christmas seriesJoshua 24:1 Joshua called together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He called in the elders, chiefs, judges, and officers. They presented themselves before God. 2 Then Joshua addressed all the people: “This is what GOD, the God of Israel, says: A long time ago your ancestors, Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor, lived to the east of the River Euphrates. They worshiped other gods. 3 I took your ancestor Abraham from the far side of The River. I led him all over the land of Canaan and multiplied his descendants. I gave him Isaac. 4 Then I gave Isaac Jacob and Esau. I let Esau have the mountains of Seir as home, but Jacob and his sons ended up in Egypt. 5 I sent Moses and Aaron. I hit Egypt hard with plagues and then led you out of there. 6 I brought your ancestors out of Egypt. You came to the sea, the Egyptians in hot pursuit with chariots and cavalry, to the very edge of the Red Sea! 7 “Then they cried out for help to GOD. He put a cloud between you and the Egyptians and then let the sea loose on them. It drowned them. “You watched the whole thing with your own eyes, what I did to Egypt. And then you lived in the wilderness for a long time. 8 I brought you to the country of the Amorites, who lived east of the Jordan, and they fought you. But I fought for you and you took their land. I destroyed them for you. 9 Then Balak son of Zippor made his appearance. He was the king of Moab. He got ready to fight Israel by sending for Balaam son of Beor to come and curse you. 10 But I wouldn’t listen to Balaam — he ended up blessing you over and over! I saved you from him. 11 “You then crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The Jericho leaders ganged up on you as well as the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites, and Jebusites, but I turned them over to you. 12 “I sent the Hornet ahead of you. It drove out the two Amorite kings — did your work for you. You didn’t have to do a thing, not so much as raise a finger. 13 “I handed you a land for which you did not work, towns you did not build. And here you are now living in them and eating from vineyards and olive groves you did not plant. 14 “So now: Fear GOD. Worship him in total commitment. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped on the far side of The River (the Euphrates) and in Egypt. You, worship GOD. 15 “If you decide that it’s a bad thing to worship GOD, then choose a god you’d rather serve — and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country beyond The River, or one of the gods of the Amorites, on whose land you’re now living. As for me and my family, we’ll worship GOD.” (MSG)

So we are in the middle of a series about Joy.  I think this series has been a ton of fun so far.  If you remember as we have gotten into this series the first thing we did was look at joy for what it is and also what it is not.  We looked at where true joy is found and we saw in scripture that we can only come to one conclusion there…it’s found in God and God alone.  So after one week of the series we knew the importance of joy, the difference between joy and happiness and where joy is found.  Joy is found in God.  Then last week Ken talked to us about one of the most important and yet one of the most ignored things we can do to connect to God who we know is the source of our joy, that was Sabbath (rest.)  I can’t say that I am good at Sabbath rest; at disconnecting from everything else and taking that one day to focus on God, but I will say, when I am engaging in Sabbath I feel that connection with God…I remember how important He is and I stop taking myself and my circumstances so seriously.  I slow down and know who God is…man Sabbath is so important to us finding joy because Sabbath is our day to center a round God, who IS our joy.  Now today we are going to talk about joy in a very important area of our lives, today we are going to talk about joy in our family and in our home.  Today we are going to learn from maybe the greatest most accomplished leader of the Old Testament.  His name is Joshua.  This is the guy who finished the job for Moses and led the people into The Promised Land, and we are going to look at an epic moment at the end of his life, where he explains what matters and what he is going to do.  As I really started to think about how we could learn about joy in our home, I just couldn’t get one of Joshua’s most famous lines out of my head.  You may have seen this on a coffee cup somewhere, or hanging on a mantle, or banner in someone’s home before…it’s that popular of a line.  It’s found in Joshua 24…

Joshua 24:15 As for me and my family, we’ll worship GOD. (MSG)

There is something so powerful about that line…it’s almost defiant isn’t it?  It’s like Joshua is saying, I don’t care what happens in this world…this is what me and my family will do!  And to let the cat out of the bag early here…this is how we find joy in our homes.  We lead our family to God and we place God front and center in our household.  What’s wild is that we see this powerful verse hanging on the wall in people’s homes.  We may see it on a coffee cup or something like that but we don’t always have the context to these “coffee cup” scriptures.  You see, where and how he makes this statement and to whom he makes this statement are a really big deal.  Joshua 24 is an incredible chapter, it is an epic moment at the end of Joshua’s life where he calls the entire nation of Israel together.  Many people will look at all of Joshua’s great victories, or the fact that he led the people into the Promised Land and say those were the biggest moments of his life but this moment is epic.  This old leader is over 100 years old, and this is his last big moment of leadership and it is HUGE!  So to set this up for you it’s important to know where he calls this meeting!  Its’ a very special place for the Israelite people called Shechem.  It’s a place that has come up in scripture before…

Genesis 12:6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. NIV

God appeared to Abram (who becomes Abraham) and promised this land to his offspring…a long time ago.  So this is not coincidence that this moment happens here.  This is a special place promised to these people years ago.  So Joshua’s life is coming to an end, and he calls all of the people together…the entire nation of Israel and he takes this moment to lead them one more time, and this time Joshua leads them to a covenant with God with rules, law, decrees…all of which have one central focus, and that is to be completely engaging God and God alone.  No worshiping of anything else.  This is his last great act, and then he passes away at the ripe old age of 110 years old.  What an incredible moment and for me my focus for today’s study really lands in verses 14 and 15 where we see this popular line, but I want you to picture it, this old amazing leader passionately pointing these people to God…in this holy, and special place!  This scene is amazing!

Joshua 24:14 “So now: Fear GOD. Worship him in total commitment. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped on the far side of The River (the Euphrates) and in Egypt. You, worship GOD. 15 “If you decide that it’s a bad thing to worship GOD, then choose a god you’d rather serve — and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country beyond The River, or one of the gods of the Amorites, on whose land you’re now living. As for me and my family, we’ll worship GOD.” MSG

So you might be thinking ok Sam, how does this helping me find joy in the family or lead my household towards joy?  Well I’m glad you asked!  I wanted to look at this amazing moment today because I believe we can have joy in our homes when we live as Joshua challenged us to live here.  His challenge is to center our lives and our homes on God.  He says Fear God. (When you see fear in the Old Testament like this it means to respect God.)  He says we must worship God!  And then it happens…he says regardless of what the rest of you do, me and my family we will worship God.

So if we go back 2 weeks we learned that joy is found where?  It’s found in God.  And Joshua is saying rid yourself of all other gods, all other distractions and worship God and God alone.  If you want joy in your life, it’s this simple.  You put God first.  If you want joy in your family and in your home then your whole household will worship God.  You see it’s when we are determined to place God first in our homes joy enters the scene.  Yes we can find happiness other places, but we know that happiness and joy are very different things…joy comes from God and it’s found when we are spending time with Him!

Psalms 16:11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.  NIV

God fills us with joy when we engage Him.  So if we want joy in our homes, what do you think we must do?  Yeah…we lead our family to God, we center on Him and we lead our family to focus on Him.

You know, in my opinion this is Joshua’s greatest act of leadership.  I know that he probably got in all the newspapers and on television for all the incredible victories and stories of conquering the Promised Land for his nation but this is it.  He leads his family to God, he stands almost defiantly in front of this sea of people and says you must serve and worship God.  You must pick a side, but as for me and my family we will worship God.  What an incredible moment!  And while they may not make a movie about how he led his family towards God, this is such a huge priority and it should be for all of us as well.  I have always found it amazing how the people of Israel constantly are pulled towards worshiping idols…they seem to be so distracted.  They seem to lose track of God so quickly, and they don’t have half the distractions that we have today!  We live in a world that seems to make it so hard to stay focused on God.  It was back then, and it is more so today.  This is a culture of clutter and chaos and busyness and distraction that you and I live in.  Last week Ken brought up a verse that I think really applies to what we are talking about today, and even next week when we talk about the church…this is one of the Psalms of Solomon…

Psalms 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.  Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. NIV

So joy is found in God and scripture is saying here that if God isn’t the one building the home things just aren’t going to work.  So here’s where we find the answer to the big question.  How do I find joy in my home?  It’s by allowing God to build my home.  We lead our family to God, we center our focus of our families on God.  This takes focus and passion to lead our homes as Joshua led his.

Ok, so how do I allow God to build my home?  How do I lead my family towards God worship?  I think we can learn a lot from Joshua’s big address to the nation of Israel on how to be this type of leader.

  1. Understand God gave it all to you! So to lead our families to God worship and focus, it is going to start with us adults.  It will start with our mindset and our focus on God.  We can’t really expect the kids to have the focus necessary, but we can!  Last week Ken spoke to you guys about Sabbath rest.  I know for a lot of us we struggle to find moments where we disconnect from the world and try to connect fully to God but Sabbath is a big deal.  I know for me the biggest thing that happens when I enter into that type of rest is that I remember all that God is and all that I am not.  I remember what God does, and what I can’t…I begin to understand just how big He is and all He has done for me.  Really I begin to take him more seriously and me a little less seriously.  Listen, God gave you everything you have.  He created your spouse.  He knit your beautiful children together while still in their mommy’s belly.  He gives you all you have.  He allows you the honor of breathing air in his beautiful creation right now.  Joshua understands this and if you remember the first whole chunk of his address to the nation of Israel was reminding them of this very thing!  God speaks through Him telling them everything that He (God) did for them…

God says I led Abraham all over Canaan…I gave you your forefathers.  I brought your ancestors out of Egypt…I gave you everything you have…I destroyed your enemies for you!  And he ends that portion by saying this in verse 13

13 “I handed you a land for which you did not work, towns you did not build. And here you are now living in them and eating from vineyards and olive groves you did not plant.”

Joshua is so connected to God that he understands who he is, and He knows very well who God is and all that God has done for him and this nation he leads.  This is an important place for us to start, when you look at the family picture hanging on the wall, remember who built your closest circle.  It wasn’t you.  It was God.  You want to build your home around God, this is so important for us to see, it’s all about appreciating what God has given you!  Joshua had every right to be a little cocky right?  I mean after all he accomplished so much right?  Nope, Joshua knows that God did it all, and gave it all to him.  Often times in the hustle and bustle of our lives we can lose sight of this…we have been handed land for which we didn’t work to eat from plants that we didn’t plant.  So this is where we start to find joy in our homes, we realize that God gave it all to us!  This starts our gratitude and God worship mentality.

  1. Respect and worship God with total commitment.  I have to say this is where we need the strength and passion and focus of Joshua.  It is challenging to focus on God in a world where we have so much.  We have a lot going on.  We have a lot resources, and frankly we have a lot of different things to focus on and worship.  We put our focus, our time, our energy and our resources into things, and often times if we aren’t careful we end up worshiping the wrong things.  This can be devastating for our family and for our children and for us.  It’s really tough in our culture right now to kind of keep up with everyone else right?  I mean can we just talk about it, we live in a world where if a child is a little athletic we put them in a sport all year round and half to train them constantly.  When a 5 year old has to pick one sport and specialize in it we may have gone a little too far, but what do you do?  You don’t want little Johnny getting behind!  I mean how will he ever make the varsity team someday if he isn’t doing speed and agility training and all the select camps today right?  I think we all want to do what’s best for our kids but we can really get caught up in a lot of things like sports and extracurricular activities that can slide from a fun thing to a god in our lives really quickly.  Look I feel that I have the right to talk about this pretty freely because this is my tension often times.  I have four kids that all enjoy sports.  I am about to start into 3 different basketball seasons and 2 indoor soccer seasons at the same time!  Did I mention that I coach 3 of those 5 teams, and am team parent for another!  We try to keep this under control, but it is challenging at times because if you let 4 kids all do one thing…it is still 4 things happening at once!  And the seasons never seem to end!  Mashawn and I often talk of the tension of just simply getting the kids to everything, and frankly there are things that we have to say no to and I feel that pull to put my own children in everything too!

Look it’s so easy to get caught up in things like this in our culture.  Whether its sports, or stuff, or the kids or whatever, these are very dangerous things.  God must be first.  Your family, your spouse, and your children all need to know that without question.  Now here is the key, they won’t know that because you say God is first and you hang Christian paintings on your walls!  They won’t even know that because you come to church.  They will know what you worship and what you focus on through your actions.  It’s a big set up for a lot of people who say they worship God but what have they modeled for their children?  Well that’s different…they’ve modeled that their budding sports career, or ______________ matters more than God does.  Then the child goes off to college and goes off the rails, and we don’t know why.  Well it’s because they were leaning on a pretty weak no god, and often when that no god goes away they fall hard.  Our family needs to know that we center and worship God first.  If you asked your children what mattered most to you…what would they say?  That is a big deal…It’s time to have the resolve of Joshua…yes there are a lot of idols to worship in this world…but as for me and my family…we will worship God.

  1. You must lead, teach, and train your family to center on God.  Listen, this is what we just touched on it will take action to center your family on God…which will bring joy to your home and your actions speak louder than your words!

1 Peter 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. ESV

This is such a big deal!  We are to follow in Christ’s footsteps.  We aren’t to just talk a good game we are to move, take action and follow in his footsteps.  We must lead our families to God…this is where joy is found, it’s found in God’s presence so we need to take our families there.  Check this out…

Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. NIV

How is it that we are train them?  This is huge….

Deuteronomy 6:5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. NIV

Teach and train them to love the Lord with all of our hearts.  Talk about this with your children all the time in all aspects of your life.  This is so important.  We aren’t to teach them to love basketball or soccer or field hockey or money or ________ with all of their hearts.  We are to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts.  You know where that starts mom and dad?  It starts with you.  You have to model it to your children.  Allow them to see their biggest role models (you) in a relationship with God.  Pray with your family.  Read scripture with your family.  Talk to them about what really matters.  Show them how to serve and focus on God.  Take them to church and model for them that you can be the same person here that you are anywhere and everywhere else.  Show them how to do this with your life.

Look, I know that it will be awkward at first…that is ok, push through it.  You may say you aren’t good at praying or reading the Bible…that is ok.  You won’t get “good” at it if you don’t do it, and practice it.  Push through those insecurities and engage your family today!  I know life is busy…it is for me too…but practically we must lead our families to God if we want joy.  Maybe it starts by this week taking a bible to the dinner table, or the breakfast table, or to the bedroom and carving out a few moments as a family to show your family what matters.  We must rally around this idea…our joy comes from God.  If God isn’t in the home, we won’t see joy in the home.  Remember, if God isn’t building the house the house is being built in vain.  If you want joy in your family it is only really found in one place.  If you want joy in your home it really matters what you are doing to engage God and lead your family into His presence.  Take a Bible to the dinner or breakfast table this week, and lead your family to God worship.  It will be challenging at first between the busyness of the day and your own insecurities.  It may seem weird, and the kids may clown around…but keep at it.  Each day will get better and frankly what you are modeling through your actions is too big of a deal to quit.

I think we could all agree that Joshua was an incredible leader.  But you need to see this, he wasn’t great because of his own strength.  Joshua was an amazing leader because of his relationship with God.  He allowed God to lead, and he followed.  His relationship with God made him who he was…do you see it?  Joy can be found in your home when God is front and center in your home.

So here’s how I leave you today, with this challenge.  Yes there are many things to focus on other than God.  There are many places to take my time and energy and focus.  Yes we are busier than we have ever been and have more idols today than ever before, but we must make our stand.  Be defiant and stand as Joshua stood.  Look at a culture pushing you away from God and stand up and say with confidence, that as for me and my family we will go against the current in this culture and we will worship God!  It’s amazing but as you stand in this and rally on God, joy will enter your home.