Turn and Take Your Journey

Steve Viars January 21, 2006 Deuteronomy 1:

- Many of us have grown up reading the Sunday comic Family Circus...
- one of the recurring themes is how one of their children is supposed to go from point “A” to point “b” but invariably gets sidetracked in all sorts of unrelated activities...
- they just seem to be going in a big circle and not making a whole lot of progress...

- have you ever been there?...where you’re going around and around but not much closer to the destination?...
1.  Maybe you were in your car, and you’re lost----so you’re driving around and you hear these dreaded words...”didn’t we pass that a half hour ago?”...”haven’t we been here before?”
2.  Or you’re in a conversation/argument...and you think...we’ve covered this...we’ve been at this logical milestone...we’re just going around the mulberry bush here...
3.  Or maybe you were trying to fix a problem on your computer...and you get an error message so you do all this stuff, reboot it and you still get the same error message...
- nobody likes to just go in circles...

- but what about this...what about when that is happening spiritually?...
- where you seem to be stuck in a familiar pattern of sinfulness and you’re just not getting any better...
- or your ministry skills and effectiveness seem to have stagnated or maybe even gone backward...
- or maybe you feel like God has put you on the shelf...or somehow you got out of God’s will and you’re not even sure if there’s a way back...

- has there ever been a time in history where God looked at a group of people and said...look, you’ve been going in circles long enough...it’s time to gear up, it’s time to get ready...it’s time to turn and take your journey...
- now the answer to that question is “yes”....it was right at the end of the 40 years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness before going into the promised land...if you’re into dates it was about 1400 BC...
- and the leader of God’s people at that time who was named...Moses, came and gave a series of speeches to God’s people before they embarked on this next stage of their adventure...in many ways they were gearing up speeches...
- and thank the Lord, in His providence all of that was recorded for us in a book of the Bible...do you know what book I’m referring to?...it’s the book of Deuteronomy...and I’d like to invite you to open your Bible there this morning...[page 132 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you / page 225 of the Chinese English Bibles]...

- while you’re turning there, let me just say a word to you about our preaching schedule this year...our pastors try to think through the issue of what we should study in our morning services, our ABF’s, our FBI classes, small groups, etc. very carefully...
- there’s a lot of “where are we as a church and what do we think God wants us to work on now?” kind of thinking that goes into this along with a lot of prayer because we understand this is very important business...
- as you know if you’ve been here the last couple weeks...the theme we’ve chosen for this year is Gearing Up for Greater Effectiveness...
- 18 months from now, we hope to have two brand new ministries on line....our community center and our seminary...and all the associated programs and facilities that go along with that...so we’re in a period right now of gearing up, of getting ready...of doing the exact opposite of going in circles...
- now here’s the plan for Sunday mornings this year...
- between now and Easter, we plan to work through the book of Deuteronomy...not because we think our congregation is going in circles...but because we want to be sure we don’t...just like Moses wanted to be sure that the next generation of people in God’s chosen nation stepped up and victoriously entered the promised land...
- then the 6 Sundays after Easter, we want to pause for a special outreach series entitled “Is God Mad at Us?”...
- we’ve been planning that now for a couple of months---it’s interesting that Mayor Nagin from New Orleans raised that exact issue this week in a speech on Martin Luther King Day...[along with raising a few other controversial issues...]
- but we believe many people in our community, and perhaps even our congregation are wondering about that...it’s a great question, and the Scripture provides a very robust set of answers...we’ll be preparing professional designed outreach materials to help you invite your friends and neighbors and co-workers...
- that will take us to Memorial Day where I’ll step out of the pulpit for 6 weeks...part of that time I’ll be in Brazil, but I also am looking for times when our congregation on Sunday morning can hear from Pastor Dutton and also some of our other pastoral staff members...so we’re going to be doing that the first half of the summer...
- then in the last half, we’re going to be studying some of the shortest books in the NT, Philemon, II John, III John, and Jude...
- those books are often ignored in churches but they actually contain some very important gearing up theme...one is about forgiveness, another is about hospitality, and 2 of them deal with how to relate to people who say they’re religious but clearly reject the person and work of Christ...
- then in the fall, we’re going to be doing a study of the OT book of Jonah...which many folks don’t realize is an outreach oriented book...that will take us to stewardship month and then our Christmas series...
- so we’re pretty excited about the opportunities to study the Word of God in our Sunday morning services this year...

- now, you’re in Deuteronomy chapter 1...and before we read it, let me just say a word to the folks here who are not used to studying the Bible...maybe you don’t know much about the names and the dates...
- here’s the deal...we’re really glad you’re here...and we’ve prepared this in part with you in mind...
- so here’s the promise....there are principles here that can be very helpful to you....so please don’t let any of this intimidate you or turn you off...you can get the main points, and I e=would even go so far as to say, you need to...

- read Deut. 1.

- in the time we have remaining this morning, let’s think about 3 principles to avoid going in circles.

I. Respond Properly to the Joys and Challenges of God’s Blessings.


- I mentioned earlier that we realize some who come to our services are brand new to studying the Scripture...for others, keeping all of this straight can be a bit of a challenge...
- here’s a quote that might help us put this together about as quickly as possible...
- The Book of Deuteronomy...was written by Moses on the eve of the conquest of Canaan as a means of addressing a number of questions and concerns.  First, it was important that the people understand who they were, where they originated, and what their God intended for them in the years to come.  Genesis enabled them to trace their roots back to the patriarchs and to the patriarchal covenant that promised a people and a land.  Exodus rehearsed the story of the growth of that people, their redemption from cruel and despotic bondage, and their covenant affiliation with the Lord who called and equipped them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exod. 19:4-6).  That book together with Leviticus outlined the means by which the nation might have access to a holy God and how it must function as a holy people in fulfilling the covenant requirements.  Numbers provides instruction for the people in movement from covenant to conquest.  Finally, Deuteronomy reiterates the covenant, but it does so in a greatly expanded form and in terms appropriate to a new generation, one about to enter a new life experience and to engage in a new realm of responsibility.  The Sinai generation of thirty-eight years earlier was largely off the scene; and the new generation, about to embark on conquest, stood in need of covenant reiteration and reaffirmation, a procedure in line with covenant relationships attested to throughout the ancient Near Eastern world.  A covenant made between a great king and a vassal people had to be renewed by his and their successors with the passing of the generations. (Eugene Merrill, New American Commentary, Deuteronomy, pp. 26-27.)

- if you say, I didn’t get all of that---the point is, this book is being written to the group of people who are being encouraged to gear up and get ready to enter the promised land...
- now, of all of the events Moses could have reminded them about...he starts with something very positive...how...
A. God delights in keeping His promises and multiplying His people.
- when we read words like verse 8...
- verse 8 – I have placed the land before you...
- verse 8 – go in and possess the land...
- the children of Israel would have made the logical connection immediately...
- that’s what God has been promising all along...
- that was an essential element of the promise He made to Abraham, and then repeated to Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph....

- now of course, when God made that promise to Abraham...how many children did Abraham and his wife Sara have?...none...and they were advanced in years...
- so it wasn’t just a matter of giving them a place...it was also making them a people...
- Genesis 12:2 – I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great so you will be a blessing.
- those are the three essential elements of the Abrahamic covenant – land, seed, and blessing...
- and now Moses is saying...do you remember nearly 40 years ago...that’s exactly what God was doing...and he said to them at that time...
- verse 10 – The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are this day like the stars of heaven in number.
- in other words, part of the gearing up process for this new generation was to be reminded that God delights in keeping His promises and multiplying His people...
- that’s why you see this theme of multiplication throughout the Scripture...
- in the NT, Jesus promises to build His church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it...

- now, was Moses upset about that?...no, in fact in verse 11 he actually prays that God will continue to multiply them...but then he reminds them of this...
B. The multiplication of blessing requires the multiplication of leaders.
- he says, do you remember what we had to do in response to God’s blessing 38 years ago?...
- we had to have more leaders...and I charged you to choose wise and discerning men who could lead in ways that insured that problems were solved justly and carefully...
- and thank the Lord, the people had obeyed and followed that counsel...
- now, why was that so important?...
- because in the coming days...the only way the children of Israel were going to be able to enter the promised land was through the selection, training, and ministry of capable leaders...
- as God blesses, there is more and more need for men and women to step up and shoulder the load.
- now, a couple of responses...
1.  Of all the topics Moses could have spoken to them about, isn’t it amazing that Moses starts here?....and what does that tell us about the importance of leadership training?
2.  Do you think there might be a lesson for us?...
- we are in a season at our church right now that could easily be described as “blessings management”...
- and, that opens the door of opportunity for all sorts of men and women who are shouldering a particular level of ministry to say...I want to be equipped and trained so I can shoulder more...that’s what gearing up looks like for me...
- or others who will say...I want to get started...this will be new for me...but I understand how important it is to be willing to shoulder a portion of the load...and I’m even thankful God would be willing to use me...

- we’ve had a very solid start top the new year...
- and part of what has been encouraging to me has been how much ministry different men and women in our church are willing to take on...
- and it’s not just taking it on, but it’s making it better...
- cf. folks working with the BCTC...
- develop – Brent’s work with FBI...
- develop – Greg/Mike...carefulness about investing...
- develop – youth ministry bulletin board...
- develop – Joe Blake/community center design...
- a lot of people willing to say...“if God is going to bless us, and if that results in increased responsibility for people of [vs. 13] wisdom, and discernment and experience, count me in....not just to maintain it, but to take it and make it better...if that’s part of what gearing up means...I’m in...
- now, where does training fit into that?...
- are you going to make yourself available to the many training opportunities this year?...
- [cf. the class beginning in March....]

- I wonder of the words of verse 7 would be ones that God say to many of us...turn and take your journey...whether you’ve been circling around for a while and its time to get at it, or whether you’ve been getting at it and now it’s time to continue...
- in fact, I’d like to challenge you to do 2 things in this point of the year...
1.  on paper, complete this sentence in writing...Gearing up for me in 2006 looks like...or Gearing up in 2006 for me should include...
2.  Secondly, I would encourage you to share that with somebody...
- [develop --- counsel for the person who would say – I want to, but I have no idea what that would look like...]

- now, it would be great if the chapter continued on in a positive way...but God doesn’t airbrush His Word...
- if what is referred to next hadn’t happened, there would have been 38 fewer years of circling around...here’s the principle...


II. Seize the Unusual Ministry Opportunities God Gives You with Obedience and Trust.


- here’s what had happened...
- after the children of Israel had been delivered from Egypt, it took them about three months to reach Mount Sinai where they received the OT law...
- the book of Numbers tells us [10:11-12] that they stayed there for a period of 1 year...
- then they went to Kadesh Barnea where they sent out 12 men to spy out the promised land...
- the spies were gone for 40 days...and it was after they returned that the children did what according to verse 26?...they refused to go up and take the promised land...
- that’s why we read in chapter 2:14 [READ]...

- now, why would Moses be bringing that up 38 years later?...
- what would that have to do with gearing up for either them in their day or us in ours?...
- a trip that should have taken them days had instead taken them years....because they had been going around and around and around...
- failing to seize ministry opportunities when God gives them is a decidedly bad thing to do...

- now, can I ask you to think about that from your perspective?...
- what opportunities has the Lord laid out in front of you and are you in the process of seizing them?

1.  The decision to become a follower of Christ...
- some people just go round and round and round and will never repent and believe...
- they are unwilling to make a commitment to Christ...

- I am sure that we will have people in our services today who are in that situation...
- gearing up for you starts by coming to Christ...
- if that’s true for you, do you mind me asking...why wouldn’t you do that today?...
- how many more times are you planning on marching around that mountain?...
- [develop the brevity of life --- cf. the old signs along the highway, life is short, death is sure, sin the cause, Christ the cure...]
2.  The opportunity to work on an area in your life that needs to be changed...
- is 06 going to be a year where you continue to fail in that area or are you going to gear up?...
- [develop – getting whatever help you need...]

3.  opportunity to witness...
- are you seizing them, or shying away?...

4.  what about some of these service opportunities we’ve been talking to you about?...
- [put into the gear picture --- we need every gear...]

- [cf. Rhonda McKinnis – Big Brothers, Big Sisters...]

-[if time allows, deal with the “open doors” issue --- perhaps every so often we should kick a door down – especially if satan is the one on the other side holding it shut – maybe its time for him to go around holding his nose because he had a few doors opened in his mug...]

- now, you might say, why did the children of Israel miss the opportunity?....
- we’re not left to wonder about that....

A. Because of fear.

- verse 21 – do not fear or be dismayed.

- verse 28 – our brethren have made our hearts melt.

- maybe that is why so often in Scripture, when an angel comes to give somebody a message from God, the first words are “fear not...”
- there are a lot of things worse than failing...doing nothing is pretty high on that list...

- [develop – perfect love casting out fear – I’m going to concentrate on loving others, not worrying about what I have to lose or how I might fail....]

B.  Because of rebellion.

- verse 26 – You were not willing to go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God.

- it couldn’t get much clearer than that...
- for some folks, if that’s what God’s Word says, they’re going the other way...

- [cf. some folks needing to work on some area in marriage...but it comes down to an issue of stubbornness and rebellion....
- the husband who doesn’t care what God’s Word says about loving His wife...
- the wife who doesn’t care what the Scripture says about following her husband’s leadership...
- the ministry opportunity to illustrate the love of Christ for the church is lost...because of rebellion...

C. Because of complaining.
- verse 27 – and you grumbled in your tents.

- [cf. there is always something in a church that will disappoint you, won’t be your preference or to your liking...some folks use that as their excuse not to get at it...]

D.  Because of unbelief.
- verse 32-33 - In spite of this, you did not trust in the LORD your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.

- [develop – consequences...cf. next verses....]
- [develop – historical context --- getting the next generation ready so they didn’t repeat the same sins...]
- [develop – our context...not in any way saying that our congregation hasn’t been getting after it...where does this leave our kids?...
- I hope they think --- my parents, and the other adults around me, were crazy about ministry...they have this fearless expectation that God is going to do something in/through them...
- my earliest recollections at Christmas were of the LN, having a costume thrown over me and running around Bethlehem...
- and I was in this play every Easter....
- and I remember these missionaries we had in our home in February...
- and my parents taught SS so they would have their teaching materials spread out all over the kitchen table and I would get to cut stuff out and help them get ready...
- and then they gave extra money when our church was trying to do special things...
- and then I hope when some of us are older and rocking in our rocking chairs over at Faithway Gardens (: --- we can say, our kids and our grandkids are crazy about ministry....where’d they get that kind of faith?]

- now, if you would say...PV, I have been going around in circles...and I’m coming out...great, but...


III. Be Sure You Come Out of the Circle the Right Way.


- this chapter ends with a rather unusual warning...
- because the children of Israel say...we’ve sinned...we’ll go up...
- and God says, no...you missed that opportunity...and if you try it now, you’re on your own...

- and they tried it anyway...and suffered great defeat....

- there are right ways to get out of the circle, and wrong ways...
- [develop steps to take from here...]


- could conclude by talking about recent travel schedule---opportunities everywhere...]

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video