Sometimes in life you get those moments where a single person can capture the attention of a whole lot of people.  Kind of like Big Al this week. Have you heard about Big Al?  He’s Alfred Delia from Middletown, New Jersey, and he’s 12. His Little League team was playing in the Little League World Series this week, and Big Al introduced himself by saying “Hi my name Alfred Delia. Back home they call me Big Al, and I hit dingers” (baseball speak for home runs).  And just like that, the video of his introduction went viral, he was on Jimmy Kimmel, he was interviewed on ESPN, people remembered his words, and he has the nation’s attention.

So did Joshua. “Big” Joshua was once “Little” Joshua…or so we might think. The Bible refers to Joshua as Moses’ aide. We picture this young boy or teenager following Moses around, carrying his lunch, but when Joshua started being Moses’ aide, he was probably in his 40’s. After Moses died, Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land (they walked through the Jordan River as God parted the waters), he led them on military conquests to take over the land formerly called Canaan (remember the walls of Jericho “come tumbling down”). Now Joshua gathers the nation at Shechem, the center of Israel and the place where 500 years earlier God promised Abraham that his descendants would be like the sand on the seashore. At Shechem Abraham built the first altar to worship God in the land of Israel.

Earlier in chapter 24, Joshua lists God’s care and blessings and miracles (from God calling Abraham to Moses crossing the Red Sea and to their present reality of land, cities, vineyards given to them by God). Then Joshua spoke the words that have been etched into the memory of thousands of God’s children from that day till today:  ”Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  All the people said, “Amen.” We say it too! We love these words. We put them on our walls in our home. We give these words as wedding gifts. I saw a picture of someone I know this week, and in their family picture they didn’t even notice those words on the wall. When Joshua issued that challenge that day, who would have disagreed? Why would we ever NOT choose to serve the God who has given us everything?

But Joshua had an inkling of the future because he knew the human heart. He was old enough to remember the golden calf. He was there when Korah, Dathan & Abiram rebelled against Moses and the earth opened up and swallowed them alive. Joshua confronted Achan, who defiantly disobeyed God and took money and clothes from Jericho.  Joshua could see that the culture of idols (fake-gods like Baal and Ashtoreth) would pull so many Israelites away from the true God. And all we have to do is look at our culture (a post-Christian society) or to take an honest inventory of our hearts to see how our own sinful Old Adam tries to pull us away from our God. We so easily and so quickly compromise our loyalty. Shouldn’t we be a little afraid of Joshua’s words and the sad prophecy he’s hinting at?

The familiar words of Joshua are meant to stir up a renewed commitment to serve our God. They’re meant to remind us of grace received on a personal level. They’re meant to encourage us, to compel us, to drive us to give our lives to the God who gave his for us. This isn’t meant to be lip-service but life-service. That day was really a renewal of the covenant that God made with the Israelites on Mt. Sinai. You might compare it to married couples who renew their vows;  or people who take Starting Point and promise a life of loyalty to Jesus; or our youth confirmation Sunday (this year about 38 teens will be confirmed on Oct 28) when young Christians confess their faith in Jesus and their life-long loyalty.

Joshua’s words are not meant to be vague and general. No, they’re meant to be a personal, honest, direct reminder to every child of God that the God who has served us wants us to show our loyalty by serving him.

“As for me and my household…..”  Who’s your household?  Maybe some of you dads or grandpas see that there is direct application to you. Dads are not to be bosses but servant leaders in their homes.  Family trees are changed from the top down (or bottom up, if you picture a tree) and dads and moms, God has put you in a position – more influential than any other people on the planet – to train your children to know and love Jesus from an early age. In fact, statistics say that when both Mom and Dad live and talk their faith in Jesus, ninety plus percent of those children will follow suit, with Dad actually have twice the influence of Mom. Dads & moms especially, Joshua’s words are for you and your household….to bring blessing to your children and future generations.

But do you know that the Bible never mentions any children of Joshua? We don’t know for sure, but maybe he didn’t have children. A person’s “household” is your circle of influence, the people close to you in your life. Joshua’s words can be every single believer’s personal mission statement. Even if you serve for an audience of one – the one you serve certainly sees what you do each day.

What does it look like?  Serving the Lord is first and foremost seen in our relationship to God. It’s listening to his words. It’s praying to him, praising him, thanking him each day. It’s choosing to worship him regularly – that’s a learned behavior, it doesn’t come naturally. It’s acknowledging him with your words and your thoughts that he is the Giver and Blesser of all the good things we have in life.

But serving the Lord is also seen in how we treat people. Commandments 4-10 give us a nice summary and practical examples. Every single interaction with teachers and coaches, friends and neighbors, fellow workers and business partners, strangers and your best buddies – these are all opportunities to serve your Lord.  When you think of serving the Lord, don’t think of the big things like traveling across the world to help someone in need or giving a million-dollar gift, remember the little things. They’re often the most valuable.

Think, for example, about the bike give-a-way at the Greenville Summer Send-off. Big million-dollars companies donate a couple kids bicycles and every child who gets their name called is ecstatic. A donated bike doesn’t affect the bottom line of a Kimberly Clark or Pierce Manufacturing, but for a child it’s huge. Can you think of an example of something that someone did for you once – maybe something very, very small. But it made a huge impact. Jesus talked about doing something very little – like giving a glass of water to someone – as ways to serve.  So I’d like to challenge you today – not this week, Joshua said “this day” – to think of something before you leave that you could do to serve someone.

Maybe you carve out time in your schedule to visit your great aunt – or someone else’s great aunt who’s in assisted living and is lonely? Think of the impact! Maybe for you kids, you decide that you will help a new student at school or use your math ability to patiently explain it to someone not so good at math. Think of the impact! Serve someone today who looks different or acts different by not making fun of them. Joshua’s call to recommit ourselves to serve our God is not a pious wish but a conscious decision to live out the calling we have each received. It’s a choosing to live what you are, a child of God.

Do you know how this ended? After the people all responded with a loud “YES, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD,” Joshua said, “No, you can’t.” No, we can’t. As hard as we try and as committed as we are right here in this moment, we can’t choose this day serve the Lord with all our heart and love him with our soul and love the people around us as ourselves. But the one who can is the one who chose us to be his. The God that Joshua was talking about that day over 3,000 years ago is the LORD, who gave you life, keeps your heart beating, has placed you in a place and time in his world where you have access to the best medical care on the planet, and has seen to it that you’ve had enough food, clothing and shelter your whole life.  He’s the LORD, who planned long before Adam and Eve’s rebellion that he would rescue you. He’s the LORD, who left heaven and became a person, subjecting himself to 33 years of this life, culminating in a horrible death so you would never feel pain for your sins. He’s the LORD, who walked out of his grave alive so you would too. He’s the one who put his name on you at your baptism and clothed you in a perfect robe of a perfect record. He’s the LORD, who brings with every sunrise kindness, mercy, and blessings so numerous that we can’t possibly begin to count or list.

You see, this God, the LORD – JESUS – is better at serving us than we are at serving him. And he keeps serving us so that we would keep serving him. Can you say Joshua’s words without looking? With a grateful heart, let’s say it together, confident of God’s power working within us:   “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”   And to that, let all God’s people say, “AMEN!”