Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ending Strong

Last night Patti and I went to see a movie called, simply, "The Cross."

"Beginning in 1968, the evangelical minister Arthur Blessit took it upon himself to carry a large wooden crucifix around the world. With the help of a wheel affixed to the end of the cross, a decent pair of shoes and the motivating fervor of a man who believed that Jesus was telling him what to do, Mr. Blessit succeeded, over the next 40 years, traversing nearly 40,000 miles." New York Times movie review.

The movie impacted me profoundly. The central issue is, do you do what God tells you to do or do you do what you want to do? On the one hand, it would seem like a complete waste of a life to drag a 12 foot cross around the world for 40 years. Yet Arthur Blessit is an evangelist by gifting and by calling. God told him to do this, and he has used the attention it gets to faithfully present the love of God and the Good News of God to everyone he meets, in every country, climate, culture and religion.
If you have the opportunity to watch this movie, definately go see it. He is now 68 years old, and is still carrying out the mission he felt God called him to. I would say he is "ending strong".

In our reading today we come to the end of the book of Joshua (Chapters 22-24), and also to the end of the life of Joshua the man. He calls all the people together to give them a last charge before he dies.
2 -3 "I'm an old man. I've lived a long time. You have seen everything that God has done to these nations because of you. He did it because he's God, your God. He fought for you.
6 -8 "Now, stay strong and steady. Obediently do everything written in the Book of The Revelation of Moses—don't miss a detail. Don't get mixed up with the nations that are still around. Don't so much as speak the names of their gods or swear by them. And by all means don't worship or pray to them. Hold tight to God, your God, just as you've done up to now. "
His words carry the weight of his long life, of his amazing accomplishments, of his voice as prophet of God.
11 -13 "Now, vigilantly guard your souls: Love God, your God. Because if you wander off and start taking up with these remaining nations still among you (intermarry, say, and have other dealings with them), know for certain that God, your God, will not get rid of these nations for you. They'll be nothing but trouble to you—horsewhips on your backs and sand in your eyes—until you're the ones who will be driven out of this good land that God, your God, has given you."
He admonishes them and warns them knowing his time on earth is about done.

14 "As you can see, I'm about to go the way we all end up going. Know this with all your heart, with everything in you, that not one detail has failed of all the good things God, your God, promised you. It has all happened. Nothing's left undone—not so much as a word.
15 -16 "But just as sure as everything good that God, your God, has promised has come true, so also God will bring to pass every bad thing until there's nothing left of you in this good land that God has given you. If you leave the path of the Covenant of God, your God, that he commanded you, go off and serve and worship other gods, God's anger will blaze out against you. In no time at all there'll be nothing left of you, no sign that you've ever been in this good land he gave you."
Last words. FAMOUS last words. You may have memorized them as a child, as I did...
14 "So now: Fear God. Worship him in total commitment... As for me and my family, we'll worship God."
Soon after, Joshua died. He was 110 years old. He lived well. Led the people well. Followed God well.
He ended strong.

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