In Faith Moments, Odalis Turincio shares her thoughts on living out her faith and how we can grow closer to God. Take a moment to join other members of our community every 1st and 3rd Thursday at 8:30A.
Well, good morning and welcome to Faith Moments. I am Odalis. Faith Moments is a time where we just get to spend a few minutes together to talk about God, to listen for him, and to try to hear some of what he might be saying, something he might be encouraging or challenging us around. I’m part of the team at Cornerstone, and I’m just so grateful to have you here and to share this time together.
We’re going to take our time this morning to talk a little bit about change: how God meets us before, during, through all of our seasons of change. If you have a Bible handy, please grab it. We’ll be in Joshua, the Older Testament. So, you want to zip on over to it early in the Bible. I’d just love to pray before we start, and welcome the Lord in. God, we thank you for this morning. We thank you for this time we have together. Lord, whether we’re here listening live, or we’re catching it later; whatever time of day or night, or whatever place that we’re engaging this in, Father, we ask for your Spirit to meet us at this time. You’re the author of our stories, God. You’re present with us at every moment. We just ask for you to have your will, Lord. Speak to our hearts, and help us to be open and receptive to what you might be saying. We pray these things, Jesus, in your name. Amen.
I don’t know about you, but a lot of my conversations these days involve some kind of commentary about 2020. I know we have a lot of jokes, memes, and things running around along with all of the seriousness. In my conversations, we find ourselves marveling at the change, or serious at it, or just fascinated. Sometimes we joke about, “Well, what’s going to come next? There are still four months left in the year.” All joking aside, it has been a record year for changes personally, collectively. Oddly enough, in a year where we’ve had maybe the least change in our physical environments as we’ve been home, in shelter-in-place, for almost six months. I’m incredibly grateful that my family, my close circles have not been directly affected by COVID. For those who are affected, I do pray for the Lord to meet you exactly in that.
I’m not sure what the changes have been like in your circles, but there’s been so much change in family and in close friends for these life things: health, job, moving, all kinds of things like that. Acknowledging this six-month marker here, it’s sort of a normal thing when we hit those marking points to look back at what the rest of the year has been. I remember at the beginning of the year, COVID felt like just this distant thing. It was maybe going to affect us a little bit, but maybe not. It was a foreign idea in January, at the time. As a church community, we kicked off the year dreaming of this vision of “sow, water, and reap.” Taking what we have and putting it into play, looking for God to do unique things in our community and to work a new life. For all of us to activate the things that we have and be thankful for what God has given us.
The message series we opened the year with really stuck with me at the time. It strengthened and motivated me. It has become a theme for the year in ways that I don’t really think we could have seen coming. I was reminded of it this week once again, deeply encouraged. I hope you will be too, just as I share some of what the Lord was speaking to me around.
The series expands, which you can listen to online, cornerstonesf.org/messages. Following these themes of being bold, trusting God to guide us into new places in our faith, putting our gifts into play, and stepping up in places of trust and courage. As we followed the story of Joshua, Moses had just died. Moses was the only leader of this people group. He had led them out of Egypt, through the desert for 40 years, to the brink of the promised land. They’d never had another person lead. There had never been another person so close to God. The scriptures refer to Moses as someone God spoke to face-to-face as a man speaks to a friend. Moses had this intimate, close relationship with God. Out of that place of relationship, he led the Israelites. At the beginning of the book of Joshua, in Joshua 1, Moses has just died.
The message series just shared around some of what Joshua experienced there. The Lord tells Joshua that his servant Moses is dead, that Joshua was going to be the one to take the people across the Jordan, into the promised land. They’ve never been there before. There is no ‘Google Maps’ or Street View to know what to look for when you get there. I’m super guilty of wanting to know exactly what the building looks like, where to park, all of that before you even leave the house.
These people for 40 years have wandered, and now they’re coming into somewhere completely unknown, with a brand new population. In three verses, God charges Joshua. We’ll pick up Joshua 1:6. The Lord tells him: “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 laws my servant Moses gave to you. Don’t turn from it to the right or to the left, that you will be successful wherever you go. Keep this book of the law always on your lips. Meditate on it day and night so that you’ll 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.”
At the beginning of the year, Pastor Terry in this message series encouraged and challenged us, in the same way, to be strong, to acknowledge the things that have passed that are over; that’s Moses is dead. To look forward in trust and promise in the Lord, for Him to be our courage and our strength because He will be with us. How is He with us so often in the scriptures, that book of the law that’s referred to?
Where can we get to know the heart of God? Where the heart of God becomes more ingrained into ours, and we see Him more clearly in our surroundings. For us, what we’ve known. For the Israelites, it was Moses. For us, maybe it’s life pre-COVID, pre-health, pre-job changes, pre our circles of friends moving, or pre whatever it was. Those things we’ve experienced personally and collective we’ve known as gone in many ways. Be strong and courageous for the Lord our God is with us wherever we go. This is how I remember the start of the year. It’s how I remember all of these six months in shelter-in-place, a couple of months before that too. We’re in September, but something more stood out this week. This is where I just found myself so encouraged and reminded of God’s faithfulness.
If we go back just a few chapters in the Bible to Deuteronomy 31, it’s three or four chapters back from Joshua 1. At this point, Moses is still alive and Joshua has just been selected as Moses’ replacement. Moses, in front of everybody, tells the whole community: “Joshua is going to lead you. Be strong and courageous as you go into an unknown place.” Let’s read Joshua 31, from verse 6: “Again, be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid or terrified because of them.”
The new people that they were going to encounter. “For the Lord, your God goes with you, and he will never leave you or forsake you. Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must go with these people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them. You must divide it among them as an inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.'” By the time Joshua was in charge and the Lord was speaking to him, he’s already heard: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be discouraged. Be strong, be courageous.” He heard it from Moses. It begged the question to me, “How nervous was Joshua? What was he feeling? How many times did he need to hear these very same words from Moses’ mouth, person-to-person?
There, in the position of leadership, looking out at a foreign place, a new experience, an unknown land, hearing these same words again: ‘Be strong and courageous.’ Was he scared? Was he anxious? Did a feeling of imposter syndrome kick in like he wasn’t qualified? Maybe he was the wrong person? Did his mind race with memories of times he wasn’t good enough, smart enough, creative enough, or just in charge enough? Did the imposing nature of the unknown feel like too much to handle?” Are any of these feelings familiar to us? Whatever it was, he needed to hear it before, during, through, and after the change, into unprecedented times. God met him right there. He was with him. He did not forsake him. How are we doing? How are we doing? Joshua’s situation isn’t exactly a copy and paste to ours.
Thematically though, I would just like to propose that there’s a lot of similarities. I know there have been similarities in my life, in my circles. What are the changes that you’re facing? What are the words God has spoken to you before that you need Him to remind you of now? He spoke those words to me at the beginning of the year, and he reminded me of them this week. How can we spend a bit of time clearing space in our schedule and in our hearts to hear these words again?
Being strong and courageous looks different for each one of us in each circumstance that we experience. But no matter what it looks like, it relies on the Lord. It relies on spending time with Him to get to know those words He’s saying. It relies on His strength and presence to lead us wherever we go. I’d love to pray for Him to do exactly that for us.
Our Father, as you reminded Joshua, before he stepped into that place of responsibility and change, and during it, and through it, God, would you remind our hearts to be strong and courageous? That you are with us wherever we go. For those who love you, for those who pay attention to you, for those who seek to follow you in their lives, that you will lead us no matter the season of unknown and change that we face. We thank you for this reminder, Lord. I ask for you to just speak to the heart of everyone who hears this. The words that maybe they’ve forgotten you spoke. The words that have been creeping there. Those reminders that sometimes we avoid, or those words that are new, fresh, and will fuel us through this season of change and difficulty.
God, you are good in all seasons, and we count on your goodness, kindness, and faithfulness in this time. You’re the one who will never leave or forsake us. Give us strength, give us courage and just give us eyes to see you, Jesus. We pray for these things in your name. Amen. Thank you so much for joining in this time. May the Lord be your strength and your vision in whatever you’re facing. We’ll see you next time for Faith Moments.