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But....but....but...

Ever find yourself paralyzed by fear? Considering something 'ominous' in front of you, with memories of what you once had behind you? These thoughts plague us and we find ourselves wondering if we can ever make it past the past and getting fully into the present. There isn't much hope of ever experiencing the 'newness' of the present until we let go of all the excuses we offer to attempt to stay connected with our past!

Attention, Israel! This very day you are crossing the Jordan to enter the land and dispossess nations that are much bigger and stronger than you are. You're going to find huge cities with sky-high fortress-walls and gigantic people, descendants of the Anakites—you've heard all about them; you've heard the saying, "No one can stand up to an Anakite."  Today know this: God, your God, is crossing the river ahead of you—he's a consuming fire. He will destroy the nations, he will put them under your power. You will dispossess them and very quickly wipe them out, just as God promised you would.  (Deuteronomy 9:1-3)

A blessed land for a chosen people - but not before some conditions were met. We find Israel spending 40 years wandering around the small wilderness region between Egypt's border and the land of Canaan - not a very long journey, but one that took them loads longer than it needed to simply because of their lack of trust and rebellion! After many years of aimless wandering, they finally stand ready to enter into the promises of God - but before they can possess what is promised, they must 'dispossess' some other stuff. Stronger armies, seemingly impenetrable fortresses, and giants await them as they take the first steps into what God had promised them.  If I were standing in their sandals, I'd be wondering if God had been kidding when he said he had "good stuff" for me just on the other side of the river!  I'd have wondered if God had maybe been a little mixed up in his attention to detail here. The things ahead of me would have made me a little skeptical, to say the least.

We sometimes find ourselves in similar circumstances, looking ahead, knowing we need to "make our move", and we are almost paralyzed by fear because of what lays just beyond the borders of where we are now and where we are headed. We might make excuses for our unwillingness to take the first step - focusing squarely on the insurmountable odds rather than the imperceptible strength of our God - pointing out each and every pitfall along the journey. Perhaps we have been asked to take steps toward something and away from something else.  It may be that God has been tugging at our heart, asking us to spend time and energy on something we find hard.  We look at what is just ahead and all we see is rock-solid walls that seem like they will never be penetrated.  We want to 'step out', but we only feel waves of paralyzing fear in face of past failures.  Wherever we find ourselves this morning, God is saying, "It is time to take the first step. Trust me to guide you."

We don't take those first steps alone. As the nation of Israel stood on the very edges of what God promised to them, God stood alongside.  GOD (Jehovah) - the unchanging one, the one who becomes all we need, the one holding us accountable - stands ready to go alongside.  God (Elohim) - the creator of all things, the possessor of absolute power and authority, the covenant keeping God - stands ready to exhibit his power on our behalf and not let one of his promises fall short of completion in our lives. Look at his position - he goes ahead of us to put under his power all that would stand in the way of our victory!  That means he is going ahead of us to bring understanding into our times of personal chaos and confusion.  He is going ahead of us into the fearful places of budding relationship and past failures.  He is the consuming fire - the fire that burns through our doubt and fear; the fire that illuminates our path; the God that creates newness where we can only see devastation.  

I know this passage refers to where Israel stood that day, but I believe it has meaning for us, as well. God is to be realized as both our unchanging one and our becoming one. He is the Alpha and Omega - the beginning of newness in our lives and the finisher of all that he promises. Walls may seem huge, and even impenetrable - holding us back from realizing what awaits us on the other side. There is no "wall" that can withstand his power or authority - no enemy can stand in the midst of his mighty acts on our behalf. Giants may loom over us - God stands taller and stronger than any giant standing in our way. Today is a day of new beginnings - it is definitely time to step out, God going ahead of us, preparing the way for us. Our part is to take the first step - his is to go ahead of us, driving out the giants and tearing down the walls. His part is to be all we need - our part is to be obedient to his voice. Is God urging you to step out today? If so, take the first step knowing whole-heartedly that he goes ahead of you! Just steppin!

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