Summary: Laying aside the past, looking to the future. A future of serving the Lord, doing his will and engaging in the call he put on your life - now there's a challenge.
The last time I will stand here and speak as your Corps Officer, the years between 2009 and 2013 have brought many joys many struggles, much growth for Rochelle and I as individuals and as a couple. There have been the odd moments! It’s not every officer couple who can attest to their first appointment being at a time of such rapid change, earthquakes will do that. I have really appreciated walking alongside the people of this place and know that we leave you in the hands of a very capable couple who are to be your officers in the short term, embrace John and Kay – they are called to minister to you, and those who follow in July. We know that we leave the Corps in very capable leadership and management hands. It is my personal belief that the Sydenham Corps of the Salvation Army will do great things for the Kingdom of God.
Now it would not be right to leave without a message of encouragement, if you could open your bibles to the book of Joshua 24:11-15.
We have this passage where God through Joshua addresses the people of Israel for three verses and then Joshua puts in his own plug as leader – telling the nation his view on a thing or two.
1) God was initially pointing out to the people of Israel that they were where they were through no other means than that He, God alone had brought them there. If you recall the history of this nation he had blessed them continuously, he had given land to Abraham, he had in fact introduced himself to Abraham who had previously worship idols in his home at Ur and blessed him telling him that he would be a great nation. He had continued to bless the people of this nation these Hebrew people time and time again. They had more recently escaped Egypt under Moses leadership and after grumbling and being disobedient for forty years been led by Joshua and Caleb into the land of Promise, the land that God had promised their ancestor Abraham. The land of Israel. So in this spiel God reminds these people that they didn’t do any of it in their own strength that he gave them the land, he gave them cities they did not build, and that they were making a living in vineyards and olive groves they did not plant. God had set this nation up. Where they were was God’s doing. He had blessed them because of their eventual obedience.
Where I am going with this is not to propose that by being obedient to God you will end up prosperous in a land of milk and honey. I do not believe that physical prosperity is the end result of belief in and obedience to God, if it was he would have come up with a cunning plan to take all our favourite goodies with us to glory. However there is a thing that occurs as people leave behind their past life of sin and enter into one of obedience to God, that of social uplift.
But what I do know of each and every one of you; is that God has given you strengths, and gifts that are to be used in lovingly living with one another and in serving God. As you live for God, serving all people. God has made you who you are he has given to you all promise. Remember God’s faithfulness to you.
Enough on this point where I want to look now is at verses 14 and 15.
The stuff that Joshua told the nation. “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all your faithfulness. Throw away the gods (note the lower case g) your forefathers worshipped and serve the Lord.”
2) Crikey there’s a bit of a slap in the face. This nation that God had been so generous to have other gods, what they were doing was carting around the gods that the past generations in disobedience had worshipped. They were doing the whole bowing down to idols, to fertility gods and the like. You would have to wonder at this crew, this had got beyond little foxes in the vineyard. This was majoring stupid with a capital ST and thick with a capital ICK. If you combine the two words you end up with STICK which is just what these people deserved a bit of. Verbal stick that is. For they had fallen into the nation of Israel’s hardy annual of worshipping other gods. Joshua this leader of the nation knew his people well. Joshua knew they had stuff tucked away in the cupboard, that they had things wrapped up with in foil, brown paper package tied up in string, they worshipped a few of their favourite things. They had favourite things tucked away, possessions secretly worshipped, bits of stick or bone or metal given more kudos, more regard, more mana, worshipped more than the creator of the universe. So here Joshua is saying to them, I know where you are at fellas, God wants your total devotion, hiff out the rubbish and grab hold of what is real, will you chose to serve the One and Only Faithful God. Be totally devoted – blameless – in the worship of God!