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Presence.


Happy New Year!

Each New Year takes me to the Book of Joshua in my personal devotional life. This first book of the historical narratives recorded a choice time in the history of God's people. Israel had been in Egyptian captivity for 430 years. They wandered through the wilds of the Sinai Peninsula for another forty years. Joshua wrote about their occupation of the land God had promised their forefather Abraham. The early chapters of Joshua's writing provide instruction and insight for those entering the unknowns of life. In my opinion the New Year is one of them. The words God gave to Joshua help me discover direction for living the New Year.

Before they advanced to the Promised Land God gave them a precise itinerary for their crossing of the Jordan River. One of the phrases God gave to their leaders is particularly arresting. They were told to remind the people "...for you have not passed this way before" (Joshua 3:4, ESV). Everything about this momentous occasion was new to them: the geographical location; the fulfillment of the ancient promises that had sustained the nation for nearly half a century; and, their leadership. Moses, the greatest leader in Israel's epic (see Deuteronomy 34:10) was dead. Joshua was their new leader. One of the questions that must have swept through the clans was simply whether or not Joshua would have the leadership savvy to guide such a large throng of people across the Jordan and then occupy the land. Would Joshua be able to command Israel's army to defeat the nations who had possessed the Promised Land for so many years?

Then, there's the promise. It was such a special and profound word from God that it was repeated at least four times. Make note---

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God

who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV (Spoken to Joshua by Moses).

And the Lord commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous,

for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be

with you.”

Deuteronomy 31:23, ESV

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with

Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.

Joshua 1:5, ESV

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not

be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9, ESV

Joshua was strengthened for the unknowns that awaited him and the nation of Israel by the promise of God's presence. It is the one certainty that gave the children of Israel confidence in Joshua as their leader for the marvelous wonders of entering the land they had dreamed about for nearly 500 years. In the same way the promise of God's presence gave Joshua assurance of finally leading the nation into the vast unknowns of what was in front of them.

So, welcome to 2018. Like the nation of Israel we've never been here before either. Yes, we've celebrated a New Year many times before, 69 times on Harriet's spreadsheet of my life. But, this one is different in many ways. We're a year older than the last one, the world is traveling faster than ever before, complexity defines even the simplest life processes, social media confirms the new anonymity of relationships, secularism is the predominant worldview, and constants like family are being redefined by the moment. Truly, "...we have not passed this way before".

But, there is the promise. Matthew recorded it as the last word Jesus spoke to his disciples.

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:20, ESV

Sure, there's uncertainty about the New Year, 2018. Us mere humans cannot see the future, even with our sophisticated forecasting systems and business models. But, there's a promise that gives us confidence and assurance as we deal with the unknowns of the New Year. He promises to be with us. No, in a more intimate certainty, with me. And, you.

With the promise of his presence the unknowns of a New Year shrink, like they did for Joshua. And, the eleven. And, for millions of believers in history. And, now for me. Even more, for every genuine believer. The unknowns are real, the stuff of uncertainty, even fear. They make us timid at the threshold of witness and influence. But, the promise of his presence overcomes the fears of the unknowns so that we can enter them boldly

Happy 2018! Be blessed. Be bold.

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