I’m giving the message at both services this weekend and I’m using Joshua 24 as the text. I have really enjoyed studying this passage, in which Joshua has gathered all of the members of the 12 tribes of Israel together to give a sort of farewell speech. He tells the Israelites that they must choose this day who they will serve. The Israelites say they will serve God, but Joshua warns them not to be too confident. It will be very tempting to worship other gods. The Israelites renew their committment to God and Joshua places a stone under an oak tree as a memorial and a witness of their committment.
Back in Josh’s day, the temptation was to worship pagan gods and goddesses. It may be tempting to think that this passage doesn’t apply much to us in our monotheistic society where very few people (especially here in the south) worship pagan gods and goddesses. But of course, it does apply to us because we have a whole new set of gods–money, power, lust, success… This passage has really challenged me to consider all of the things that take my time and make sure that everything is in it’s right place.
It’s also challenged me to consider our family priorities and also what my actions teach Jonas about the importance of God. Joshua informs the Israelites, “Choose this day who you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Would six year old Jonas list God as my top priority? Does he see me in moments of spiritual discipline or does he just see me offer a prayer before we eat because that’s what we’re supposed to do? What do I teach him about taking time to ask God when making decisions or reading his Bible? Not enough, I’m afraid.
I think a challenge for Christians of our day is that we live in a society that is so busy. I say it myself all the time–I’m so busy! And I really am. I have a lot of ministry things on my plate right now, as well as my family (both immediate and extended), my friends (many of whom live far away and I never take the time to call, something I feel badly about all the time), bills to pay, meals to cook, beds to make, laundry to do (etc–the list is neverending), and the hobbies and things that I like to do in my free time (what there is of it). Unfortunately, I don’t always give God my best–a lot of times he’s getting what I have left. Give minutes here and 10 minutes there and praying in my car and pausing for a few seconds when I walk through the sanctuary are an important start for sure. But I’ve felt challenged by God to 1) slow down, 2) know what’s really important and make time for it and 3) Let everything I do to be a true ministry for Him.
Last night, I received a phone call from a girl in my youth group. She was calling to check on something about a trip we’re going on this weekend (we leave tonight at 6) and we ended up talking for about 25 minutes. It was around 8:30 and I was just getting my first few moments of free time all day–Jason was putting Jonas to bed after a difficult night of homework and whining. A few minutes into the phone call, I started to look for a way to close the conversation–I had given her the info she needed and we were just shooting the breeze. She said, “Can’t we just talk for a few minutes? I’m bored.” And my heart kind of melted. I mean, what was I thinking? Here was a teenager–a representative of my calling from God–who wanted to just chat with me and I was trying to hang up so I could read. Yikes! So I apologized and said of course and listened to her tell me jokes and talk about the baby think it over that she had to bring home as a school assignment. It was really fun. And I was really convicted about how busy I am, and how that has made me selfish with my time.
I keep saying that come January, I’ll have a chance to slow down. But in truth, if I don’t make that happen, it never will. How will it happen? I have no idea. I’m really overwhelmed with a lot of things right now. A lot of people think that when you work at a church, you must have a lot of time to spend with God and you must have a lot of opportunities to pray and read and study. Some days I really do. Some days I can take my Bible and sit on the floor of the sanctuary and read and sing and pray. Most days I have to fight to have that time because there is so much that needs to be done. And there’s a lot of pressure when you’re on th payroll (although, of course, there shouldn’t be). I’m determined, though, to make more time. I know that spending enough time in the Savior’s embrace will only bring peace, life, and love to the ministry I’ve been called to do.