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Going God’s Way

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Isaiah 43:1-7 & 18-19
(13-2-13)

Forest Gump was a film about a man with lots of questions whose life was one big adventure after another, some good, some bad. What wisdom he had he got from his mother who had lots of wise and clever sayings like ‘Life is like a box of chocolates . . . you never know what you’re going to get."

It’s true – we don’t know what we are going to get next in our lives. Life can be like a journey on which we don’t always know where we are going.

At the beginning of a new year although we may have plans and made resolutions none of us know what will happen in 2013. There will be good things, like today when we give thanks to God for the wonderful gift of Joseph. But we know that there could well be some sadnesses along the way too.

In a moment we will hear our Bible reading, just let me explain the situation to help you make sense of it.

God had promised His special people (the Jews) that He would give them a special, promised, land to live in. And if they would be His people and love and worship Him He would be their special Father and care for them. This relationship would centre around the Temple in Jerusalem so that was very special to them. Because of their continual disobedience to God they were carted off to exile in Babylon. After 70 years of captivity they are really fed-up and wondering what’s going to happen to them. God decides they’ve been punished enough and begins telling them they are still very special to Him and He’s going to take care of them: Isa 43:1-7,18-19

Did you notice what God said at the beginning, “I have redeemed you”, “I have called you by name.” He says “I have” but He’s saying these words when the people are still imprisoned in exile. They haven’t even started on the journey back to Jerusalem. But God tells them He has saved them. He can see the end from the beginning. Even when we can’t see our way forward God can. To the people it looked like nothing had happened but God knew He’d begun to save them. Saying they are called by name means they are really special to Him just as Joseph is special to Hannah and Adam.

God our Father calls us by name. We are special to Him and He has already taken care of us. Then God goes on to tell the Israelites that He’s about to do a new thing. He says that just as He has previously rescued them from the Egyptians by bringing them through the Red Sea that He will rescue them again only He is going to do it in a new way.

He is going to give them a new start. They had done wrong things but He has forgiven them and is giving them a new start. A hint of the future rescue that will come through Jesus. Life is going to change.

Now for many people change is something to be feared. But God says don’t be fearful. You can’t see it but I can. I am going to save you all by doing a new thing. He is about to do something new even though we can’t see it. And the thing that He means He is going to do is to send Jesus to pay for our sins on the cross. This is what allows us to go free and have eternal life. Our life is in God’s hands. In the hands of a loving Father, who tells us not to be afraid, He has called us by name, we are His and very special to Him.

The thing is, many of us might like to have that (awful?) Frank Sinatra song ‘I did it my way’ played at the end of our lives. We fight and rail against the God who, if only we would let Him will lovingly lead, guide and direct our journey through life. He doesn’t force Himself on us, hence many just go off and ignore Him but for those who accept His loving Fatherhood with its gift of salvation we can know that our final destination will be eternal life in heaven.

The journey may be uncertain, we may not know what will happen tomorrow or the day after, but there is one who does. Through everything that happens to us, the good times and the bad, He is there with us, taking us by the hand, picking us up, comforting us and giving us the resources we need to guide us on our journey.

There was a woman once who wanted peace in the world and peace in her heart, but she was very frustrated. The world seemed to be falling apart and her personal life wasn't that great either. One day she decided to go shopping, and she went to town and walked into a large store. She was surprised to see Jesus behind the counter. She knew it was Jesus because he looked just like the paintings she'd seen in museums and in devotional books.

Finally she got up her nerve and asked, "Excuse me, but are you Jesus?" "I am." "Do you work here?" "In a way; I own the store." "Oh, what do you sell here?"

"Just about everything," Jesus replied. "Feel free to walk up and down the aisles, make a list, see what it is you want, and then come back and I'll see what I can do for you." Well, she did just that. She walked up and down the aisles, writing furiously. There was peace on earth, no more war, no hunger or poverty. There was peace in families, harmony, no conflict, no more drugs. The careful use of resources. By the time she got back to the counter, she had a long list.

Jesus looked over the list, then smiled at her and said, "No problem." And then he bent down behind the counter and began picking out all sorts of things. Finally He stood up, and laid out the packets on the counter. "What are these?" she asked. "Seed packets," Jesus answered. "This is a store of beginnings." "You mean I don't get the finished product?" "No, this is a place of beginnings. You come and see what it looks like, and I give you the seeds. You go home and plant the seeds. You water them and nurture them and help them to grow, and someday someone else reaps the benefits."

"Oh," she said. And she left the store without buying anything.

What we do in this situation? At the start of 2013 Jesus offers everyone a new beginning. Not a fairy-tale, Disney type, happy ever after wish that costs us nothing. But a new beginning none the less. Immediate peace with God and forgiveness of sin. A right relationship with God. A 24 hour a day, 7 days a week hotline to God. A source of divine love and joy, a power to live for God.

But we need to respond. We need to take the time, energy and devotion to nurture and grow in our trust of God. This involves discipline, not a popular word today, but you don't get to be a disciple without discipline. This involves time and energy in worship, Bible study and prayer, both on our own and with other believers in church. Jesus invented the church so we can support and help one another, and show his love and life to a hostile and dying world.

Bringing Joseph today is also like a time of new beginnings. You want to thank God for him but you also want to involve God, ask for His blessing and guidance on how to nuture and protect this new little beginning that has come to live with you. That’s a good start, keep up the good work of involving God and asking for His guidance.

The Lord’s Prayer, that Jesus Himself taught us, contains the words "Thy will be done" which is actually quite the opposite of most of our prayers. We mostly tend to ask God to change things to the way we want them done! But God actually does know best and He offers us the seeds of discipleship. At this beginning of 2013 may we be prepared to accept these seeds, plant them, feed them and nurture them.

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