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02/04/2018

Joshua 23                     “Glory Days: God the Battler”       

2/11/2018                              Rev. Jerry W. Krueger                Boardman UMC

Nadin Khooury was 13 years old, barely five feet tall and maybe weighed 100 pounds.  Nadin‘s mom had escaped war ravaged Liberia in 2000, and had a job as a hotel maid in Minneapolis. They moved to Philadelphia after she lost her job, and Nadin’s life became a nightmare.

As the son of an unemployed immigrant, the local punks taunted him at first, then began shoving him around at school. And they picked on him, called his mother names. The bullying escalated into punching, kicking and slapping, and one day the bullies drug Nadin to an iron spiked fence, hoisted him up and hooked his jacket on the fence, where he hung suspended. He was a punching bag for the bullies, who beat on Nadin for 10 minutes before being chased off by a passersby. 

One of the thugs recorded the assault, and posted it on You Tube. How stupid can you be?  The police saw the video, rounded up the bullies, who all landed in jail.

As the story was picked up by the media, Nadin was invited to appear on The View. As the YouTube video played for the audience, Nadin said, “next time it might be someone even smaller than me.”

Just then 3 Philadelphia Eagle football players come on stage. A team that Nadin was crazy about. Desean Jackson, a wide receiver for the Eagles from 2008 to 2013 who now plays for Tampa Bay, assured Nadin, “Anytime you need us, I got two lineman right here. “ And then he gave Nadin his cell number on national TV.  From that day on, Nadin has been a phone call away from personal body guards. Who wouldn’t want that type of protection?

Joshua did. Brutal and blood thirsty enemies occupied the Promised Land. Joshua’s warriors were untested, his leadership unproven. Yet, God guaranteed the conquest. Joshua 1:5- God says, “I will not leave you or forsake you.” NT Hebrews 13: 5-6 says. “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”

The last question is troublesome. What can anyone do to me? They can lie to me. Deceive me. Injure me. Terrorize, bully me.”

But Scripture asks a different question. If God is your helper, what can anyone do to you?

The Greek work for helper is boetheia, which means “to shout,” and “to run.” When we call on the Lord, he runs with a shout, “I’m on my way! Stand fast!”

The job market is slow? God is your helper. Your health is poor, true. But God is your helper. The world is full of conflict, yes it is. But still the Almighty will never leave you.

The best news for Joshua was this: God not always stays with us, and answers us, but he FIGHTS for us. He fights for you!

We close this series today. Remember we began by speaking of Canaanites, Hivites,  Amorites.  Enemies inhabited the land, just gunning for you. Waiting to fight against you. But we come with our God who fights for us, and that makes a difference.

What are the Amorites of your life?  Are they fears, dread, hatred, hurt, racism?  They can come at you like a legion of street thugs. But you have the power to cast them aside saying, “Get out of here, shame. Be gone, guilt! Or fear of death, or regrets of the past. You have NO power over me. Get out!”

You were not created to quake in fear. You were not born to be a worrier about everything. You were not made to limp through life as a wimp! You are a living, breathing child of God. And God fights for you.

He fought for Joshua and he fights for you today. Hear Psalm 35:1, the Lord will “fight against those who fight against you.” Fight means God deploys angels and commands nature itself. He faces down Goliaths and vacates cemeteries.

God fights for YOU! Even when the coach is against you, the crowd maligns your vision. Even when injustice reigns, God fights relentlessly for you.

For you. Even you sitting there with the sketchy past. You with the receding hairline. You with the absentee Dad, or the children who claim they have no need for God, or Jesus or faith. You with the bad back ,and you with the bad credit, or the sorry job. God does not fight only for the attractive, the rich, and the famous. God fights for a world full of …you’s.

This is not about us fighting for God. This is about the Creator battling always for us, when we call upon him. But hear me church. This is not, “okay, I will go and act as if I am interested, and let everyone else do the work, then I claim credit.” This is about you calling out to God and walking with him, and doing all in YOUR power, to stand for God.

Several years ago one of my friends, Carol, commuted from Abilene, Texas to seminary in Dallas, at SMU, Perkins School of Theology to earn a Master of Divinity degree.  Carol was assigned to a large nearby Dallas church as a student associate, and in mid-November, Carol preaches her first sermon.

I remember my first sermon delivered in a church as a pastor. I know I gave a good effort, but I was like an inexperienced baseball batter, wildly swinging all over the place.

Carol delivered her sermon, and received polite and encouraging words from the congregation.  As she is gathering up her Bible and notes, the senior and associate pastor say, “Carol, we need a word with you.”

She steps into the Pastor’s office and there sit 4 persons from the “Pulpit Committee,” who proceed to thrash and trash Carol on the theological content of her sermon, her delivery, style of speech, her style of dress, etc.

She is stunned. Carol and her family who had come up to Dallas for her debut sermon, are crushed. They fly home to Abilene and after the kids are out and about that evening, her husband expresses his fury.  He flies back to Dallas next morning and arrives at the pastor’s office, and reads him the riot act about NOT being an encourager, about being too critical, about setting a poor example, and about his lack of GRACE. Jumping on someone’s first best effort like a hawk on a rat benefits no one. Carol’s husband, said his peace and flew back home.

When Carol arrived at church next Wednesday, the pastor, associate, and pulpit committee apologized profusely, and stated they would work to help Carol hone her skills in any way, so that she would be an effective preacher of the Gospel of Jesus.

Carols husband fought for her. How great to have someone fight for you, to go head to head with those who malign you.

And our God has done just that.

When God became flesh in the form of Jesus Christ, he fought for your soul. When Jesus faced Satan in the wilderness, he fought for your peace. When Jesus stood up for the least, the last, the lost, He was standing up for each of you.

When He died on the cross for my sins, your sins, He fought for your salvation. When He promised that He would leave the Holy Spirit, the Advocate with us, he promised strength, comfort, and guidance. And He was fighting for you.

If you miss this truth, that God loves us, and fights for us, you have missed a basic promise and truth of the Christian faith.

Chapter 12 of Joshua, lists information about the battles that Joshua and the Hebrews won with God’s guidance and help. Look in your pew Bible, p. 234, middle of the page. I’ll wait.

The narrator itemizes all the kings that the people of Israel defeated. The King of Jericho, one. The king of Ai, one. The king of Jerusalem, one. The king of Hebron, one. And the list goes on for 31 lines. It’s like a check list. Joshua - 31, the Canaanites -0.

Imagine your own personal list. Greed, one. Explosive temper, one, Envy, one. Abused as a child, yet stable as an adult.

Tempted with drugs, yet sober and steady.

Strayed off course, but returned with vigor.   One! One! One!

This is God‘s goal for you. This is your inheritance: more victory than defeat, more joy than sadness, more hope than despair. God fights for you. He is relentless in his loving pursuit of you. He never stops. He never leaves us, He NEVER abandons us.

Beloved children of God, THESE are the Glory days.

Remember WHOSE you are, and who fights for you. The Lord of heaven, creator of everything.

And all of God’s redeemed people, proclaimed, AMEN!