LENT – Fasting Forward

LENT – Fasting Forward

If your calendar is anything like mine, the subtitle to February 14th, 2018 was a two-word phrase I expected to see; “Valentine’s Day.”

While heart shapes were in obvious abundance yesterday, I hope that you did not bypass another day that was celebrated; Ash Wednesday.  With every ash-marked forehead, I was reminded that it’s the time of the year to give up some things, because, you know…that’s what we do, right?

If you have a traditional practice of making some specific self-sacrifices or fasts for Lent, I do not want to discourage your participation in your usual rhythm .  However, I would like to invite all of us to view this Lenten season through a different lens.

In whatever self-sacrifice or limitation you prayerfully place on yourself this year, may we also include these things:

  1. Self Evaluation.  Lent offers us the opportunity to evaluate the things we value.  The sheer dread of giving something up is a clear indication that preference, comfort, or convenience have a special meaning to us.  In our posturing and positioning to evaluate our hearts this season, may we not focus on what we have less of, but the God who freely gives us all of Himself, and that in Christ, there is no good thing we lack!
  2. Missional Engagement.  I would encourage you to use Lent as a means for mission.  If you are choosing to abstain from Netflix, social media, chocolate, or even a meal a day; have you considered replacing the time or money you would’ve spent enjoying those things by an opportunity to live missionally?  Take your fasting, and live it forward alongside the Gospel;  write a note, spend time with someone that you usually do not have time to fit in your schedule, do more community activities, get to know a neighbor, bless someone.  Let’s take our fasting and pay it forward!
  3. Anticipatory Celebration.  As the fasting starts to set in, may we be encouraged by the hope of the Resurrection!  Even on dreary, tough weekdays – we can be certain that Sunday is coming!  And a resurrected King along with it!  Use your fasting to prepare to live and rest in the feast offered us by the finished work of Jesus!  We are invited to taste and see His goodness for ourselves.

 

May you be encouraged this Lent season, and fast forward in light of the Good News of Jesus.  May you be filled with gratitude in the finished work of Christ.  May you be sent and spent well for the Kingdom of God.

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I AM The Light of the World

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As we approach the turn of the year and usher in 2018, it is likely true of many of us that we hope the new year comes with some much needed direction.  It may be direction for our families, career opportunities, callings, health or even personal disciplines, attitudes, or habits; direction may be desired in a number of different life arenas.

When it comes to direction, the presence of light is an important factor.

Have you ever tried to navigate through an unfamiliar house in the dark?  The journey from the bed to the bathroom in a dark house leaves many a stubbed toe, bruised shin, and knocked knee in its wake.  I remember coming home for the holidays from college and having to navigate a house that my parents had rearranged in my absence.  After about the fifth stubbed (or in my dramatic hypochondria, “shattered”) toe,  I did the unthinkable.  I turned on a light. Instant navigational direction achieved.

Lighthouses served as a navigational beacon for aquatic journeymen in an age that pre-dated our current GPS era.  The lighthouse revealed the rocks and reefs and any inherent treachery that a ship captain may need to notice in order to safely port the vessel as it approached land.  The Lord created a forerunner of the lighthouse, even.  His pillar of fire by night was the “lighthouse” in which He directed and guided the people of Israel to the promised land in the Exodus.

There is one more unique source of light that has been used for centuries as a form of direction; the stars.

In approaching Christmas, we are familiar with the story of the Star of Bethlehem, leading those anticipating the birth of the Christ to the manger in David’s city.  After all, a symbol of that story tops many of our Christmas trees today.

But it’s not just the Christmas story that we see the presence of a star as a directional tool.  The North Star, Polaris, is the tip top of our celestial sphere, the pole if you will.  In the same way that the North Pole is the top of the earth, the center of which runs the earth’s axis, Polaris is the pole of the starry globe that encompasses our earth.  No matter what, every time you see Polaris it’s due north.  The same axis that runs through the earth, if drawn out the needed distance, would hit Polaris square in its center.  No matter where you are on the globe, Polaris is unchanging in its directional quality.  And if we know North, then we know that every other direction is anything but.

In 1923, Thomas Chisholm penned a familiar hymn that many of us know.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

There is no shadow of turning with Thee.

Thou changest not.

As Thou has been, Thou forever will be.

The Holy Spirit would speak through James to say it this way:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” – James 1:17

When it comes to direction, we aren’t asked to hit a moving target or to assume our own way.  The birth of Christ was the coming of one who declaratively and boldly speaks “I am the light of the world”.  And with that light comes direction.

That direction is unchanging, it’s immovable, it’s not shadowed, nor does it turn.  That direction doesn’t come in the form of a lighthouse or a star, or even a manger, but a cross.

When we gaze at the cross of Christ and walk toward it, the Light of the World works to obliterate all that we may feel would disqualify us from that journey.  The cross invites our full attention, to not see what we lack, but to see what we gain in the person and work of Jesus.

Once we were to blame, in Christ we are blameless.

Once we were unrighteous, in Christ we are fully righteous.

Once we were sinful, in Christ we are guiltless of any stain of sin.

Once we were unable to keep any of His commands, but because of Jesus it’s as if we have kept them from day one.

Once we were enemies of God, but the work of the Cross calls us His friends.

Once we had no place to belong, but in Christ we are called son and daughter and dearly loved members of God’s family

Once we dead, but now Jesus makes us alive.

Once all we knew was darkness, but now we are called out into His marvelous light.

As we seek the needed direction for our lives, hearts, and souls for the approaching new year, may we seek it by gazing on and walking toward the most unchanging, immovable truth in all creation – the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, and Light for the World.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”                           – Jeremiah 29:13

I AM the bread of life

One afternoon at the Sea of Galilee a crowd of 5,000 men (and up to 20,000 people when you count all the women and children) had gathered to hear Jesus teach.  While teaching, the decision to provide lunch for those that gathered was reached.  There was, however, a problem; the only food that was available were 5 loaves of bread and two fish.  Jesus took this snack and turned it into a feast, with so much excess that there were barrels of food left over.

The next day, the crowd returned; not to hear Jesus, but to get another miraculous lunch.  It was in this moment that Jesus addressed the heart of the matter, that He was the only thing that could fill and satisfy the hunger of a soul.  He is the bread of life, and He gives life to all that find their sustenance in Him.

Viewing bread as a source of life has become a valuable lesson for Lexington’s own Rob Perez.  Rob and his wife, Diane, started DV8 Kitchen – a breakfast/brunch/lunch cafe and bakery on South Broadway.  You may have seen or read about DV8 already in the news, but if you have not, what makes them a unique story is not their superb food (which is fantastic) but the story behind those who prepare it.  DV8 offers a second chance to employees that are in substance abuse recovery in hopes to offer some deviation from a previous lifestyle. DV8 becomes “life giving food” because it creates “life altering” opportunities, not only by employment, but also in training, teaching, and changing the trajectory of employment and vocational options for its employees going forward.

I had a chance to sit down with Rob last week and talk a bit about “life changing food”.

Rob, you are a restauranteur – a provider of food, how has the Lord been a provider to you? 

Rob:  “How has He not been?  First of all, the Lord has provided a foundation for all of life.  Not just life today, but life forever.  He’s given me countless experiences and opportunities and been the source for me to live life as I was meant to and as I was made to live it.”

“He has strengthened my commitment to follow Christ.  And feebly, I’m on a daily journey of learning it’s not about me, but about my reliance on the Lord.”

Not only is DV8 a kitchen/cafe, but a bakery.  What led you to start baking bread? 

Rob: “It wasn’t because we thought Lexington needed another, or even a better, bakery.  We thought God was asking us to take those experiences He had provided us with and share them with an underserved portion of our community.  We wanted to help teach people in recovery a trade and to equip them for life going forward.”

“You could feed a hungry man bread, but why not teach him to bake?  We’ve exchanged fishing for baking…maybe that makes us ‘bakers for men’, too”

How has baking bread been life giving?

Rob: “We’ve seen evidence and stories already to how it’s been life giving to the people we are laboring alongside.  But, the truth is we took a step of faith that I didn’t expect to be personally rewarding.  I thought we were following Jesus here to help someone else, I didn’t realize the help was for me.  Daily bread – it’s just as much for me and something that I need every day.”

The story at DV8 is a valuable story for all of us.  In whatever passion God has given us, may we use it to lead people to Him.  Fishers for men, bakers for men, college students for men, moms/dads for men.  As someone that believes in Jesus, everywhere you go, the Holy Spirit of God is with you and He is desiring to break into the world in which you live.  Whether you find yourself in an office space, a home, or even a bakery, let’s ask ourselves this question: How does the Spirit seek to break into this place and show off Jesus.  May we be people who see God’s provision of His Spirit fully at work in us, and fully at work from us!  May we be people that invite others to the same table that we find life-giving bread from the Lord!

To learn more about the DV8 story, check them out at dv8Kitchen.com, on Facebook and Instagram @dv8kitchen, and then stop by at 867 South Broadway for a visit and have some incredible food knowing that you, too, are contributing to the life change that is happening there!

I AM The Good Shepherd

As we enter our Advent season, we will post a weekly blog dedicated to our theme of the week.  This week, we are excited to feature a guest blog from Victoria Bastin.  Victoria recently returned from a season of life and ministry in the Middle East, a place where shepherding abounds.  Enjoy her encouragement, her take, and her heart on this vital understanding of Jesus as the good shepherd. 


 

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– Mt. Nebo, Jordan

 

The last four months have been a desert season in many ways. Although I’ve moved back to Lexington from a little city in the desert of the Middle East, learning to navigate life after a year away has been more difficult than the transition of learning a new language, city, and culture. I’ve found myself crying more often for little reason, struggling to love people who were once easy to be around, fighting lies of significance and purpose when getting out of bed in the morning, and questioning if He led me to the right place. I’ve battled the fear of settling into who I once was and the shame of not being content in a place that should be green pasture. I’ve counted the cost of moving back to a Muslim culture with less innocence, but wrestled with timing and how to invite others into the process. Many questions have gone unanswered for now and choosing joy in the questions has proved more difficult than I could have expected. Especially on the many days this year that I just longed to be home – to worship in a community of believers on a Sunday morning, to drink good coffee, to not think about safety, to hug my boyfriend, to spend holidays with family.  

A shepherd and his sheep is an ever-present image in the desert. It always amazes me how the shepherds go to great lengths to find water and green for their sheep in such a harsh climate. How much more does Jesus so sweetly and intentionally provide, protect, lead, and restore us in every detail of our story? The first and the last verse from Psalm 23 have met me in my current season of waiting and trusting. 

I shall not want. He delights in his sheep. He doesn’t just provide what we need, he goes beyond to abundance. He cares for us more than we care for ourselves – He desires for us to yield to His gentle leading in every aspect of who we are. There is nothing in our relationships, finances, emotions, desires, and dreams He doesn’t delight to shepherd. I shall not want for He is enough in every season. 

Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Goodness and mercy have never left our stories. He is faithful even when we are not. He chooses us and loves to care for us. He is with us and isn’t going anywhere. His love and His leading is not dependent on how much we try to get ourselves together and get it right. We won’t miss His voice for He knows best how to speak to us as we rest in Him. We get to freely come to His table, dwell with Him, and enjoy.   

So today. Slow down. He fully delights in you. He is rejoicing over you. Let Him lead you. Delight in Him as He delights in you. Father, thank you for choosing us and loving to care for us even in our wandering. May we not want for anything less than more of Jesus. Draw us deeper into becoming beloved sheep, loved by an extravagantly kind and trustworthy and good Shepherd.

Victoria Bastin

A Prayer for Missions

What a blessing that God would use us to advance His kingdom and proclaim His gospel.  He has an important assignment for each of use to carry out.  He wants us to be on mission!

But prayer has to be the lifeline of missions.    This week, I have tried to spend time in prayer, using Paul’s encouragement from Colossians 4:2 as a guide,

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”

Our mission should also begin with a devotion or steadfast desire to spend time with God.  As an individual, we have to seek God’s call.  He will place a burden in your heart and birth the passion needed to carry out His assignment for your life.

But we must also pray with great expectation, watchful that God will respond.  We must pray like Elijah from 1 Kings 18.  In the face of a three year drought, Elijah was given an assignment to announce that rain was coming.  He devoted himself to prayer, but each day He expected God’s response.  For seven days he instructed a servant to “go and look” for rain.  Even though there was not sign for days, Elijah continued to expect God’s response each day.  He showed devotion, but was watchful.

Lastly, we must have a thankful heart.  Regardless of the timing or the outcome of God’s response.  For myself, I struggle with patience in my prayer.  I want to click and receive so to speak.  But we must embrace God’s timing, even if we find ourselves like Elijah waiting for days.

———–

As a larger church family, Paul encourages us to stand beside and pray for our fellow brothers and sisters as they say yes to their assignment from God.  Paul encourage the church to,

“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”

Paul was on mission, but he knew how prayer could fuel his ministry.  He knew prayer could provide opportunity to share the gospel of Christ.  And Paul was a missionary to the unreached!  God placed a burden on Paul’s heart to proclaim the mystery of Christ to those who had not heard before.

This past week our church family had the privilege of being introduced to real life Paul’s living and carrying out their assignment from God in Prague.  Justin did such a tremendous job sharing his heart cry, honestly describing the tension he has felt being called back to Kentucky and from a place largely unreached.

And why should we have a burden for those people groups unreached?  As Christians, we should all look forward to the day Christ returns and Matthew 24:14 connects His return to reaching the unreached:

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Just as Paul encouraged us, we must pray for missionaries and unreached people.  Prayer is the lifeline.  Justin gave our church an opportunity to pray alongside him for those in Prague, which we have included below.  You can also visit the Joshua Project website, which outlines unreached people groups.  Did you know there are 1,225 people groups that have no Bible access (CLICK HERE)?  We may not be called to live and serve directly in those areas, but we can pray for opportunities to proclaim the mystery of Christ!

Jake Hunt 
Associate Pastor of Faith Community Church, & future lead pastor of Faith Community church plant
  • Praise God for a great church plant launch team forming
  • Pray to God for provision for the location and preparations of the church plant
Phil Davis 
Lead Pastor of Faith Community church
  • Pray for the new church plant to thrive
  • Permanent facility for current church
  • Reaching lost friends with the Gospel
Jessica Forbes
Worship Leader and Women’s Ministry Leader
  • Healing from back pains that keep her home
  • Women’s ministry to brothels and formerly trafficked women
Marek Hutr 
Worship Leader and Youth Leader of Czech church
  • Wisdom in leading the youth, particularly “Every Man a Warrior” group
  • Relationship with Lucka, wedding planning
Martin and Jane Hasik
Dear friends & establishers of Young Life in Prague
  • Praise God for 37 months cancer free!
  • New church plant and new home
  • Gratitude for grace to live
Sam Norris 
Youth leader at Faith Community Church
  • Guidance and unity among the church plant team
  • New youth leaders to be raised up to replace he and Filip (current leaders involved with church plant)
  • Czech language partner to hear and receive the Gospel
Sany Jadlovcova
Dear friend and Young Life leader
  • Clarity and wisdom for what’s next
  • Adjustment back from studying in France to relationships and ministry in Prague
Filip Simacek
  • Relationship with Amy
  • Wisdom and discernment for the Lord’s leading after graduating

 

We also heard testimony from Hannah about how God’s call often will draw us to a place of discomfort.  It doesn’t necessarily mean we will be in pain, but He tends to push our limits.  Hannah shared her heart from Spanish speaking countries and how drastically they may differ.  She shared her burden for the poor and how God was changing her definition of what poverty really looked like.  Our world is full of people who are spiritually poor, fooled by this world and its prince of lies.

Let us be a church who fuels missions and says “Yes Lord.”  He is calling you to something, would you pray as Paul encouraged us.   Devoted. Watchful. And thankful.  How might our church change if we all had Elijah’s expectation of God’s response.

Maybe for you it would lead you to being more faithful on Tuesday nights during tutoring.  Maybe for another, it would lead you to another country for a week on a short-term trip.  Maybe it’s saying yes to a Sunday morning in children’s ministry.  Maybe it’s saying no to a big promotion?

It all starts with the lifeline.  Prayer.  In the end, please let me encourage you trust that God’s call is better than anything we could desire.  Even if it makes us uncomfortable.

A Prayer for Salvation

What are the reasons we pray?  Seriously?  As I think of my own life – the reasons that I actually pray are most of the time in the settings that I am supposed to – before I go to bed, before I eat, when something bad happens, sometimes when something good happens etc.  In reality, the first prayer that I can ever remember praying was “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food…AMEN”.  As a child I wanted to pray this as often as possible because I could rattle through it quicker than one of the adults could pray an actual prayer – and the quicker we prayed, the quicker we ate.

Somewhere along the way, though, many of us have continued patterns of prayer as ritual, and often times struggle to see prayer as a relationship. The biggest enemies to prayer as a relationship is really one of two things; busy-ness and shame.  We get so busy that the day starts and the day stops before we have a chance to even catch our collective breaths, let alone pray.  Preaching on busy-ness however, is a sermon for another day.  The second reason many of us struggle to pray; shame.

Now, most of us wouldn’t admit to shame – but it’s there.  We have a hard time praying to a holy God, when we know good and well we are anything but a holy person.  We will “amen” and agree with statements like “God loves you”, but in our minds, we tend to believe that as the collective you, the “everybody” you.  Duh, God loves everybody…we learned that in Sunday School.  NO.  He loves the personal you.

Say your name out loud.

He loves that…He loves you. And furthermore, He knew good and well what He was getting into in loving you.  He knew about your bad days before you had them.  He knew about the times you’d turn to anything (and everything) but Him.  He knew about everything.  Nothing is concealed to Him and He still chooses to love you and make a way for you.

Some of you have some crazy dating stories; things like, “if I only knew he/she would’ve been that way, I would’ve never put my heart on the line…”.  Well…He knew EXACTLY how you’d be, and He did more than put His heart on the line; He put His life on the line as the only way you could be loved, or you could be saved.

Since we’ve laid that foundation.  Let’s agree together; He loves you.  Right now, as you are – not the better or best version of you.  Not the you that gets your act together in a few years.  Not the you when you were young and innocent.  He loves you.  And even more so, He saves you.  He loves you with a saving love, a love that can only come from Him.

In Ephesians 1 (v. 4-5) and Romans 8 (28-29) He even describes that He loved and saved you even before you were a jacked-up mess.  He had a plan for you. He designed a life and a future for you.  He wasn’t scared or incapable to deal with your “issues” or your “stuff”.  He.  Loves.  You.  He.  Saves.  You.

And it’s because He saves us that we can pray.  When Jesus refers to the father as “Abba”, that was ground-breaking stuff.  That was “hey dad” stuff.  That was a new territory, a territory of relationship that had never existed between man and the father, but the exact placement He desires with all of us.  He saved us so we could be sons and daughters; and so He could be Dad.

Our first confession in our prayers for salvation is we pray because God has saved us, and that is evidenced by our trust in Him.

Secondly, we pray for Him to do for others exactly what He did for us.  God loved me before I even knew I was able to love Him.  Sure, I walked an aisle and prayed a prayer; but He was already in the business of loving me and drawing my heart, even as a 6 year old kid.  As referenced earlier, ‘before the foundations of time’, His plan for salvation included all those that would trust Him and receive grace through the life and work of Jesus.  He loved and saved us in spite of us.  So, we pray for Him to keep doing that business.  People are not saved through argument or intellect.  People have forever and will always be saved “by grace, through faith, not of ourselves, but the gift of God.”  God GIFTS us salvation, and we pray for Him to gift others.

In our prayers, we have to realize that He might (and ultimately through the Great Commission has) call us to be the vessel through which people are saved.  In the New Testament, it was God that saved, but people like the early apostles we the evangelists, the “good news people” that were sharing the story of Jesus and planting churches and discipling others.  God did the saving, but He invited those that trusted Him into the story.

Paul prayed for God to “open doors” for the Gospel to go forth (Colossians 4:3) and that “He who supplies seed to the sower, may He multiply your seed and increase the harvest” of His word being sown (2 Corinthians 9:10,14).  He even prayed that the sharing of faith be effective, and be fruitful (Philemon 1:6).

Are we doing that?  Do we pray those prayers for people in our lives, at our work, in our families?  As we pack the car, and head to visit family we know lives apart from a relationship with God are we praying (and inviting others to pray) that God open a door? If not, let’s start, and if we are, let’s include others in joining with us.

To get practical, I would encourage you to even make a prayer list.  Put down 3 or 5 people that you are praying that God might save and bring to life this year.  Pray for Him to do what He is in the business of doing.  We join the work of God by asking Him to do what only He can do!

Lastly, as just a last bit of encouragement, I leave you with a few videos of the power of prayer to transform.  In video 1, a man named Mez McConnell tells a story of how we should not underestimate the Gospel’s power to save and transform.  In video 2, the story of a man fervently praying for a friend that is yet to follow Jesus, and his hope and expectation that God might save.  I hope you are encouraged by these resources, and I hope you are motivated to join God in His redemptive work by praying for those that you know need to be reconciled to the Lord.

Prayer of Consecration

Let’s start with a little history, shall we?

If you know the story – maybe this is a refresher, otherwise, it’s some much needed background (pardon my brevity in this effort to tell a quick story).  In the book of Genesis, the author chronicles the journey of a man named Abraham and his family and the promises that God made them.  Abraham, while advanced in years, had a son which God had promised; Isaac.  Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau – and through Jacob, God continued his promise to make Abraham the father of many nations.  Jacob (aka Israel) had 12 sons, most notably Joseph.  Joseph was sold into slavery into Egypt, and rose to a place of prominence, a position that would help his brothers (the tribes of Israel) in their time of need.  His brothers came to Israel and called it their home, and for years they grew and flourished and multiplied there, that is until an evil Pharaoh came into power.

The Pharaoh saw the strength in numbers of the Hebrew people, and he enslaved them.  They cried out their God to rescue them, and God, the constant keeper of His promises, made a way.  He called Moses, a child raised in the Pharaohs own home to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt.  Through ten plagues and constant mind changing, he was finally able to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, and toward the promised land.

From parting seas to provisional food and drink, God made a way for Moses to lead the people to the promised land.  While Moses took the people to the edge of the promised land, it was his understudy and protege, Joshua, who led them in.  Joshua was not a foreigner to the power and provision of God, in fact, one of his first stories on the job, was God allowing the Hebrew people to take down the city of Jericho, and to literally see its walls fall down by the blowing of their horns.  Crazy.  As the city crumbled, God instructed Joshua and his people that they were not to loot the city.  That the prize was the victory from the Lord, not the spoils of the fallen kingdom.  But, the people didn’t listen, and latched onto the things God told them to leave alone.  That’s where this story becomes ours…

It’s the start of 2017.  The popular social media opinion is that 2016 needed to hurry up and end, yet I know a lot of people that would say 2016 is their best year yet.  I’m not sure where you are on the spectrum, but 2016 like every year before it has things you’d love to never be reminded of again, and probably seasons or days that you wish you could revisit because of their enjoyment, just ask any sports fan in the cities of Cleveland or Chicago, as two championships that had long avoided the cities came home.  I’m not sure what spoils of 2016 you’d like to grab hold of and hang onto, but I know they are there (or maybe you are still living in the hopes of a return to the glory days of 2015, 2014, etc).  In any case, we all suffer from a tendency to want to “go back to the good ole days” regardless of what they are.  Maybe your “good ole days” were a mission trip, a real season of feeling close to the Lord, a relationship, or simply a “before the bad news happened”.

In that sense, this story we find in Joshua is also about us…

Even though God had proven himself faithful in countless victory after victory, the people of Israel still disobeyed.  They plundered the fallen Jericho, and they took these things with them in preparation for their next battle (and what they assumed was the next victory God was going to give them).  Except this time, they lost.  Yep, the people of God lost a battle, and Joshua was none too happy.  He complained to the Lord and cried out on his face before the Lord and this was God’s response:

The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.  That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them.'”

God had a lesson for the people of Israel.  They had held onto the wrong thing from previous victories.  What they needed to hold on to was the promise of the Lord, not the plunder from the victories He had given them.  Let’s stop right there.

Don’t we do the same.  Don’t we, at times, hold onto the things God gives more than we walk confidently in the provision he provides and has demonstrated to us?  And look at what the Lord is reminding Joshua.  When you hold onto the wrong things, you have no confidence in front of your enemies.

I’m not sure where your mind goes when you think of enemies.  I rarely feel like the hero in a story that is fighting a well defined villain, or an enemy, if you will.  But enemies in my life many times mask themselves as sin and as untruths or lies.  When I face difficulties, when untruths come my way about myself or where I am in life or where I am with the Lord, when the sin that I am easily entangled in shows up; if I have held onto the wrong things, I will not stand confidently before those things that oppose me.  In fact, I will be easily overtaken.

If I only hold onto the things God has done in the past and not the promise of what He is still doing, accomplishing, and providing, I miss a vital part of living in relationship with Him.  I don’t want to hold onto just the things He’s done for me.  I want to hold onto Him.

The word “consecrate” means to “make holy”.  The Lord’s remedy for the people of Israel to walk in victory was to consecrate themselves, to stop holding onto the things that if you trust lead to destruction.  He instructs to “consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow” and He instructs us to do the same.

We believe that the person that makes us holy is not ourselves or our own efforts to modify our behavior, but is Jesus.  He makes us holy as He is holy because of His work on the cross and His resurrection from the grave.  The book of Ephesians tells us that before we knew Him, He knew us, and he fashioned us for blamelessness.  Jesus knew full well what He was getting into – that we would fall short, that we would hold onto the wrong things, that we would see the victories from the Lord and forget to trust Him the next time around – and He still chose us.  He still loves us.  He still makes a way for us.  He still desires our trust in Him.  Our trust in Him is the pathway to our blamelessness, or our consecration.  How do you consecrate yourselves for tomorrow?  Trust Jesus.

So that becomes our prayer this 2017.  Let’s get ready for tomorrow.  You know what comes with tomorrow?  Enemies.  They come our way everyday.  How do we stand in front of them in confidence?  By trusting in the right thing, the right person. Jesus.

My prayer for you, my prayer for me, my prayer for us is one of consecration.  May we trust Jesus this 2017. May we trust Him more each day.  May we tell stories that tell of His greatness, not so that we hold onto yesterday, but that we face our tomorrow, any tomorrow, with the confidence that He will do the same.  Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow – TRUST JESUS.  Amen.