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When You’ve Never Been This Way Before

In Joshua 3, Joshua is ready to lead the Hebrews across the Jordan River into the land of Canaan. He instructs the people to follow the Levitical priests who would carry the Ark of the Covenant. Joshua tells them to stay close, but not too close, “in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before” (Joshua 3:4).


Joshua was encouraging the people, because they were getting ready to enter new territory, a land they had never visited, ground upon which they had never set foot. Sometimes we all need that encouragement; because there are many times we face life events that are new, foreign or uncomfortable. How many times have you said, “I’ve never passed this way before?”  


When you go on vacation, are you the type of person who goes online, makes all your hotel reservations ahead of time, gets your GPS all pre-programmed, you have several maps in your car just in case your GPS goes down, and you have your vacation agenda all typed out and distributed to the rest of the family ahead of time? Well, if that’s you--then praise God! That’s great. But in life, as much as we try to map it all out ahead of time, we tend to have surprise after surprise, don’t we? Because we’ve never been this way before. 


Have you ever personally led someone to a relationship with Jesus? No? So you’ve never been that way before. Have you ever volunteered to serve in the children’s ministry? No? So you’ve never been that way before. If you’ve never been married, it just means you’ve never been that way before. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go that way in the future! It doesn’t mean you can’t lead someone to Christ now--just because you haven’t before. It doesn’t mean you can’t volunteer and serve in some ministry now--just because you haven’t gone that way before!


Imagine how boring life would be if we only went places we’ve been before! That’s called “Groundhog Day” (for those familiar with that movie). Sometimes we have to step across the Jordan River into some new lands--and we do it together as a community of faith just like the Israelites.


In the very next verse in Joshua 3, Joshua tells the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you” (Joshua 3:5). Wouldn’t it have been incredible to be there for that moment in the history of Israel? Your parents risked everything by leaving Egypt. They passed on this bold faith to you. Moses and that entire generation before you did not get to enter the Promised Land, but they talked about it. They dreamed about it. They yearned for it. And now the day has come where you get to step foot on the soil that symbolizes a whole new beginning for you, your family, and your people.


Did God do amazing things among the people in the past? You bet He did! He led the previous generation through the Red Sea. He guided them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He rained down manna from heaven. But this same God who did all of those amazing things in the past wasn’t finished yet! Joshua is saying to the people--“This same God who did all of these amazing things in the past--you remember Him?? Well, get ready, because He’s about to do even more amazing things among you now!”


So what did the people have to do to get ready? This is very important. Joshua says, “Consecrate yourselves.” What does that mean? That means to set yourself apart for a holy purpose. That same message applies to us today. We need to consecrate ourselves. We need to set ourselves apart for a holy purpose. If God is going to do amazing things among us as a church, it will not come through marketing, facilities or programs. God can use those tools for His glory, but if that’s all it takes, then people will say, “Well, no wonder that church really grew--look at their marketing budget, look at the talented musicians and singers they have.” Music, talents, gifts, facilities, programs--God can do great things through them. But in order for God to do AMAZING things, it takes a people called by His name who have humbled themselves and prayed and sought His face, and turned from their wicked ways (consecrating themselves before God). And when God’s people do that--it’s like the floodgates of heaven open up, and God will do “exceeding, abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine” (Ephesians. 3:20). Do you believe that God "will do amazing things among you”? I encourage you to live a life filled with expectancy as God leads you in unchartered territory where you have never been. Consecrate yourself for His purposes and glory, and then get ready to see God do amazing things in and through you.


 

Who are the real heroes?

Today, Luke and I traveled to a small village in Indonesia with our associate and guide to meet a pastor who has faithfully served the same church for many years. This older man is almost completely blind and can no longer read the Bible, but he continues to preach from memory, recalling Scriptures that feed hungry people who long for the Bread of Life.


The village in which he lives may boast a population of 400-500 people, and 85 of those precious souls are in that church almost every Sunday to hear the Word of God from this blind, elderly saint. His daughter and granddaughter made the journey with us, and as we pulled up to the front of this impecunious, yet cared for home, there he sat, the old-preacher man, barefoot, cane in hand, and big smile on his face.


From the world’s standards, this man has very little. A small home in a small village, with very few possessions, and almost nothing to pass on to his grown children. But as we sat and listened to this preacher share his stories, we saw he possessed something far greater. He possessed love. Not just the love of his children and grandchildren, although that he did have. Not just the love of the 85 church members, although he had that, too. The love he possessed was an eternal love that flowed from the Source of love, our heavenly Father.


The Apostle John writes that God is love (1 John 4:8), and because of that love, we can truly love one another (1 John 4:7). This blind preacher radiated that love of God, which was fully demonstrated through the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8). I could be wrong, but I doubt the reason his family cares for him is not because of the inheritance they will receive after he is gone. The reason his church family cares for him is not because of the eloquence of his preaching. The reason he is greatly loved is because he greatly loves them.


And how can this man who has lost his eye-sight, who has lost his wife in a tragic accident, who nearly lost his own life when he fell from a tree a number of years ago, who has lost almost all worldly possessions (if he ever had them) greatly love those around him? Because he was first loved by our heavenly Father. When we receive His love, we then become a channel for that love to pour into the lives of others. The Bible says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11).


Who are the real heroes? The ones who receive and share God’s love. They may have very little earthly possessions. They may have experienced great tragedy in this life. But they still proclaim the Word of God even though their eyes can no longer read its pages. They still live out their faith even when others have abandoned them. They still long for heaven even when the weight of this world pulls them down. You and I may never be heroes in the world’s sense, but I pray heroes we shall become based upon how we receive and share the love of God.


 

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