Flood Stage
Community Group Discussion Guide
Sermon Summary

This message looks at the story of the Israelites being led by Joshua to cross the Jordan river into the promised land. The river was at flood stage when this event took place. God had told Joshua to instruct the Levite priest to carry the Ark of the Covenant and to step into the water. When they did, the water stopped flowing and was piled up some 16 miles back to the city of Adam. The people then walked through on dry ground.  The power of the Ark came from God Almighty and the reasons the Ark was used was because of it’s symbolic representation of the presence of God, the provision of God, the power of God and the principles of God. The point of the message for people today is how God’s presence, provision, power and principles can help us deal with life when it seems to be at flood stage. The message ends with a discussion of how the Cross of Christ now symbolizes each of these four ideas.

Discussion Guide

1. Could you relate to Bro. Larry’s comparison of life to a river at flood stage?

2. The Ark symbolized the very presence of God with the people of Israel and when they saw the water stop flowing and pile up far away, they knew God was still working on their behalf. Just knowing God’s presence is with you can give you a special strength during the storms of life. Discuss why this is the case and share an example of how God’s presence has helped you weather a storm?
Psalm 114:7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob,
Psalm 114:8 who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.
Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.

3. Bro. Larry and Jay talked about God’s miraculous provision on behalf of Northshore Church. The Ark contained a jar of manna to remind the people of Israel of God’s provision during the wilderness wonderings. Discuss at least one example of how God’s provision has made a difference in your life.
2 Cor 9:8  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Cor 9:9  As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."
2 Cor 9:10  Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.

4. The Ark also contained Aaron’s rod. This rod symbolized the power of God. How has God’s power helped you overcome something in life that you would not have been able to overcome otherwise?
2 Cor 4:6  For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
2 Cor 4:7  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
2 Cor 4:8  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
2 Cor 4:9  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Bonus Discussion: Do you agree that the Cross, like the Ark of the Covenant symbolizes the presence, the provision, the power and the principles of God?

Have you ever felt your life was at flood stage? Maybe like if one more inch, or one more thing, and I'm going under. Just can't take this any more.
You're not alone!
We've all had times in our lives when there just seemed to be no way.

 From the children of Israel wondering in the desert, to the Psalmist who was overcome by trouble and sorrow, to Paul the apostle, who was torn between living and dying, all the way to you and me. Life can throw some pretty harsh stuff at us from time to time.
What are we supposed to do?

I know many of you have heard the story and know the details of Northshore Church after Katrina, but there's a reason I want to refresh your memory this morning.

We were only four years old as a church when Katrina visited and we lost our building. I had evacuated my family, a staff family and a neighbor family to my Mom and Dad's house in McComb, Miss. I returned two days after the storm to find our home flooded at 5 1/2 feet and the church flooded about the same.  

After walking through the devastated building at the old factory outlet mall, I remember standing outside staring at the building we had built out only a year and 1/2 earlier and wondering "what now Lord?" We had started the church 4 years earlier in our living room and now it seemed as if all was lost!

However, God spoke to my heart later that day as I sat in a huge line that wrapped around the Wal-mart parking lot to buy fuel at the only place selling gas. As I set there, helicopters were flying over ferrying people from New Orleans to Northshore Hospital.

God spoke to my heart in a powerful way that day. "These people will need my love, strength and encouragement now more than ever. I knew about this when I called you to plant this church. For such a time as this!"

After purchasing my fuel, I went over to the hospital to see if there was anything I could do, and the folks at the command center asked me to go room to room to offer prayers for anyone who wanted them. Only two rooms out of the whole place, said no thanks! I met some amazing people that evening.

For the next few years, Northshore Church would be consumed with cutting trees, gutting homes, rebuilding homes and wandering from place to place to worship! Thanks to the graciousness of the owners of Slidell Athletic we began holding worship there on Sunday mornings and thanks to the graciousness of the owner of Crossgates Athletic our youth had a place to meet on Sunday nights.

During this time we bought some property on Alan Road, cleared it, spent a year getting all of our permits and approvals together and had plans drawn up for a building, but the bids came back so high we were totally shut down.
Once again, we were in a place of wondering "why Lord?"

I literally felt like my life was at flood stage. How much more set back could I handle personally and how much more set back could our church handle?

Have you ever been in place where it seemed no matter what direction you went, no matter what you did, the obstacles just weren't going away?

Here's what you've got to remember...

"The obstacles, the problems, and the challenges aren't going away, but neither is our God!!"

Let's pray and ask God to teach us today!

If we are willing to follow The Lord and do what He ask us to do, He will make a way! He will guide our steps! He will do what He needs to do in order for us to accomplish what He has called us to accomplish.

 We find an amazing example of God making a way for His will to be done back in the ancient text of the Old Testament. How many of you have heard about how The Lord used Moses to part the Red Sea so the children of Israel could go through on dry land? That's great, but that's not the story we're going to read today...

How many of you have heard of the parting of the Jordan River?

Ah, not nearly as many hands.
Let's read this amazing story...

1Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over.
Joshua 3:1 (NIV)

2After three days the officers went throughout the camp,
Joshua 3:2 (NIV)

3giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it.
Joshua 3:3 (NIV)

4Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.”
Joshua 3:4 (NIV)

5Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.”
Joshua 3:5 (NIV)

6Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.
Joshua 3:6 (NIV)

7And the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses.
Joshua 3:7 (NIV)

8Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’ ”
Joshua 3:8 (NIV)

9Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God.
Joshua 3:9 (NIV)

10This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites.
Joshua 3:10 (NIV)

11See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you.
Joshua 3:11 (NIV)

12Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe.
Joshua 3:12 (NIV)

13And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD—the Lord of all the earth —set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap. ”
Joshua 3:13 (NIV)

14So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them.
Joshua 3:14 (NIV)

15Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge,
Joshua 3:15 (NIV)

16the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea ) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.
Joshua 3:16 (NIV)

17The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.
Joshua 3:17 (NIV)

What a story! Andrew had reminded me of this story in our staff meeting. I read the story and late that night I woke up with God speaking to my heart in such a powerful way. The secret to dealing with life when it is at flood stage was right there in this passage of Scripture.  

The world has long been fascinated with the Ark of the Covenant!
What ever happened to it?
What secrets did it hold?
What power did it have?

For all you treasure hunters, I hate to tell you, but I haven't figured out where it is.
But I have figured out something much more important.
The secret to its power!

In the story we just read, the Jordan River was at flood stage. Can you imagine being told to carry a big sacred box and step into a raging river at flood stage?

 What was it about that ark that made the difference that day and what does it have to do with your life and mine?
For the answer to that we will look at a passage of Scripture from the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament.

1Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary.
Hebrews 9:1 (NIV)

2A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place.
Hebrews 9:2 (NIV)

3Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place,
Hebrews 9:3 (NIV)

4which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.
Hebrews 9:4 (NIV)

5Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover (mercy seat)...
Hebrews 9:5a (NIV)

Let me explain. There were at least four things about the Ark that made it very special and it was what it symbolized.  

The Cherubim and the Atonement cover (mercy seat) symbolized...

The Presence of God!

5Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover (mercy seat)...
Hebrews 9:5a (NIV)

The Cherubim of the Glory! The Glory was the presence of Almighty God!!!

That day, when the Israelites faced the Jordan River at flood stage, they needed to be reminded of God's presence with them. The Ark was normally in the Holy of Holies and was only accessible to the High Priest once a year. Just seeing the ark unveiled must have been awe inspiring for the people.

They knew the beautiful winged creatures above the mercy seat were symbols of God's presence with them, and when they saw the waters roll back they knew God was there and with them and yet still on His heavenly throne and in control of all things, including a raging river in flood stage!

The Psalmist puts it quite powerfully...  

1When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of foreign tongue,
Psalm 114:1 (NIV)

2Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
Psalm 114:2 (NIV)

3The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back;
Psalm 114:3 (NIV)

4the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.
Psalm 114:4 (NIV)

5Why was it, O sea, that you fled, O Jordan, that you turned back,
Psalm 114:5 (NIV)

6you mountains, that you skipped like rams, you hills, like lambs?
Psalm 114:6 (NIV)

7Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob,
Psalm 114:7 (NIV)

8who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.
Psalm 114:8 (NIV)

1Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.
Psalm 115:1 (NIV)

 So when you're facing life's circumstances and they are at flood stage, remember, God's presence is with you! Remember the veil in the temple was torn when Jesus died on the Cross, so we have access to the presence of God 24/7!!

 Now let's look at the contents of the Ark...

 The Jar of Manna symbolized…

The Provision of God

Nehemiah gives us a great description of this...

19“Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.
Nehemiah 9:19 (NIV)

20You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst.
Nehemiah 9:20 (NIV)

21For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.
Nehemiah 9:21 (NIV)

That day at the River Jordan, the people saw the Ark and were reminded of God's provision for them! They knew it well.
When we face life's uncertainties we must remember God's promise to provide!

If I may, I would like to again share a testimony from our brief history as a church. Like the children of Israel, we have been taken care of and provided for by our Lord.

 Some of you may remember, after I realized we were not going to be able to build on the property the church had bought, I went out to the piece of property where Debbie and I were going to build our post Katrina home and just walked around praying. That's when God put this building on my heart. But I knew they had been asking 6 million for the entire building, but God put it on my heart so I called.

 I remembered God's provision down through the years and knew if God was in it, He would provide! Long and short of it, they said they would sale not quite half of the building for 2.2 million. That was way better than 6 million, but still out of reach for a small congregation still recovering from Katrina, but it was not out of reach for God!

But here's the rest of the story. Because we are a non-profit, they were able to make an in kind donation, which helped them and really helped us! The price of the building had just come down to 1.3 million.

And the really neat thing is our people had been faithful to continue giving towards our building fund and we had other gifts from churches and our denomination so we had money to build out the space.

Recently we had another Flood stage moment! Worst case scenarios were running rampant through my head.
But there's this little thing we sometimes forget…
God provides for His people when they trust Him!

Jay, come and give us this wonderful illustration of how God provides.

NSC Borrows $1,309,000 (by selling bonds) for the purchase of this building
NSC learns that $546,000 in bonds did not sell but that the lender will accept .70 on the dollar for the bonds

NSC creates the 400 Forward Campaign to pay off  $400k
(70% of $546k plus legal fees)

NSC receives word the $546k in bonds have been sold to another lender... who then makes an offer of .50 on the dollar if we can raise the money in 30 days

NSC borrows $120k, adds it to $160k in 400 Forward funds, and uses this $280k (debt + legal fees) to pay off  $546,000 in debt!

400 Forward Campaign is still active as we seek to pay off the $120k loan to State Bank

We are also seeking to refinance this and the remaining bonds through State Bank for a much lower interest rate!
Thank you so much for your continued faithfulness.  We see what God can do when His people respond to the call!

Wow! When God provides, He provides!!!
Amen? Amen!

Well, there were just two more things in the Ark, but they are important!

Aaron's staff that had budded, symbolized…

The Power of God!

Back when the people of Israel had been enslaved by the Egyptians, Aaron's staff had been used to show Pharaoh God's power. It became a snake when cast down, and brought about the first three plagues. It was a symbol of God's power. That's why it was placed in the ark!

You've heard the advertisement, "Life comes at you fast!" I sure hope you have more than insurance when life comes at you fast! When life is at flood stage, you and I both know you need more than insurance! You need the power of Almighty God!!

And last time I checked, I don't have the power to pile up the water! Especially when it's a river!
Remember, 6 inches of fast moving water can sweep a car off the road!!

Spiritually speaking, life doesn't have to get very deep to sweep us off our feet! We must depend on the Power of God if we're going to survive and accomplish what He has called us to accomplish!

The Psalmist give us a paints an amazing picture of this dependence on the power of God...

1I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.
Psalm 116:1 (NIV)

2Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
Psalm 116:2 (NIV)

3The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
Psalm 116:3 (NIV)

4Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, save me! ”
Psalm 116:4 (NIV)

5The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
Psalm 116:5 (NIV)

6The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.
Psalm 116:6 (NIV)

7Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.
Psalm 116:7 (NIV)

8For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,
Psalm 116:8 (NIV)

9that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
Psalm 116:9 (NIV)

The Tablets of Stone symbolized…

The Principles of God!

The importance of having, reading, knowing and following the principles of God are no where more beautifully stated than in the book of Deuteronomy...

5See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it.
Deuteronomy 4:5 (NIV)

6Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”
Deuteronomy 4:6 (NIV)

7What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?
Deuteronomy 4:7 (NIV)

8And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?
Deuteronomy 4:8 (NIV)

9Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
Deuteronomy 4:9 (NIV)

In closing, I want to give you a way to remember the points of today's message.

When Joshua and the children of Israel faced the river at flood stage, they turned to God for help. God used the ark to remind them of His presence, His provision, His power and His principles!
They carried the ark with them wherever they went!

We carry something different, yet it symbolizes the same things!

14May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Galatians 6:14 (NIV)

The Cross symbolizes the Presence of God, The Provision of God, The Power of God, and the Principles of God!

20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20 (NIV)