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Welcome this week to the ‘front porch.’

In 1962, now more than half a century ago, country singer Don Gibson came out with a powerful song with a poignant message. He sang the “My God is real” tune in a distinct and beautiful twang: “My God is real,” he asserted powerfully in the song’s chorus, “He’s real in my soul. My God is real for He has washed and made me whole. His love for me is like pure gold. My God is real for I can feel Him in my soul.”

The old melody has stayed with me for a good number of years now, as has its message. But I cannot help but wonder, sometimes, just how real God is to us. Too often I think we go about our business as if He’s a million miles away. But a close, diligent study of His Word reminds us that God is not far away at all. That truth is one of the great beauties that permeates every hour of a Christian's life.

God’s Word has many examples of men and women who make the Lord real in their lives, none more so than the great spiritual leader Joshua. Having recently crossed over the Jordan River, Joshua has the Lord’s army now positioned to take the city of Jericho. Joshua leaves the camp and goes to a vantage point to where he can see the city of Jericho in the distance, probably high on a hill. He is there for a number of reasons, no doubt, but we can be sure he is there in particular for prayer and to make preparation for how he is going to take the city. He does not know just yet that the Lord has already drawn up the plan and would make its execution as simple as walking around the walls of the city for a few days, culminating with shouting and a loud chorus of forbading trumpets. 

The inspired writer gives us an account of Joshua’s hour of meditation and planning, saying: “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes; and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?” (Joshua 5:13). 

There we immediately begin to see just how real God is to this great old-time warrior. A number of things stand out to show that fact – including his fearless approach to an unknown man suddenly there with him – but I want you to note one in particular that we see it in the very first line of this narrative:

“When Joshua was by Jericho... he lifted up his eyes.”

There it is: Joshua, preparing for the greatest moment of his life, lifts his eyes up! He is focused. He has a spiritual goal in mind, and his entire purpose is to fulfill that goal. If you know Joshua, you know nothing is going to prevent him from it!

I assure you that our eyes being “up” is a good starting spot for making God real. Our focus, as Joshua’s, must be singular. We must have one prevailing purpose in our lives – one that encompasses everything, something that we “meditate upon day and night” (Psalm 1). It is way down into our very bones, as it is with the prophet Jeremiah. It is who we are. While we have varied aspects to our personalities and lives, the one focus that outshines them all is this: Our eyes are up and focused in the right place!

The writer of Hebrews reminds us where this focus needs to be when he exhorts us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and (to) run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Then he adds the clincher in v. 2. He gives the answer to how we can run that blessed race successfully: “Looking,” he says, “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith...”

I understand that the word for “look” in the original language indicates that we are to look away from one thing and cast our full attention onto something else. Look away from the world, and turn your focus completely on Jesus! The apostle is reminding us to lay aside the clutter of life that bogs us down so much spiritually. Get rid of that sin that is a constant snag. Then turn your head around and look at Jesus by working, studying, and praying!

“Stop looking over there!” he’s saying. Get those things out of your head. Change your focus!

You’ll note in this account in Joshua’s life that he isn’t looking around, is not distracted by outside influences. He looks up to see the Lord, his ever-steady pilot through every challenge he has faced. 

Many great men and women could join in to sing the old country chorus from the 1960s, but none, I suppose, could sing this theme with any more fervor and grit than that old-time Israelite warrior. From deep in his soul, he could proclaim, “My God is real, real in my soul!”

Let Him be real, real in your soul today, too.

Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a full-time writer and preacher of the gospel. In addition to his evangelistic travels, he works and writes for the Church of Christ of Red Oak at Uhl Road and Ovilla. Their worship times are 10 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 pm. Wednesdays. Email or call or text 972-824-5197.

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