to a new school. And I was nervous. And I was scared. And I had been there about 2 weeks, and I said, ”I miss my old house, and I miss my old friends, and I miss my old school, and I want my old life back.” Can you relate to that?

We’re starting a new series today entitled, ”A New Normal: Dealing with the Changes of Life.” Life changes, have you figured that out? Have you also noticed the fact that most of us don’t like change? I mean, a few do, but the vast majority in this service, watching on television, listening on the radio, we don’t really like change.

Have you heard the old jokes about changing a light bulb? You know, church people don’t like change. Somebody came up with these stories and jokes about church people changing a light bulb:

How many southern gospel singers does it take to change a light bulb? Five: one to change it and a quartet to sing about how much they long for the old one.

How many charismatics does it take to change a light bulb? Ten: one to change the bulb and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

How many TV evangelists does it take to change a light bulb? One: but for the message of light to continue send in your donation today.

How many liberal theologians does it take to change a light bulb? At least ten, as they need to hold a debate on whether or not the light bulb even exists. There’s some liberal theologians out there didn’t like that one.

How many Catholics does it take to change a light bulb? None: they use candles.

How many Amish does it take to change a light bulb? What’s a light bulb?

How many Southern Baptists does it take to change a light bulb? What do you mean, change it?

It’s the way we tend to be. We don’t like change. But life is filled with change. You can’t get around the fact that life changes. And sometimes life changes drastically and significantly, without warning and without your permission. It just changes. Companies go bankrupt. People get cancer. Kids grow up and move away and have their own kids. And sometimes they move back. Yikes! Now they’re back home. I was just getting used to this change where you’re away, and now I’ve got grandkids living with me. Hey, bodies wear out. People get old. Technology advances. Culture shifts.

Employees get transferred. Ministers retire. Loved ones die. Life changes. And you and I have to learn to deal with the changes of life. Hey, what do you do when life changes without your permission and without your okay and without advanced warning? Life just comes in.

Think about in Japan how life has changed so drastically for the people that live there. I mean, just like that everything’s gone in so many of those towns. It’s just heartbreaking to see that. Life changes. Earthquakes do happen. Tsunamis do happen. Hurricanes do happen. Tornados do happen. What do you do? Do you follow the advice of Job’s wife and curse God and die? Do you blame everyone under the sun for the changes that have taken place in your life? Do you dig in your heels and hold onto the past? Do you become bitter and angry and resentful because of the changes that have taken place? Or do you trust God and embrace a new normal?

Now in Joshua chapter 1, Joshua and the people were experiencing a great big, giant, huge change. Their leader, Moses, who had led them in mighty power, as God did miracle after miracle after miracle through Moses; I mean, huge miracles, giant miracles; Red Sea-parting miracles came through Moses. But now Moses has died and there is going to be a changing of the guard, and things were going to be different.

And the Scripture says in Joshua chapter 1, beginning in verse 1: ”Now it came about after the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, therefore, arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.”

What do you do when life, your familiar life, changes significantly and drastically? I think we can learn so much from what the people of God did when there was that great big change from Moses to Joshua. And I want you to notice three steps that they took, directed by the Lord, that are steps you need to take, that are steps I need to take, that are steps we need to take as we deal with change.

Step number one: You mourn. You mourn. When you experience great loss, you mourn. Look what it says in Deuteronomy chapter 34, speaking of Moses. ”When he died, the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for 30 days.” What was the story behind Moses?

Moses was 80 years old when he went with his brother, Aaron, before Pharaoh. He was 80 years old. And God used him as the plagues came, and Pharaoh finally let them go. And they came out of Egypt with great rejoicing and with all the spoil that they had taken from Egypt. And then, they went to the Red Sea. And Pharaoh had a change of heart. And he chased them, and he tried to kill them. And God performed a great miracle, the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of Pharaoh and his armies. Wow! And then, they were in the wilderness. And they went to Mount Sinai, and God gave them the law, the Ten Commandments, there at Mount Sinai. And then, they went from Mount Sinai to go to Kadesh-Barnea. And from Kadesh-Barnea they were supposed to go into the Promised Land. But they didn’t go in the Promised Land the way God wanted them to go because of unbelief. And so they wandered around in the wilderness for 40 years. And Moses was their leader. Moses didn’t get to go in the Promised Land either. And when it came time for them to actually go into the Promised Land, Moses wasn’t able to go because he had sinned greatly before God when the people had no water. And God said to Moses, ”Okay, I want you to speak to the rock.” Remember last time, Moses, when they had no water, I told you to strike the rock. Now I want you to speak to the rock.” And Moses didn’t do it. He got mad because the people were so rebellious. And he said, ”Shall we give you water from the rock, you bunch of rebels?” And he took his staff and he, BAM, BAM, hit the rock twice, and the water came out. But God said, ”Moses, you failed to hold Me and treat Me as holy before the people. And your punishment, the consequences of your sin, you’re not going to get to go into the Promised Land. I’ll let you see it, but you’re not going to enter into it.”

And so in Deuteronomy chapter 34, the last chapter about Moses, God takes Moses, they’re in the east; they’re in the place called Moab. And to the west of them is the Jordan River and then the Promised Land. God takes Moses up to Mount Nebo and says, ”I’ll let you see the land. This is the land that I swore to give Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. This is the land of promise, and you can see it, but you can’t enter in.” And then, Moses, after he saw the land, he died. And God buried Moses. Nobody knew where Moses was buried. And God had it that way because the people would have worshipped Moses and they would have worshipped his grave. And so God buried him and no man knows where he was buried – somewhere on Mount Nebo and when the people heard and found out that Moses was dead, they wept and mourned, wept and mourned for 30 days. Hey, it is normal, it is natural, and it is necessary to grieve. When you experience great loss in life, it’s normal, natural, and necessary to grieve. Don’t forget that it’s necessary to grieve.

Now the people, they loved Moses, and so it was natural for them and normal for them to weep over Moses and to mourn over Moses, and it was necessary for them to do that.

When I was little and I would be playing outside, I would get from climbing fences and doing stuff that boys do, I would get splinters. And I remember as just a little guy, I would have splinters. And, you know, splinters hurt. And what do you do? You run to your mom. And I remember times where my mom would take my finger and she would take a needle, and she would take tweezers, and she would be poking on that thing and trying to work the skin away so she could get the tweezers to take the splinter out. Because you can’t really, as a little guy, go through life with splinters in your finger. You’ve got to get those out. In order to heal, you’ve got to get that splinter out.

Listen. If you go through a great loss in life, the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a friend, or the termination of a job, or, perhaps, empty nest, or going to a new school like I did in 7th grade, you have to give yourself time to mourn and to grieve, and you have to get the splinter out, so to speak, so that you can go on with life. The worst thing that you can do is stuff it and suppress it and not deal with it and pretend like this doesn’t hurt and this is not a big deal. And if it’s a big deal, it’s a big deal. If it hurts, it hurts.

I have a family member, and he has experienced a lot of traumatic change in his life. When he was 9 years old, his parents got divorced. Then, about a year or so later, his mother remarried and he had to move from his home and from everything that was familiar to him to another city. And he had now a new dad, so to speak, new step-dad and a new step-brother and life was really, really different. And he was one of these guys that thought, Well, you’re being a man if you just suck it up and you don’t let any of your emotions out. So he learned from a little kid to stuff and to stuff and to stuff. And when his mom got cancer, she sat down with him. He was 17 now, 17 years old, and she sat down with her son, and she told her son that she had breast cancer and she was going to have to have major surgery. And she told me, she said, ‘When I told him that, his eyes began to well with tears.” She said, ”He took his thumbs and he pushed right here so that the tears wouldn’t come ’cause he didn’t want to cry. And he was holding them back. And that guy’s been doing that ever since, pushing back the tears, and not dealing with hurts. That’s not the way you do it.

Hey, when you go through significant changes, when something happens to you that is very life-altering, you have to have time to grieve and to mourn. That is normal. That is natural. That is necessary. You’re not going to be able to move on unless you sufficiently grieve, unless you get the splinter out.

Some people are here and you’re not doing what my relative did. You’re not pushing back the tears, but you’re suppressing the hurt through drugs, through alcohol, through escape, through working all the time, sticking ear buds in your ears and constantly having music going and the TV going and this going and that going so you never have to be silent with your thoughts, so you never have to really deal with those things, so you never have to mess with the splinters. It’s necessary to grieve. And Larry Sims taught me this: Tears are not a sign of weakness; they’re a sign of love, they’re a sign of love. My family member pushing back the tears thought it was a sign of weakness. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of love.

My principal from junior high and high school is a dear friend, Mr. Brown. He’s 86 years old. He called me a couple of weeks ago. His wife had been battling cancer. And he called me, and he said, ”Jeff,” he said, ”Ida’s gone.” And he was so heartbroken. Now Mr. Brown is tough as nails. Mr. Brown’s one of those guys that grew up, you don’t cry, and he is tough. When I was in high school, man, Mr. Brown scared everybody to death. Mr. Brown gave swats if you messed up. Do you remember, guys, way back in ancient history when you used to get swats? You know, we don’t do that anymore. They didn’t do that in California. When I moved from California to Houston, all of a sudden it’s like, hey, you know what they do at school if you cut up? They don’t send you outside the classroom. They give you swats. They hit you with a board. It’s another reason I wanted to go back to California. It’s just like, ”Yikes!” But Mr. Brown was legendary. Getting swats from Mr. Brown was like getting canned in Singapore. I mean, this guy was incredible. Praise God, I never got swats from him. But when I talked to him that day, still strong, but his heart was broken, and as I talked to him over the phone, he told me, he said, ”Now, Jeff, the preacher here, he lives in Terrell, Texas.” He said, ”The preacher here is going to do Ida’s funeral.” He said, ”But now, listen, boy. When I die, I want you to do it. I want you to do my service.” He said, ”I watch you every Sunday.” He said, ”You have been my church and Ida’s church because she couldn’t go to church. And we tuned in every Sunday at 1:30 and watched your church on TV.” He said, ”I want you to do the service.” And I said to Mr. Brown, I said, ”Well, Mr. Brown, I don’t want that to be for a long time.” He said through choke-backed tears, ”I want it to be tomorrow.” He was hurting, and he was grieving. And it’s good to do that.

So what is the first step? When you experience tremendous change and tremendous loss, you mourn. That’s what they did.

Second step: You stop mourning. You mourn, and then you stop mourning. Look what is says, Deuteronomy 34, verse 8: ”So the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for 30 days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end.” They weren’t going to weep and mourn for Moses forever. There was a time to cry, and a time to weep, and a time to mourn, and then there was a time to move on. God says that time it’s time for you, now we need to stop mourning. So you mourn, and you mourn sufficiently. For them it was 30 days. Now remember this is national mourning for Moses. This doesn’t mean that Moses’ wife and kids and those very, very, very close to him just could mourn for 30 days and ”You shut it off right now. You can’t mourn anymore. No more tears from you.” God’s not saying that. But as a nation, they mourned for 30 days and then they stopped mourning.

And see, when you have that time to grieve, then there has to be a time to stop grieving, and you have to face the fact that life has changed. I love what it says in verse 2, where God comes to Joshua, God Himself comes to Joshua. Now Joshua was Moses’ right-hand man. It was Moses and Aaron, right, all throughout the situation with Pharaoh and leading in Egypt. It was Moses and his older brother, Aaron. But both of them were held accountable for their sin when they struck the rock. And God told both of them, Moses and Aaron, ”Neither one of you guys are going in the Promised Land.” So Aaron died. He was 3 years older than Moses. He died at 123. And then, not too long after that, God took Moses up to Mount Nebo and, and Moses died. So they’re both gone. But the next guy in line was a guy named Joshua. And Moses had laid his hands on Joshua. And Joshua, the Scripture says, was full of wisdom. And so the Lord comes to Joshua, the leader-in-waiting, and says to him, verse 2, ”Moses, My servant, is dead. He’s dead.” I mean, God doesn’t beat around the bush. ”Here’s the situation, Joshua. I know you’re hurting, and I know you’re grieving, and I know you’re weeping, and I know you’re mourning, but Moses is dead. He’s not coming back. You guys can’t sit around and wait around. This isn’t going to be like a Lazarus thing and 4 days later he rises from the dead. He’s been dead 30 days. He’s not coming back. He’s with Me now, Joshua, and he’s not going to lead My people anymore. Joshua, you’re going to do that. Moses is dead.” You have to face the facts, the brutal facts. You can’t live in a dream world. You can’t hold to the past hoping that somehow the things from the past will come back. And you can’t mourn and mourn and mourn and mourn and mourn forever. You face the fact that life has changed. And you remind yourself of the fact that life goes on. Life goes on.

I love verse 2. ”Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, therefore, arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, therefore, arise, arise. It’s time, Joshua. The time of mourning is over. Now it’s time to get up and get on with life.” As much as we don’t like to hear that, especially when we’re hurting, that life still goes on, it does.

When Debbie’s dad suffered a massive, massive stroke and we didn’t know if he was going to live or die, I remember Debbie telling me about her mother. And she was there at the hospital every day. He was hanging in the balance for 3 months. And Debbie’s mother would see people walking around the hospital talking and laughing and living and she’d be like wanting to scream and say, ”Don’t you know what has happened in my life? Don’t you know what has happened to my husband? Listen. Let’s stop this world because life has so changed for me.” But life goes on. It goes on. And when Gerald Cannon had a stroke, life still went on. And when Mrs. Cannon died, life still went on. And when Debbie’s dad, Gerald, died some years later, life still goes on. And you have to remind yourself of the fact that life goes on.

Now look at verse 2. ”Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, therefore, arise….” Did you know that there are some people who get stuck right there, ”Moses, My servant, is dead,” and they never get to the next statement, ”Now, therefore, arise.” They’re just stuck in, ”He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead.” It’s mourning. It’s mourning. It’s mourning. It’s grieving. It’s tears. It’s crying month after month, year after year, decade after decade. They get stuck there.

I love what God says to Samuel, the prophet, when Samuel was grieving because Saul, the one he had appointed king of Israel, was a bonehead and didn’t do what God wanted him to do. And God said, ”I’ve rejected him from being king.” And in 1st Samuel chapter 16, verse 1, the Lord comes to the prophet Samuel and says to Samuel, ”How long are you going to mourn for Saul, because I have rejected him from being king? Get up, fill your horn with oil, go to Bethlehem. You’re going to find one of the sons of Jesse, and you’re going to anoint him king. Life goes on, Samuel. We’re not just going to sit on our little pity pot and weep and cry because Saul is a bust. We’re not going to do that. Life goes on. How long are you going to mourn King Saul?”

I heard about a couple, Phil and Judy. And they had one son. And their one son died in a terrible, horrible tragic, freak accident. And the church rallied around Phil and Judy, and they were so heartbroken. And the church and the people, their friends, provided comfort for them, and they were there for them for week after week after month after month. And after about 3 months people began to say to Phil and Judy, ”Now, you know, life does go on.” They didn’t want to hear that. And they would snap back, and they’d say, ”What do you know about it? You’ve never lost a son.” And people would say to them, ”Yes, but, but God knows, and God has lost a Son and God wants you to go on.” And they’d say, ”You don’t know anything about my pain. You don’t know anything about my hurt.” And they just lived in their hurt – our son is dead – month after month after year after year after year. And 15 years later Phil and Judy acted as if their son died last week. They never got past, ”Moses is dead. Therefore, arise.” They never went on with life. They just got stuck. Is that true of you? Have you gotten stuck in some change in your life, some hurt in your life? Maybe it was a divorce that you didn’t want. Maybe it was a move that you didn’t want to make, that you went kicking and screaming. And you were a 7th grader and you moved and you didn’t want to move, and it’s just been miserable for you, and you’re just stuck, grieving and mourning and crying. Listen. You mourn, and then you stop mourning, and then, you venture out to a new normal with God.

Look at verse 2 again and following: ”Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, therefore, arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads I have given it to you just as I spoke to Moses, from the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, and all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the great sea, which is the Mediterranean Sea, toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.” He was telling him, ”Joshua, it’s time to arise. It’s time to cross over there in Moab, which is in the east. It’s time to go west, young man. And we’re going to go across the Jordan. And we’re going to take the Promised Land.” Wow! Wow! I mean, this isn’t any little deal. This is a big deal.

Now Moses dying was a big deal, a great loss. And on the heels of a great loss was a fabulous, amazing blessing, the Promised Land, what they had been looking for and longing for since the time of Abraham when God told Abraham, ”I’m going to give you a land.” Wow! Now was the time that they were going to get the land. On the heels of tremendous mourning and loss came tremendous blessing.

Listen. God wants you to experience His abundance, even in the face of great loss, even in the face of great pain and great heartache and great tragedy. God has abundance. Ephesians chapter 3, verse 20: ”Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all we ask or think, according to the power that works within you, to Him be the glory.”

Job had tremendous loss in his life, tremendous loss. All of his wealth gone, all of his children gone his health gone, covered in sore boils from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, he lost everything, his face in the community gone. He said, ”The lowest of the low don’t cease to spit in my face.” Job used to be like E. F. Hutton. When Job talked, people listened. I mean, it was like, ”Wow, Job is incredible. He’s like a rock star.” He’d walk by and people were like, ”That was Job. Did you get Job’s autograph? Let’s get Job’s autograph.” Now Job is nothing. He’s chopped liver. Nobody cares anything about Job. ”Guys I wouldn’t even hire to work in my field,” he said, ”now they spit in my face. I’m a laughing stock. They make fun of me.” He went through tremendous change and through tremendous hurts. And God restored it all double, double! Man, after he got through his time of testing, what was on the other side? Ten more children and double all his wealth and a life filled with blessing.

Listen. As you face change, sometimes it’s hard to see that life can go on. Life does go on. And it doesn’t go on miserably, horribly. There are great blessings out there.

A dear, dear couple in our church, experienced tremendous hurt and tremendous pain and tremendous loss when their daughter was taken away in a flood and they hurt, and they still hurt. But they’ve trusted God. And 8 weeks ago she got pregnant, and it was a miracle that she got pregnant. It’s a miracle of God and how He worked all that out. And I saw them yesterday and there’s just joy. They just know that God is true to His Word. He does give beauty for ashes. You bring the Lord your ashes, and the Lord can turn that around.

Job lost his 10 children, and God gave him 10 children. And as a friend of mine told me, he said, ”You know, God didn’t give him 20 children. He doubled everything except the kids. And you know why He didn’t double the kids? Because his kids really weren’t lost, they were just with the Lord. They were just with the Lord.” So He did double those kids. Ten were in heaven and 10 Job had to enjoy on earth. Wow!

God wants you to experience His abundance. And God wants that for our church. As we go through changes, God says, ”Hey, it ain’t over. Moses might be dead, but I’m not dead. And it ain’t over.” And we’re getting ready to do great things. We’re getting ready to go in the Promised Land.” We’ve been experiencing mercy drops, as the song says, ”Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.” And God says, ”I want to bring the showers, and I want to do exceeding abundantly beyond all you ask or think.” So in your situation, God says, ”I want to bring abundance.” You’re getting ready to go into the Promised Land. Venture out to a new normal with God and that new normal is great.

And God wants you to be strong and courageous. He tells Joshua that 3 different times. He says in verse 6, ”Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.” Verse 7: ”Only be strong and very courageous.” Verse 9: ”Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous.” What do you think God might be saying there? Be strong and courageous, probably what He’s saying. He says it 3 times in just those few verses. Why do you think He said that to Joshua? How would you like to have been Joshua? You follow Moses. You know, I mean, he’s pretty much hit the top. The Bible says in Deuteronomy 34 there had never been, before or since, a prophet like Moses whom the Lord spoke to face to face.

I was talking to a pastor friend the other day, and I said, ”You know, really, when you go to a church, you never want to follow a guy that was like Moses.” Right? I mean, you want to follow a guy that didn’t do very well. It’s always better to follow a guy that didn’t do very well. You who are taking over a different position or getting promoted, and, ”Yeah, my boss, he got fired and I’m taking his place.” ”Okay. Well, how good a boss was he?” ”He was terrible. That’s why they fired him.” ”Well, man, you’re in good shape, because you just have to be okay and everybody’s going to think you’re a world beater.” But if you follow Moses, ”Be strong and courageous, Joshua.” He’s just shaking in his pants there. ”Oh, what do I, what do I do? How am I going to do this?” The Lord says, ”You be strong and courageous. You be a strong leader. You’re the one that I’ve put My mantle on, and you’re going to lead the people from Moab across the Jordan River. And we’re going to take Jericho. And we’re going to take Ai. And we’re going to take the Promised Land. And you – be a strong leader.”

Some of you are here, some moms, and you’re a single mom ’cause you went through a divorce. And you don’t know what to do. And you’re afraid. And the Lord says, ”Be strong and courageous.” Some of you dads have gone through a tough time in your finances and in your health and in your situation and in your family. And you’re saying, ”What do I do?” And the Lord says, ”Be strong and courageous” the word for strong, means, to behave valiantly and courageous, means to be steadfastly minded. When I read that, as I was studying for this message, I felt like God spoke that to me. Said, ”Jeff, the church is going through change. You need to be strong, and you need to be courageous, and you need to lead out.” And I want this place to go into the Promised Land. I have felt that for years that God wants to use this place in a powerful way in our community.

When I first got here 8 years ago, I would meet on Tuesday mornings with Philip and Nathan. And we would pray together and we’d talk about things together. And they were on the Pastor’s Search Committee. And so we would visit about things and just how the church was doing and things like that. And I still remember one Tuesday, Nathan and I were talking, and I think Philip had to go to work. And so we were just talking. And Nathan had told me, he said, ”God has given me a vision for this church that this church, is going to reach out into the whole world.” He said, ”I’ve seen the fountains coming out from this church.” And other people had told me just in the short time I had been here that they had been praying for decades for this church and just sensed in their heart. And a lady in our church told me, ”This church is going to be a praise on the earth.” And God has a special plan for this church in this city to make an impact that would rock the world for Jesus Christ. And I remember talking to Nathan about that. And it dawned on me what the Lord had: the plan that He had for this place. And I just began to cry. ”God, why would You choose me? I’m a nothing, nobody. Why would You choose me? Lord, I’m afraid. I’m like, as Solomon said, ”I’m like a little child. I don’t know how to go out and I don’t know how to come in.” And I had never pastored a church before in my life except the one in Orlina, North Carolina. I raised it from 11 to 15 members when I was there. I mean, it was small. It was a seminary church. And, man, coming here. And you know what? The devil, I believe, senses that God wants to do something great here. And so, what does he do? He fights. He fights. And he uses people, and he uses situations, and he comes at us. Be strong and courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed. And be steadfast.

Listen. I pray, God, not my will, but Thine be done. God, help me, as You showed the people in the Old Testament, as You led Moses by the cloud, with the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, help me to be in step with You. Help me to be sensitive to my surroundings, to be sensitive to Your voice, to people that would come and share with me Your Word that would be, for our church, and that I would receive it. And when the enemy comes in, that I would be sensitive to that, so that I’d be in step and I’d lead our church in step with God. I don’t want us to get off base. I don’t want us to do anything that would hurt our church. But, hey, when I feel like we have a green light from the Lord, and we’re supposed to go forward, and this is what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to do it. I’m not going to let the fear of man change anything that I do.

God says, ”Be strong. Be courageous.” And then, He says, ”Be obedient.” Look at verse 7 and 8: ”Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses, My servant, commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

How do you have success in life? How do you experience blessings in life and prosperity in life and the good things from God? By being obedient, by getting yourself on blessing ground. God is a good God. God longs to bless. But He can’t bless if you’re messing around over here, and He’s saying, ”Hey, blessings are over there.” And you keep fooling around over here. You’re like the prodigal son hanging out in the far country. You’re going to find blessings in the far country? No! You’ll find pig slop. Blessings are over there at the father’s house. Blessings are when you get on blessing ground. That’s when you find blessings.

I remember being in a golf tournament, a church golf tournament years and years and years ago. And you had to turn in your name and we were going to draw names out of the hat at the end of the tournament. And we had a lunch. And at the luncheon they were going to draw names out of the hat, and you could win stuff. But they had this caveat: You must be present to win. You ever been in those kind of things? Have to be present to win. So, if you’re not present, and they pull your name out of the hat, you don’t get the prize. It would be like, ”Jeff Schreve. Is he here? Is he here? Oh, he’s not here. Well, go on to the next one.” And they pull somebody else’s name out of the hat.

Listen. God has your name in His hat. And He wants to pull your name out, and He will pull your name out to bless you, but you must be present to win. And if you’re messing around here in the far country, and He calls your name, you miss out on the blessings. And so many people are missing out on the things that God wants to do in their lives. And they say, ”Oh, I want prosperity, and I want God to give me success.” Well, then, get yourself on blessing ground. Quit living in immorality.

I talked to a couple the other day and they were living together. And they said, ”You know, we want you to do our wedding.” And I said, ”Okay. How long have you been living together?” And they said, ”For several years.” And I said, ”Well, when do want to get married?” And they said, ”Well, later this year.” I said, ”Let’s do it today.” I said, ”If you guys are going to stay together, then you need to quit living in sin. Let’s get married today.” And they said, ”Well, we can’t afford that.” I said, ”Pay for the license and we’ll marry you here for free.” And so they got their license and I married them just a week ago in the Simmon’s Room for free. I want you to be married, I want you to get on blessing ground so that God can bless your marriage, so that God can bless your family. Don’t wait. Don’t wait. Man, the Lord is pulling your name out of the hat. What are you doing over there at the pig sty? God says you need to be obedient.

And then, God wants you to be fully assured. Look what He says in verses 5 and 9: ”No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you. I will not fail you or forsake you. Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Oh, that was the word that Joshua desperately needed to hear. That was the word that caused his knees to quit knocking. I can be strong and courageous because the Lord is with me, and He’s not going to fail me. And the same God who spoke face to face with Moses; and Moses’ face would shine, and Moses had that close relationship with God. ”Just as I have been with Moses, Joshua, I will be with you.”

And God’s Word to you today as you go through changes, as we go through changes, God says, ”I’m still here, and I’m not leaving. And I will be with you through the good times, through the bad times, through the hard times. When you walk through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. And when you pass through the fire and walk through the fire, you will not be burned, nor will the flame kindle upon you, for I will be with you, says the Lord of hosts.”

Hebrews 13:5 is one of the greatest verses in all of the Bible where the Lord literally says this. It reads different in English, but this is literally what He says: ”I will not, never, never leave you, and I will not, never forsake you.” We read it as, ”I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.” But that’s not what God says, because in the Greek He adds all those negatives. ”I will not, never, never leave you. I will not, never forsake you.” Now we’d say that’s bad English, but it’s great theology, because God is saying, ”Hey, get this down in your head. Get it down in your heart. Don’t ever forget it. I will not, never, never leave you, and I will not never forsake you. You can trust Me. I will be with you.”

Where are you today? Where are you today? Are you mourning? Has it not been enough time for you? Are you doing like my family member, pushing back the tears, not allowing yourself to cry, not allowing yourself to grieve over whatever loss has come into your life individually, to our lives with change? Are you mourning today? Is the Lord saying to you, ”It’s time to stop mourning? Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, therefore, arise, because we’re getting ready to go into the Promised Land. We’re going to move on with God.” Where are you today?

I was talking to my friend, Charles Lowery, Fred’s brother, from First Baptist, Shreveport. Charles is going to be here, I believe, in May to share with us. And, you know, Charles had the painful experience of losing his grandson. His little grandson, Jake, was 2 years old. His daughter and her husband and their family had come home. I think they had come home from church. And they had gotten out of the car. And then, Charles’ son-in-law remembered that he needed to get something at the store. So he shot back in the car. And little Jake wanted to go with his dad to the store. And so he ran toward the car. And the dad didn’t know he was there, and he ran over him and killed him. The family saw it. Charles’ 5 year-old grandson saw his little brother die right there in the driveway. Still to this day he’ll say to his grandfather, Charles, he’ll say, ”Poppa, that Jake was really fast, wasn’t he?” And Charles says, ”Yeah, he’s really fast.” He said the reason he asks him that because it’s his way of saying, ”There’s nothing I could have done to save my brother, was there?” Charles would be like, ”No, he’s fast. You couldn’t have done anything.”

And Charles went through all the grieving and their family went through all the grieving and all the mourning. And Charles told me, he said, ”You know, at first you just want comfort because you’re just hurting so badly.” But he said, ”After comfort, then you move to clarity and you quit asking, ‘Why, God?’ and you start asking, ‘What, God? What, God? What do You want me to learn from this, God? I know You’re good, and I know You love me. And I may never understand this, but I’m going to trust You, and I’m going to trust you, and I’m going to press on with You. And, yes, it’s going to be a new normal, but little Jake’s in heaven. We’re going to see him again. And, God, You’re still good.”’

And then, Charles told me, he said, ”Jeff, you know the worst, the worst thing ever was the cross.” When God saw His own dear Son whipped and beaten and spit upon and nailed to the cross, and the pain was excruciating, and the emotional pain and the physical pain and the spiritual pain as Jesus cried out, ”My God, My God, why hath Thou forsaken Me?” And God the Father had to experience all that, and He had to see all that, and He had to hear that. And God took the very worst thing, the cross where His Son was crucified, and turned it around for the very best thing, because it’s the cross of Jesus Christ that enables me to know God. It’s the cross of Jesus Christ that has saved me. ”For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Listen. In your hurt, in your pain, in the changes that come in, give those to the Lord. He gives beauty for ashes. Move on with God. Mourn, and then stop mourning, and then venture out to a new normal with God. He says, ”Trust Me. I know what I’m doing. Trust Me, and we’ll go to the Promised Land together.”

Father, I thank You. Your Word is so alive and it’s so powerful. And, God, I thank You that when we experience loss and pain and hurt and change and divorce and the loss of a job and the loss of income and just growing older and experiencing an empty nest and difficulties in life and changes that we don’t want, but they come anyway, I thank You that You’re the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Lord sat as king at the flood. Yes, the Lord sits He’s king forever. And, Lord, that we would trust You, and that we would get our hearts right with You, and we’d get ourselves on blessing ground, and we’d be fully assured that You’ll never leave us and You’ll never forsake us. Lord, I pray for folks who are going through a hard, hard time today, who are grieving. I pray, Lord, that You’d just wrap Your arms of love around them and that they’d be sensitive to the fact that grieving doesn’t last forever; that You want them, after the sufficient time has passed, You want them to move on. And life goes on, and you’ll be there, and life can still be good and can still be sweet again. And life can even be better than ever as we enter into the Promised Land and leave the wilderness and experience the land flowing with milk and honey. Lord, fill hearts with hope today. Lord, I pray for people who are here today and they long for You to be with them, but they don’t know. God, I pray that if people aren’t sure, Lord God, that You live in their hearts, that they’ve really trusted You, that You’re really with them and have really saved them, I pray today they would just say, ”Jesus, I want to know You. I want You to be with me. I can’t handle this. I can’t be strong and courageous by myself. I need You. So, Lord, come into my life. Forgive me of all my sins. I’ve been living in the pig sty and I want to get on blessing ground, and I want to please You, and I want to be right with You.” God, have your way. Lord, I pray that, that would be the prayer of so many people that have never trusted You.

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About The Author

Dr. Jeff Schreve’s real life story is one of personal transformation. His struggles and victories form the foundation of his calling and intersect with the lives of people from all walks-of-life. His positive sermon outlines are compelling many into a genuine life-experience with the living God. Pastor Jeff believes the Bible is true, and he is passionate about introducing Christ to those who feel hopeless, helpless, and think God is out of reach. He "tells it like it is" with clear biblical content combined with engaging, personal sermon illustrations that are relevant, compassionate, and humorous. His sermon outlines are filled with life-giving principles for living. Jeff is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin (1984) with a degree in Business Administration. After spending twelve years in sales, God called Jeff to preach. He graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in December of 2000 with a Master of Divinity degree and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served as Pastor of Membership and Missions at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, TX from 1997 to 2003 before being called to First Baptist Texarkana as Senior Pastor in February of 2003. Jeff has been happily married since 1986. He and Debbie are greatly blessed with three daughters, a son-in-law, and a granddaughter.

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