CLAIM THE LAND
5TH ANNIVERSARY & GROUND BREAKING CELEBRATION
SEPTEMBER 17, 1995
My freshman year at Florida State University was an exciting year. Our basketball team made it all the way to the semi-final game of the Mideast Regional Basketball Championship against the University of Kentucky. I was having a great time because the game was on national television. Dick Emberg was there. Billy Packer was there. Even Al McGuire was there. And I was having a wonderful experience because I knew there was no way I was going to get into the game, unless about 12 people got hurt in front of me. So, I was enjoying the moment.
Our coach gathered us together right before tip-off and he did something odd. He told us to go to the locker room. He said he wanted to give us a pre-game speech. And I remember thinking to myself, this is going to be something else. This is it. Finally Coach Joe Williams is going to give us a real, honest-to-goodness pep talk. I am talking about something that would rattle your cage. And sure enough, he did. But whether it was a very good pep talk, you judge for yourself.
He gathered all of us around and he said, “Guys, I want to talk to you about this game. You know the University of Kentucky is rated number four in the country.” He says, “Ed, you are going to be a pastor one day, I can tell, why don’t you pray for us right now, if you would.” So, I prayed. The other 12 guys had never heard of prayer before, but I did pray. And then here was his pre-game speech, are you ready? “Guys, let’s just go out there and have a good time. Let’s just go have a good time, OK?” “FSU! Go Noles!” and we hit the court and lose by 35 points. Was that a joke, or what? What a pitiful pre-game speech. Very little motivation: “Let’s just go out there and have a good time.”
I am so glad that our God is not like that, aren’t you? I’m so glad that when we face those defining moments in our lives, those big time events, those moments of change, that God gives us real motivation, real encouragement, real challenge because he wants the best out of your life and out of my life. So today, as we stand here during a moment of history, preparing to claim this land that God has given us, I want to share with you some excerpts from God’s pre-game talk that He gave the children of Israel a couple of thousand years ago before they entered the Promised Land.
You are going to find out something. You are going to find out that the same words God used thousand of years ago are precisely the words we need to hear as we take this incredible piece of real estate for the glory and the honor and the power of God.
If you have your outlines, you’ll see we are studying the book of Joshua, Chapter 1 today. And here is briefly the background of this text. The children of Israel had been in slavery for over 400 years, and the great leader Moses had led them out of slavery. They were supposed to get into the Promised Land a couple of days after they left slavery, however, they had a wandering problem. They spent some serious time out in the wilderness because of their disobedience. Moses dies. Some of his followers die off. And now 40 years later, Joshua, the new man on the scene, is the leader and he is standing on the edge of the Jordan River waiting to cross into that beautiful land the Bible described as “flowing with milk and honey.” Right before he puts his size 12 sandal into the Jordan River to cross it, God does a quick time out. He says, “Joshua, my children, wait just for a second because I am going to give you four commands to claim the land, four ways that you can claim this beautiful, historic piece of real estate for My kingdom.”
Do any of you like boxing? Any boxing fans? You can raise your hands. One of my favorite men on the planet who works in the realm of boxing is an announcer named Michael Buffer. Even David Letterman uses him now and then. Michael Buffer usually wears a white dinner jacket, black pants, and he walks into the ring. He takes the mike as it is lowered from the ceiling and he dramatically announces the celebrities sitting around ringside. He announces the contender. He announces the champion. And right when the excitement has reached a fever pitch level, Michael Buffer says these words: “Let’s get ready to rumble.” And the people go absolutely nuts.
GET READY TO RUMBLE
Believe it or not, God’s first command in the book of Joshua, Chapter 1, Verse 2, is “get ready to rumble.” Get ready to rumble. Say it with me. Joshua 1:2, “Now then, you and all these people get ready.” And those words “get ready,” are words of action, of anticipation, words that say you are going to have to rumble. He was saying that Joshua and the children were going to have to rumble with some inhabitants in the land. Because there were a lot of people living in the land who were ungodly—the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Canaanites, and all the other -ites. And Joshua knew that he was going to have to rumble.
“Get ready,” the Bible says, “to cross the Jordan and into the land I am about to give you.” He didn’t say that He was thinking about giving them the land, or that maybe they could claim it. He said instead that the land was theirs. He said He picked it out for them. But He would not just put it in their lap—no work, no energy, no prayer, no effort. He didn’t just give it to them and then say, “Bless you. You are my people. See you later.” He didn’t say that. God says, “Yes, Joshua, I am going to give it to you, but you are going to have to rumble. You are going to have to do some spiritual warfare.
In Joshua 1:5 it says, “No one will be able to stand up against you, all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.” What a classic verse of scripture. God is saying, “Don’t worry about it. Yes, you are going to have to rumble. Yes, it is going to be tough. Yes, you will be involved in spiritual warfare, but I am going to be with you.” Do we ever stop and realize who is with us? We face battles every day. We face battles when we hit the marketplace. We face battles in our home. We face battles in relationships. We face battles as we look at the past. We face battles as we look to the future. Do you realize who is with you? You see, if you know Jesus Christ personally, if you have received Him, He is omnipresent, which means He is everywhere.
A couple of years ago a gentleman called me out of the blue and asked me to travel to Los Angeles, California, with him for the day. And I thought that sounded pretty interesting, to go out to LA for the day. I had never done that before. Then he said, “Oh yeah, by the way, Ed, I am taking a close friend of mine with us, world heavyweight champion, George Foreman. You want to go along with us?” I said, “Say, what? Are you talking about you, me, and George—the George Foreman?” I said, “I’ll be there.” So I travel to Los Angeles with George Foreman and my friend. I’ll tell you something about George Foreman that you might not know. George is big. I’m talking about huge. A 58 extra long sport coat is what he wears. His arms are bigger around than both of my legs put together. The guy is a monster. And as we walked through the streets of LA doing some things I’ll tell you about in a later message, I felt confident. I was with George, you see. George was with me. And I could stare down anyone. “Yeah, George, go get ’em.”
We laugh at that yet sometimes I have lived as a timid Christian. I have kind of cowered. I have kind of slithered through the shadows and I don’t realize it, but Jesus Christ, the Son of God, The Man—George is a man, Jesus is The Man—is with me always. And He is going to be with us from this day forward. He is going to be with us when we battle. Not the Jebusites, Ammonites, and Canaanites; but the lustites, egoites, prideites, moneyites, as we claim this land. Because Satan, the evil one, is not going to string a hammock along some of these trees, sit back in the hammock, and drink Arizona Iced Tea while we build a great church to reach people.
He is not going to do it. And if you think he is, you are in for a rude awakening, because the evil one likes for us to underestimate him. He likes for us to say that we can do this thing; we can reach these people. We forget that we are involved in spiritual warfare. You talk about getting ready to rumble, look what the Bible says here in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle (and the word “struggle” means “battle”) is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” We are in a battle. We are rumbling. We really are. We have to battle for the lives of our children. We have to battle for our marriages. We have to battle to live pure. We have to battle for our values. We love all people wherever they are, yet we are in a struggle.
How do we get ready to rumble? How do we get ready to rumble? I want to give you a couple of suggestions. First, live like you are a champion. Live like you are a champion. We have won it. We have already read the sport’s page. Satan is a defeated foe, yet these basset hound Christians run around acting sad, sad, sad. They are not acting like champions. You see, we have the victory. And the reason God gives us challenges on top of giving us the victory is he wants us to keep on trusting him. He is not going to make this entire situation easy or a cakewalk, it’s going to be tough.
As I look back on our church over the last five years I see so much sacrifice, I see so much love, I see so many obstacles overcome. 99% of churches would have folded up, but you folks hung in there. You folks have said in your spirit, “Let’s get ready to rumble,” and you have done a fabulous job at rumbling. Don’t stop now. We are just beginning. We have just scratched the surface. We are going to build and develop people until the Lord comes back right here on this tract of land.
Another suggestion I give to you about rumbling is realize who is with you. It is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
And a final suggestion on how to get ready to rumble, involve yourself in some warfare prayer. Involve yourself in warfare prayer. Pray for our church. Pray for each other. Pray for our staff. You know, I thank God often for many, many of you. I don’t know all of your names. Once our church got to be about 500 people, my little mind just fried concerning remembering all the names. But I thank God for you and pray for many of you I don’t even know and many of you by name. Do you do that for others? Do you do that for our staff? Do you do that for your teachers? Do you do that for me?
Warfare prayer is important, because the best offense that we can have as believers is to walk on our knees and use this Bible, which is called the sword of the spirit, to carve out the path that God has for us. Get ready to rumble.
BE STRONG AND DON’T CRUMBLE
Here is the second command: Be strong, don’t crumble. Be strong, don’t crumble. Joshua 1:6 says, “Be strong and courageous.” Joshua had every reason in the world to cave in and to crumble. Think about it. He had hung out with Moses for 40 years and then Moses dies. He is alone. He has 2.3 million Hebrews with him and he has to relocate all of those Hebrews to a new area. (And you thought that GTE and Exxon relocations were big stuff.) 2.3 million Hebrews. And he knew the battles in front of him. Yet, God told him to be strong. And if you look back at Joshua’s life, Joshua was a man of strength.
Forty years earlier the Children of Israel were at this same place and Moses was the leader then. They were ready to take The Promised Land and God told them to do a secret reconnaissance mission of the land. Joshua was one of twelve men who went out and saw the land. They came back and reported to the children of Israel that it could not be done. No. No. They said that the Israelites were like grasshoppers in the enemy’s eyes. The enemy was huge with fortified cities and that the task was impossible.
Yet Joshua, the Bible says, stood up in front of the entire nation of Israel and said, “We can do it. We can take them. Do you realize who is with us? Do you realize who can help us? Do you realize who can change us? It is God. We can do it.” But because of the disobedience of the children of Israel, they missed claiming The Promised Land that day and they had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Those people who were the vision vandals died off, Moses died off, and now Joshua had a second chance. So he had a great track record of being strong. He was a man of strength.
The Bible says in Ephesians 6:10, “Be strong in the Lord…” and this word “strength” is not some manufactured Gold’s Gym-type strength. “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” That is where true strength comes from. Relying on the Lord’s strength. In 1 Corinthians 16:13, the Bible says, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” We need some strong people in this hour, folks. We need to be strong spiritually. It takes strength just to become a Christian. Have you ever thought about that?
People still tell me that Christianity is for those people who need a crutch. It is for those people who crumble. It is for those people who are weak. And I want to say this: Christianity must be for people much stronger than you are, if you say those comments, because at least Christians have enough strength to tell the truth about themselves and their condition before a Holy God. So I say you have to be more courageous and have more strength to be a Christian. We need spiritual strength. Spiritual strength to pray, spiritual strength to get into God’s word.
We also need moral strength. Moral strength to remain sexually pure outside of marriage, to resist the greener grass syndrome of adultery, to be honest in our business practices, to speak the truth to one another.
We need spiritual courage. We need moral courage. We also need courage in our relationships, don’t we? Many of us need to get past just talking about the stock market and the Rangers and the Cowboys and buildings and deals and bonuses and parties and perks and promotions, and start talking about the real issues of life. That is why our church must continue to grow larger and smaller at the same time. It is great that we have thousands of people coming to The Fellowship of Las Colinas corporately, but the future and the secret of our church is to grow larger and smaller. It is to take people from the crowd into the community, to move them from the audience into the army. And we do that through Bible Study classes, through Home Teams, through our Men’s Ministry, through our Women’s Ministry. So if you are just showing up on Sundays or on Saturday nights, you are getting just a taste of The Fellowship of Las Colinas. Real life change takes place over a cup of coffee in a restaurant, in someone’s home, or in a phone conversation about the deep matters of the heart.
You see, our church wants to be a double-barreled church. We want to be a church that reaches out and welcomes anyone from any area in order to teach them about Jesus Christ. That is the evangelistic barrel and the most important barrel right behind evangelism is growing believers to maturity. Growing believers to maturity. Getting a grasp on the Bible, understanding what it means to talk to God, understanding how to communicate with someone about life change. That is the double-barrel approach of this church.
I am going to tell you something. In Luke 15, Jesus used three illustrations back to back, three word pictures. All the word pictures centered around one concept, something that was lost. Something that was lost. You know when Jesus says something once we listen. But three straight times? Our church is for the lost and to grow them up into maturity. So be on your guard, stand firm in the faith. We cannot vary from our purpose; we must be men and women of courage.
BE CAREFUL WHEN YOU STUMBLE
We have got to get ready to rumble. We have got to be strong and not crumble. A third command to claim the land, be careful when you stumble. Everything rhymes, don’t you like that? Be careful when you stumble. I didn’t say “if” you stumble. You see, it says “when” you stumble. I walk with our twins a lot and I will hold Laurie in my left hand and Landra in my right hand. They can both walk now. Yet when I take them about 25 yards, one of them has usually gone down. They haven’t fallen because I still have them, I’m not going to let them fall. But they are tripping and sliding and sometimes I am kind of dragging them. They are learning to walk, and they can walk, but they stumble all the time. Yet they never fall when their father has them. They never fall.
We are going to stumble. I am going to stumble. You are going to stumble. Our church is for stumblers, bumblers, grumblers, and mumblers because we all are. Yet the moment we ask Christ into our life and He connects our hand to the Father’s, He grabs our hand and He is not going to let go. I don’t care how many times you fumble and stumble. Sometimes He will have to drag us just like I drag my children. And He has done that in your life and in my life. The Bible says in Psalm 37:23-24, “If the Lords delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm (even in mud and sawdust); though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” And the first two words of Joshua 1:7-8 say, “Be careful.”
The children of Israel, you talk about stumbling people, they stumbled. Now check this out: God delivered them miraculously from slavery, parted the Red Sea, fed them manna burgers from heaven, had quail die with a little bacon wrapped around it. They saw miracle after miracle after miracle, yet they stumbled and they fumbled and they grumbled and they mumbled. Did God say, “Uh, see ya. Sorry you stumbled. I’ll never deal with you again. I’ll never communicate with you again. I’ll never love you again.” He didn’t do it. They were God’s chosen people.
If you are a stumbler, welcome. But when stumbling, remember you have to be connected to the Lord. Joshua 1:7-8, “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you, do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” There is that Nike phrase again. I bet Joshua’s sandals were Nike. Kind of like Jerry Jones cut a deal with Joshua years ago. Anyway, be careful to do everything written in it.
You have heard me say this time and time again. I will say it until I die. We are a purpose-driven church. Say the words with me, purpose-driven. One more time. Purpose-driven. The purposes are given to every church from the Bible. We don’t have to wonder what the purposes of the church are. We don’t have to just vote on them, discuss them, or form a committee to deal with them. The Bible says that God’s purposes are spelled out for us. We, though, have the freedom to choose the style. We don’t compromise on scripture one bit. We do, though, choose the style. That is why I love all churches that preach the word. If they are formal churches, traditional churches, country-western churches, if they swing from the chandeliers, praise God if they are reaching people and preaching the word.
We want churches to grow and we want them to reach people because churches fighting and competing over each other is like ants competing over who is going to eat the elephant. There are thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of people here that we come in contact with every day who matter to God and we, for many of those folks, are the only Jesus that they will ever see. And to do the stuff like God wants us to, we have got to obey. We have got to obey His word and His calling.
BE PROSPEROUS BY BEING HUMBLE
The fourth command to claim the land: Be prosperous by being humble. Be prosperous by being humble. Now this word “prosperous” in the Bible does not mean a multimillionaire. It does not mean that I will have a new car or a new house if I follow the Lord. It says that you will be prosperous. It is God’s will for us to be prosperous. And being in God’s will means we will be prosperous. And I am talking about things that money cannot measure. The Bible says you will be prosperous and successful. Our church has been prosperous and successful, wouldn’t you agree, in God’s economy—to grow from a handful of visionary people to over 3,000 in five years. This church is so much bigger than me, so much bigger than you, so much bigger than anything that I have come in contact with. And people from all around the country call us and ask how we are doing it, what is the method, what are the steps. We could talk about this and that, but the main thing is this: it’s God. You look back on our history, you have to say the two words—It’s God. It’s God that a group of committed people left a church and started this as a mission church. It’s God that Lisa and I are here. It’s God that Preston and Dedo Mitchell are with us. It’s God that Owen and Beverly Goff are here. It’s God that Stan and Linda Durham are here. It’s God. It’s God. It’s God. It’s God. It’s God that we raised $6.7 million in three years. It’s God that we got this property for $2.5 million—159.2 acres across the street from the largest mall in Texas. It’s God. It’s God. And that is why we are saved. It’s God. That is why we baptize. It’s God, because the church is His Son’s bride. That is how important this day is.
In Joshua, Chapter 5, we find Joshua moving, having claimed the land and he comes in contact with someone called the servant of the Lord. And take a wild guess who the servant of the Lord is. This is a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. Joshua sees Jesus—I’m talking about in the Old Testament—a pre-incarnate Jesus and look at what he does. When he sees Him, what does Joshua do? He doesn’t give Him a high five, does he? He fell face down to the ground in reverence. If we stay humble, if we reverence the name of God, if we know how to fall face down in His presence and truly express our love to Him like Joshua did, and if we don’t worry about who gets the credit, there is no telling what can happen.
I believe our church will be one of the greatest churches over the next 25 years in the United States of America and also in this world. I really believe that. The condition, though, is this. Are we going to remain humble? Because for the last five years, we haven’t worried about who has gotten the credit. We haven’t. This church is full of people and the church is people.
Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence and then he asked Him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” He showed Him reverence and he also had proper recognition. Some of us get it mixed up. We say, “Yeah, Jesus, You call Yourself Lord and I am the servant, well let’s reverse that, I’ll be God and then You can be my servant. I’ll tell You what to do. You see, Jesus, I didn’t want it to rain today. You see, Jesus, You work for me. I don’t want to do that even though I know it is in Your will. I don’t want to back off that relationship that is immoral….”
We get it mixed up. Yet Joshua had the proper recognition, he asked what message his Lord had 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.” A small thing, an insignificant thing, but Joshua obeyed. And I pray that we do so. Reverence, recognition, and response.
He responded over a little thing, a trivial matter. He removed his sandals. A principle of scripture is if we are obedient over small things, God will give us opportunities over big things. When this church had about 150 people showing up, no staff, no typewriter, the budget was projected, my salary was projected, let me tell you something, the people in this church recognized who God was. They reverenced Him just like Joshua did, and they also responded in the small things, the insignificant things; and because of that, I believe, God now has put us in a church where He is doing big and mighty things.
Finally, in 1 Peter 5:5, it says, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” If you want to make a fashion statement, clothe yourself in humility. You see, to become a Christian you have to be humble before God. You have got to say, “God, I can’t do it. I can’t drive. I can’t take the reins. I’ve got to bow the knee to You and I’ve got to realize why I am here and that everything in my life is because of You.” When we can do that we will have a great adventure in every aspect of our lives.
Well, that’s it. God has called us together in the locker room. He is looking at you and at me square in the eye. He is not saying, “Go out there and have a good time.” Yeah, we are going to have a good time and an adventure. But He is saying, “Obey My four commands to claim the land. Obey, Fellowship of Las Colinas, my four commands to claim the land.” I am looking forward to stepping back and watching God move.