The Wandering Desert Monk

The Wandering Desert Monk

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Day 2017

Today is New Year’s Day 2017.

What can we count on as we step into 2017?

What will we face in this year?

Heaven, what word do you have for us?

As I sought God, my mind was drawn to another time when God’s people were facing changes in their national life. Moses had just died; Joshua was installed as the new leader. The people were anxious. Moses was their savior – he had lead them out of Egypt. For over 40 years, Moses had lead them through the wilderness. If the people were anxious about their future, the newly appointed leader, Joshua, was understandably even more anxious.

Let's listen into God's conversation with Joshua:

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. 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. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:5-9.

God gives Joshua and the people one promise and two commandments.

The promise of God’s presence: I will be with you.

How many people are alone? How many feel alone even in the crowd? Ever feel abandoned? Ever ask, “Who is there for me?”  Ever ask, “Who will be with me if I go from here?”

Inside of God’s promise of God’s presence is the answer to these questions.
God will not abandon you. You may feel abandoned just as Jesus felt abandoned on the cross, the truth is you are not abandoned. God is right there in your feeling of abandonment.

God will go with you wherever you go. You cannot run from God’s presence. You cannot hide from God’s presence.

Many years later the Psalmist would pen these words:

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I run from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast. – Psalm 139:7-10

Let us embrace the promise of God’s presence as we move into 2017.

The promise of God’s presence is the foundation of the two commands God gives.

 God commands his people to be strong and courageous. By ourselves, even in a crowd, it hard to be courageous.

How can we be strong and courageous in face of challenges of life? In ourselves we cannot be strong and courageous; only in the presence of God can we be strong.

We say, “But I am too weak!.”

Here is the story of St. Paul dealing with a painful situation:

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take (the thorn) away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).

If you can live successfully by yourself, you have no need for God. Celebrate your weaknesses because they are moments for God’s victory!

God also commands his people: “Don’t be afraid1”

Many years ago Pastor Robert Schuller asked his congregation to give suggestions for sermon topics. The number one topic was fear. There are two basic human emotions: love and fear. Every other human emotion flows from these two emotions. Love is the seed of all the positive emotions we experience; fear is the seed of all the negative emotions we experience. Insecurity, jealousy, hatred, greed, anxiety, critical, bitterness, conflict and so on all flow from fear. God has a word for our fear: Don’t be afraid!

Why do we not share fear of society around us? Remember God is with us. Our fearless life comes from being secure in the knowledge and experience of God’s presence.

I want to end with a poem about God’s presence. First, I want to share the background to the poem that was written yesterday by my cousin, Henry.

“It is 3 years ago on this New Year’s Eve a drunk man running from the police  and God discovered Erica's body. Erica, my wife, had been missing since Oct 5, 88 days before. It was the longest 88 days I've ever been through! The Lord had given me a word 1 week before she went missing: 'enduring' + I now have a new definition of it - 'one day more than I thought I could yesterday.'  Many lives were somehow touched through it all and the story still isn't finished."

Here is Henry’s poem:

Like footsteps in water,
The Past fades into memories.
The Future beckons, invites  - calls us
Ahead into what we do not know: 
Darkness? mountains? valleys? pain? fire? rain? …rainbows!
But one thing is ever assured:
‘The Way, The Truth + The Life’ has promised us
His Presence: He will never, no … not ever forsake us,
Jesus, ever with us: protecting, comforting, guiding.
We may not understand our Past, nor foresee our Future,
But His Presence always with us is His gift.
Lord, grant us eyes to see...You… here… now… forever.
May 2017 open new horizons of adventure +revelation for you all!

Over 4, 000 years from Joshua to today, the message remains – God will be with you every day in this new year.

Ronald Friesen © 2016

P.S. I will share this as a message at Glencroft Retirement Community, Glendale, AZ

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