Close encounters of a heavenly kind
Psalm 95: 1 – 7
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving, and extol him with music and song.
For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hands are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
Song 238 All my days Tune 569
(Beautiful Saviour – Stuart Townend)
Prayer – O God our Father, as we come to worship you today in these strange times, we realise that we still have so much to thank you for. You continue to bless us with your presence, with your provision and your protection. We thank you most of all for Jesus, that you loved the world so much that you gave your only Son to be our Saviour. Thank you for the joy of sins forgiven, for breaking the chains of sin and setting us free. But as we come, we are aware of our constant need for forgiveness, because we keep getting it wrong – we have said and done things we shouldn’t have done, and we have failed to do and say the things we should have. Lord, we can’t hide from you – you know our hearts and thoughts, as well as our deeds. And yet you still love us, still call us to come and be made new. As we confess our sins, and come in repentance, we thank you that you are quick to forgive us and restore.
We bring to you our hurting world – so many places where there is so much pain, loss and heartache. We pray particularly for the people of Lebanon, for all the thousands who have been so badly affected by the horrific explosion in Beirut, and all who are helping with the relief effort. We pray for the leaders, that they may be held to account, and that somehow good will triumph.
We ask all our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Introduction – The Salvation Army’s Prayer Network has launched ‘Into the Wild’ – a journey of encounter – with resources available to follow a theme each month. If you’re not already signed up to this, I can recommend it! Today’s meeting is based on Chapter Two of the ‘Into the Wild’ series.
Reading – Joshua 5: 13 – 6: 5
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No-one went out and no-one came in.
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Make seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, make all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.”
Message – Moses had led the people of Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and reached the borders of the Promised Land within a few months. He sent in twelve spies to explore the land – ten of them came back with a negative report, saying that the people were too strong and the cities too well fortified for them to take the land. Only two – Joshua and Caleb – gave a good report, saying that God was well able to deliver the land into their hands. But the people rebelled, and because of their fear, turned back, spending the next forty years wandering in the wilderness. Moses died, having only seen the land from a distance, and Joshua took over the responsibility of leading the people to take possession of the land. By an extraordinary miracle, he led the people across the Jordan river, and camped near Jericho. Our reading begins there, with Joshua’s close encounter with a heavenly being, who appears to Joshua as a man, but identifies himself as the ‘commander of the Lord’s army’. Joshua recognised he was in God’s presence, as he fell face down to the ground, and was told he was on holy ground. The Lord gave him very clear instructions on taking Jericho. The city was in lockdown – for fear of the people of Israel! And yet fear of them had kept Israel in the wilderness for forty years! The people of Jericho and the surrounding land had heard how God had been with the people of Israel, how he had provided for them and helped them to conquer other lands. They recognised how powerful the God of Israel was, even if the Israelites themselves didn’t!
The instructions the Lord gave to Joshua must have seemed very strange, unlike any military tactic known before, but Joshua unquestioningly obeyed. And we all know the result!
How many times are we held back from doing what God wants us to do because of fear? We need those ‘close encounters’ to enable us to overcome our fears. Joshua didn’t seek his ‘close encounter’ – the ‘man’ was just there in front of him But that encounter transformed him – he had no doubt that God had spoken, and that he would do what he had promised.
We know that God is omnipresent – there is no place where he is not – but there are times when we are much more aware of his presence. Captain Xander Coleman writes that these times ‘can be catalysts to transform us, our churches and corps, and the world. It’s in those moments that we realise again that God is bigger than our fear. It’s those moments that kindle in us the faith to follow God’s plans, purposes and strategies, but only if we, like Joshua, are willing to ‘take off our shoes’ and surrender to him.’
The final piece of the strategy before the walls of Jericho fell was the shout. On the seventh day, they walked round the city seven times with the priests blowing the trumpets. When they heard the long trumpet blast, the people were to shout – and then the walls fell. Wouldn’t we rather wait till the walls fell before the shout? But in faith they obeyed, shouted, and gained the victory.
There are lots of ‘enemy strongholds’ in the world around us, in people we love, and often even in our own lives. Demolishing those walls may seem like an impossible task, but with God, all things are possible. We need to begin with that ‘close encounter’ – spending time in God’s presence, getting his strategy, then obeying – not forgetting the shout!
Song 429 Just outside the land of promise Tune 325
1 Just outside the land of promise You have waited many years, And your life has been o’erclouded With a host of haunting fears. There is victory in Jesus, Come to him without delay; Seek just now a full salvation And the voice of God obey.
Refrain: To redeem and make you holy Jesus left his throne above; Now believe and take the blessing, Nothing less than perfect love.
2 You have long been hesitating, Hindered by your unbelief, And your wilful disobedience Oft has caused you bitter grief. Stay no longer on the threshold, Now believe and enter in; Claim through Christ complete deliverance From the slavery of sin.
3 Though you know your sins forgiven, Greater things await you still; Freedom here from sin’s dominion, Power to do the Master’s will. Fear no longer, he is with you, Let no foe your steps arrest; Seek today the Father’s blessing, Enter now the land of rest.
Spend time asking the Lord to show you where ‘Jericho’ is for you, and listen for his instructions. Ask for more ‘close encounters of the heavenly kind’!
Song 389 Rejoice! Rejoice! Christ is in you Tune 807
Benediction – Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3: 20 & 21)
We have now been able to set up a scheme which will enable you to give in an offering online. Below there is a QR code – a square with ‘Givt’ in the middle and black and white squiggles all over it – and when you download the ‘Givt’ app onto your phone or other device you will be able to make a contribution, of whatever amount, to the Corps simply by showing you phone or device to the QR icon. Here’s what to do :
Download the app named ‘Givt’ from the Apple ‘App Store’ or ‘Google Play’ on your phone or tablet etc.
Wait for an email from ‘Givt’ which will give you instructions as to how to proceed further
Follow the emailed instructions to register on to the system.
Then when you want to make a donation you simply allow your phone or device to read the QR icon below and enter the amount you want to give – and you’re done!!
The amount will be given anonymously and will be taken from your account not less than 8 days and not more than 11 days from when you made the donation. The Bank details are safe and secure and 100% of the gift is given to LWH Corps. Please note that the donation is not instead of your cartridge, - it simply takes the place of your normal ‘Sunday Offering Plate’ gift. Your giving is very important to the Corps and greatly appreciated. At this time when we are unable to meet as we used to, we have lost the Offering revenue, so this a great way to keep on supporting the Corps in these difficult times. That’s all there is to it – but If you want clarification on any point please do not hesitate to contact me. God bless Laurence
Thank you for reading
Written by Major June Huby
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