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This sermon is about remembering what God has done for us giving us blessing after blessing. But have you ever been so star struck that you forgot your own name?

Years ago a Michigan woman and her family were vacationing in a small New England village where Paul Newman and his family were known to frequent.

One Sunday morning, the woman got up early and decided to take a 5 mile run. After her run, she went home and took a shower then decided to treat herself to a double-dip chocolate ice cream cone.

She hopped in the car, drove to the center of the village and went straight to the combination bakery/ice cream parlor. When she walked in to the parlor, she noticed only one other person sitting at the counter.

It was Paul Newman sitting at the corner eating a doughnut with a cup of coffee. The woman’s heart skipped a beat as her eyes made contact with those famous baby blue eyes. The actor nodded graciously and the star struck woman smiled nervously.

“Pull yourself together,” she chided herself. “You’re a happily married woman with 3 children. Your 45 years old, your not a teenager, get a grip!”

The clerk filled her order and she gathered up her change, leaving the store quickly not even daring to glance in Paul Newman’s direction. When she reached her car, she suddenly realized that she had a handful of change but her other hand was empty.

What had she done with her ice cream cone? Was she so star struck by seeing Paul Newman that she had left the clerk holding her cone or left it on the stand on the counter? How embarrassing!

Back into the shop she went, expecting to see the clerk holding her cone, smiling at her mistake. But the clerk was nowhere in sight and the cone was not on the counter.

With that, she happened to look over at Paul Newman. He was reading the paper. His head was down. Without even looking up, he pointed to the woman and said, “your ice cream cone is in your purse.”

She left her ice cream cone in her purse! In our Scripture lesson this morning, we find a remarkable story. God tells Joshua to pass through the swollen waters. The Israelites had to go into the rushing water before God would stop the flow.

We don’t like to exercise faith like that, do we? We want God to stop the cancer before it spreads. To stop the storm before it destroys our house and to stop the pain before it reaches our body.

But faith often means taking a step into the unknown knowing God will be with us. In order to bring God’s power into our lives, we must be willing to step into the deep waters. Look at what God told Joshua to tell the priests.

He said, “when you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.” That sounds easy until you understand that the waters were flowing rapidly and you could be swept downstream in an instant.

But God would not stop the water until they stepped out in faith. Some of you are thinking, “so what?” Here is what I find fascinating and consistent with how God works even today.

If the Bible is right, those priests had to go into the river with the possibility of being washed away. They wanted the river to stop before they got in! Why am I making such a big deal of this? Because we always expect the miraculous to be instantaneous and sometimes it is.

And yet more often we have to have faith, complete trust in God first and it may take some time. We have to stand in the water, fighting the current, believing in the promise and then see the miracle.

I remember 12 years ago stepping out in faith in a huge way. I had met this amazing woman and of course after seeing me, she felt madly in love. I wanted to propose to her. We had been invited by close friends to fly to Tuscany, Italy.

I wanted to ask her to marry me in Tuscany but I was scared to death. What if she says no. What if she says yes? So I asked her parents if I could have their blessing before we left. And then I asked her mother who was a jeweler if she had a large, fake cubic zirconia diamond.

She had one that was over 6 karats. I hid it in my shoes and we flew to Italy. We arrived in Rome to get our luggage and guess what, the piece of luggage with the fake diamond was missing. I think the Mafia got wind of  it.

What do I do? I have nothing to give her. So that night I asked Jaye J. to walk with me out in the moonlight under the stars in Tuscany. I noticed a beautiful bowl of fruit on the table and a perfect plum. I picked up the plum and off we went.

I got to the edge of the  mountains, got down on one knee and said, “Jaye J.  we have traveled thousands of miles and I want to ask you a question. Will you marry me as I presented the plum to her. Honestly, what could she say after seeing such a beautiful plum?

She said yes but then added, “where’s the diamond?”

Someone once said, “Faith is no merely praying on your knees at night. Faith is not merely straying through the darkness into the light. Faith is the brave endeavor, the splendid enterprise, the strength to serve whatever conditions may arise.

The second lesson in our scripture lesson requires us to have courage. You can have all the faith in the world but it often takes courage to step forward.

The Bible tells us that as soon as the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant reached the Jordan River and dipped their feet into the water, the waters began to stop. They had the courage to act on the command from God but all they had to do was dip. God was testing their courage.

Friends, when we pass through the waters, God will be with us. When we pass through the fire, he is there every minute of every day. When we combine faith and courage we will follow our Lord wherever he leads us.

When I think of courage, I think about a 19 year old kid who was critically wounded and dying in the jungle somewhere in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam. It’s November 14, 1965.

His unit was outnumbered 8-1 and the enemy fire was so intense, from 100 yards away, that your commanding officer has ordered the MedEvac helicopters to stop coming in.

You’re lying there, listening to the enemy machine guns and you know you’re not getting out. Your family is half way around the world, 12,000 miles away, and you know in your heart you will never, ever see them again.

As the world starts to fade in and out, you know this is the day you will die. Then – over the machine gun noise – you faintly hear the sound of a helicopter.

You look up to see a Huey helicopter coming in. But … It doesn’t seem real because no MedEvac markings are on it. It’s not a MedEvac, it’s a helicopter piloted by Captain Ed Freeman.

He’s not MedEvac so it’s not his job, but he heard the radio call and decided he’s flying his Huey down into the machine gun fire anyway.

Even after the MedEvacs were ordered not to come. He’s coming anyway. Captain Freeman drops the helicopter in and sits there in the machine gun fire, as they load 3 injured men at a time on board.

Captain Freeman then flies you up and out through the gunfire to the doctors and nurses and safety. Captain Freeman doesn’t do this once or twice but 13 more times!! Against his commanding officer’s orders!

He keeps flying until all the wounded were out. No one knew until the mission was over that the Captain himself had been hit 4 times in the legs and left arm.

He took 30 men out that day who otherwise would have died. Captain Freeman would go on to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

He was a man of courage who confronted his fears to save the lives of others.

Friends, we remember also what God has done for us. Here we were sinners left to die, left with no future and here comes Jesus swooping down from heaven to save us and bring us back to God.

No matter where we go in life, Jesus keeps coming back again and again and again to say, I love you. I died for you. Remember! Friends, may we have the courage and the faith to follow our Lord into the deep waters. Amen.



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Pastor Daniel writes and posts a weekly newsletter that keeps members and friends of the congregation up-to-date. His earlier newsletters are also online, so if you missed something, check those past editions.

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2610 Flagler Ave.
Key West, FL 33040
(305) 294-1223

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