1 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.” 5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” 6 Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them. 7 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.'” 9 Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord–the Lord of all the earth–set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” 14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.
Joshua 3:1-17 (NIV)
Pick a number, any number. (Pause) How many picked a number between 1 and 10? How about 10 and 100? Did you pick a number larger than a million? If you didn’t, why didn’t you?
In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin incorporated Google while still graduate students at Stanford University. Google is a search engine they created. Search Engines are the tools we use on the internet to find web pages on certain subjects – they are kind of like a book index – only this index is huge and is always growing. In November of 2004 Google claimed an index of nearly 8 billion web pages (http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/041111-084221) As of July 25, 2008 Google Engineers reported the index surpassing the trillion mark (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/we-knew-web-was-big.html)!
How did they get so big? I don’t have the expertise to answer that question, but I can tell you that it began with their initial vision. When they were dreaming up a name for their new invention back in their school days they first came up with the word googol (which got misspelled along the way and the wrong spelling stuck). The word googol is a mathematical term for the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. While most people are likely to pick a number like 14 or 98, Brin and Page decided to pick a googol-1 with 100 zeroes.
Now then, let me ask you this – how big are you willing to dream? What are you willing to believe God for? Are you willing to believe that God can work through this church to see 100 people come into his kingdom this year? Why not 200? Or 300? Are you willing to believe that God can lead you to 1 person who will receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior this year? Are you willing to believe that we can disciple these new believers so that they become growing, reproducing Christians? Are you willing to believe that God can use you to impact your home, your place of work, your school, and your community? Are you willing to believe that God’s miracles are only a prayer away, that we can experience His presence in a powerful way every single day?
You know, as I have studied the Scriptures, the people who lived and saw times of remarkable outpourings of God’s blessings always impress me. People like: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and the Apostles. These are people who experienced what it was like to live in the midst of great acts of God. They didn’t just dream about them – they experienced them.
I believe that we too can live in the midst of God’s miracles.
Tonight I’d like to look at the landmarks that we’ll pass on the journey to miracle land. The things that will tell us we are moving in the right direction and getting closer to our destination. Every trip is measured by landmarks. Recently, when my family and I went on a trip to Florida we could tell how far along we were in our journey by matching up the landmarks we passed with the maps we followed. Often times a particular rest stop or restaurant would become a much-needed landmark (especially because we were travelling with small children)!
Our life journey into the land of big dreams and miracles is also measured by specific landmarks. Here they are:
The landmark of necessity
The landmark of participation
The landmark of obedience
Landmark of necessity (v1-3)
Joshua 3:1-3 (NIV)
1 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it.
What is Joshua saying to these people? He is telling them – you cannot go into the Promised Land by yourself, you need God to lead you. 40 years prior to this, the people had tried to cross the Jordan without God and had been destroyed in the process.
Perhaps, one of the best things that can happen to us is when we find ourselves in a situation where it is impossible for us to get out of on our own. A place where we are completely dependent upon Him. That is where the Israelites are. They can’t go back to where they came from – they are hated and will be destroyed. To go forward presents enough challenges as well – the people in the land they are to conquer doesn’t want them there either. Nothing has changed in the last 40 years. The land is still swarming with great armies. The men there still make the Israelites look like grasshoppers in their presence. The are stuck – between the proverbial rock and a hard place. And so Joshua reminds the people that they must follow after God.
Sometimes, we need to be reminded of the same thing – we need to learn to depend on God.
You know – living in the 21st century is an amazing thing. The technology that we have today is almost unbelievable.
• Computers that fit in the palm of your hand
• Cell phones
• Laser printers
• Satellite communications
• Airplanes capable of supersonic speed
It has gotten to the point where what God said of the people of Genesis 11 is true today; “anything they put their mind to, they will accomplish it.”
Today, we can go to school and learn;
• Various trades – electrical, carpentry, mechanics – whatever
• We can even study for the ministry
But, do you know what has happened? And this is a big problem with technology and education – they have advanced so much and have become so good, that we have learned to depend upon them and not on God.
Now, understand, I am not saying that we need to become like the Amish and do away with technological advances. I believe that technology and education – in most cases – can be a good thing; as long as we recognize them as tools for God’s service.
For too long, we have been looking to the tools to do the work instead of the master who made the tools possible. That is why I believe that one of the best things that can happen to us is to find ourselves in a situation where it is impossible for us to get out of on our own!
In trying to move the church forward or even our own lives, we devise plans, prepare charts, and establish programs. God looks over these nice plans and programs and says, “Nice ideas, good plans, but you left something out – ME!”
Not until we become completely dependent upon Him can we expect to cross over the river to The Land of Big Dreams and great miracles. This morning, I would ask you – are you completely dependent upon God in your life? Or, do you have the attitude that says – I can handle my life. I have my house, my car, my computer or TV, my bank account and my job – if anything goes wrong, then maybe I will turn to Him – but I don’t need God right now.
What about all of us corporately – as a church? Are we dependent upon our programs – our outreach events, our groups, our Sunday School, our Children’s ministry, or even our Pastor – to make this church a strong and growing church? Or are we going to be completely dependent upon God? When we can look within ourselves and say “Yes, I am – we are – depending upon God for our every need – then we have passed the first landmark and are definitely on our way to The Land of Big Dreams and great miracles.
But, there is a second landmark that we must pass along the way. The first landmark was the landmark of necessity . . . the second is ….
The Landmark of participation (vs 12-13)
Once we realize our neediness, our dependence upon God – we must also realize we gotta get where God is! God is calling us to participate in the move.
You know, there are times when God won’t move;
When we try to do it ourselves – like the Israelites 40 years before this trying to go into the Promised Land alone – God didn’t go with them.
He also won’t move when we think that we can tell Him what to do.
And finally, God won’t move when we are unwilling to go forward and participate with Him. That is where the Israelites are at this point.
When we are willing to listen to God and participate in His will, then we can expect great things. Think about some of the promises God has made to His people;
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)
14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Notice – God is calling us to participate – we must first humble ourselves, pray and seek His face and then He will heal our land and forgive our sins.
The same is true in Malachi 3:10 –
Malachi 3:10 (NIV)
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
First, we must participate – we must bring in the offering and then God will open the windows of heaven and pour out the blessing until it overflows.
Notice what God says in this situation that Joshua records,
Joshua 3:12-13 (NIV)
12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD–the Lord of all the earth–set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”
God is not going to stop up the waters of the Jordan until the priests have stepped into the water – that means that they must participate. Joshua does not say the waters part and then the people are to go forward – he says the people are to go forward, willing to participate, and then the waters parted.
The same is still true today. If we want to see God bring blessings and work miracles in our midst, we are going to have to participate. The fact of the matter is,
• We will not see anyone come to Christ until we begin witnessing and loving them.
• We will not see people healed until we begin to pray and believe for them
• We will not see our young people become strong Christians until we begin to mentor them
• We will not grow in our walk with the Lord until we become students of His Word
• We will not impact our community until we are in our community with Christ in us.
• We will not accomplish anything without consistent individual and corporate prayer and then a response to what God tells us to do.
You see, we can talk about and even pray about revival all we want – and YES I believe we must be praying for revival. But, until we are willing to participate, God is not going to move.
The question then becomes – what does God want me to do? I am not here to tell you what to do – that is God’s place. But what each one of us must do is get in the place where we can hear from Him! Begin, by going to prayer. Ask God how He wants you to fit into His program –
• Maybe He wants you to lead a Bible Study or Small Group
• Maybe He wants you to be showing the love of Christ to a neighbor
• Maybe He wants you to be mentoring a young believer
• Maybe it’s a young – newly married woman who needs a mature woman to help her understand what a Godly wife is – or a young man and a mature believing man
• Maybe it’s a teenager who needs someone to help him/her understand the Scripture and someone to look up to who is living out a Christ-like life and honest about the struggles they face.
• Or, Maybe God wants you to be giving more to missions
• Maybe He wants you to be a care giver to an elderly man/woman in the community
• Maybe He wants you to be one of the first persons to greet people as they arrive at our church on a Sunday morning.
• Maybe there’s some other creative crazy thing that God is asking you to do but you’ve been pushing it aside…
Whatever it is – certainly you want to spend time in prayer BUT….BUT
But, don’t just wait for a sign from heaven – begin trying different things – if you are praying and doing – God will be able to lead you exactly where he wants you to be. Remember – God wants you to participate and often times His moving depends on your doing.
So, begin trying to share the love of Christ with your neighbor – pray for them, think up an act of kindness and do it, invite them to church . . . Look to see if there is a young person in your life that you can mentor . . . begin by offering to pray for them – approach them and ask if they would like to meet with you once in while – offer to help them through the difficult struggles of life – you’ll be surprised at how God will direct this kind of situation.
This moves us directly into the third landmark on this trip to The Land of Big Dreams and great miracles. First was the landmark of necessity – the second was the landmark of participation and the third landmark is …
The Landmark of obedience (vs. 14-17)
Joshua 3:14-17 (NIV)
14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.
Not only must we participate with God as we move into The Land of Big Dreams and great miracles, it must be obedient participation. This may be the most difficult landmark to pass by. Why? Because it is marked by faith and sometimes appears to be contradictory to what we see in our world. Among the many teachings of the Bible we learn;
• We must give our money in order to receive blessings
• We must be last in order to be first
• We must serve in order to be honored
• We must step into the water in order to cross on dry land
• It means we must walk by faith and not by sight.
I don’t know if you have ever seen the “Indiana Jones” movies, but there is an interesting scene in the third movie that illustrates this truth. “Indy” is trying to locate the famed “Holy Grail” – the cup that is supposed to be the one Jesus used in celebrating the communion with his Apostles…
SHOW CLIP FROM INDIANA JONES 3
(explanation if clip is not shown: In the movie, in order to get to the Grail, he must cross a great chasm. As he looks at it, there is no way to cross from one side to the other. But, he has deciphered the directions and realizes the only way to the other side is to step off the cliff and into the chasm. As he stands there, you can see in his face the reluctance – finally, he closes his eyes, takes a deep breath and steps into the emptiness. Suddenly, as he begins to fall a bridge appears before him and he is able to cross safely.)
God has promised us great blessings if we – by faith – obediently participate in His work. That means that sometimes we have to be willing to take the next step, even when we are not sure where it leads.
Think about Jesus’ first miracle – it is recorded in John 2 – it is the miracle of His changing the water into wine. Jesus had been invited to a wedding. While at the feast, the wine runs out. Jesus mother approaches Him about problem.
John 2:5 (NIV)
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
This is the key to moving into The Land of Big Dreams and great miracles – whatever He says to you – do it!
Imagine what would have happened if
• The servants hadn’t poured the water from the jars – this isn’t wine its water – the miracle would never had happened.
• Israel had waited for the water to stop before stepping into the Jordan – they may still be waiting to cross into the Promised Land.
This morning, we need to commit right here before God that as He leads – we will move in obedience to His directions. When we do that, then we will have passed the third landmark on the way to The Land of Big Dreams and great miracles.
So, are we ready to go? Do you recognize the three landmarks? Have you passed them personally? When we do this individually our corporate journey together will follow naturally. Do you realize how dependent you are upon God? Are you ready to participate in God’s plan for your life, for our church and for our community? And finally, are you willing to be obedient – to take the step of faith – and do whatever it is that God has called you to do? If you can answer those questions in the affirmative, then we are ready to cross into The Land of Big Dreams and great miracles. I’m excited about our journey to the other side!