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Take the Lead: Get Gnarly

“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.” (Joshua 1:6)

I was watching a motocross event the other day. One rider’s coach held up a sign when his guy came around a turn. It said, “Get gnarly!” He wanted the rider to cowboy up, to get his game face on, to dig deep. Use whatever sports lingo you want. He wasn’t urging better technique or clear thinking or even more speed. He wanted to see some toughness.

boat_350Three times in one paragraph, God tells Joshua the exact same thing. But this ain’t no pep talk. These are commands from the voice of the living God to one small human about to do an impossible thing: “Be strong.” “Be courageous.”

How? Why? Because we can. God provides all the power to those doing His will. But it’s still up to us to hit the gas, to get up again after we hit the dirt the first time, to hit back and keep moving. I don’t care who you are. If you’re doing what God asks, you will be strong if you choose to be. You will be courageous when you have to be. You will biff sometimes, but God won’t let you come up empty when you’re following His course for you.

Think: Do you think of strength and courage as things you can just choose to have? Do you think Joshua wondered if he could be strong and courageous enough to do what God asked? Do you?

Pray: Ask God to help you obey Him today with strength and courage to do everything He’s asked of you.

Do: Hit an online dictionary and read through all the definitions for strength and courage.

Take the Lead: Never Never Never Leave

“No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5)

In today’s passage, God hands over to Joshua the key promise behind Moses’ confidence as a leader and as a person. Over the course of his life, Moses had learned to believe this promise, and it gave him the courage to make hard choices, to do amazing things, and lead people under his influence.

boat_350The promise is simple: “I will be with you; I will never leave you.” We think of being an adult or a leader in just the opposite way. We grow up and away from our parents and teachers to lead our own lives, to be independent, to take care of ourselves, not to NEED anyone.

But that’s a lie. Real leadership, real maturity, is all about needing God more than anyone else. It’s about relying on God as the source of all of our strength and wisdom and courage. Moses knew and Joshua learned that leadership isn’t about the person in the top position; it’s about the God who supplies that person with everything he or she needs.

Think: God has promised all of His children, “Never will I leave you.” What does that promise mean to you? Does it help you to be any more confident or courageous in your everyday life?

Pray: Thank God for His promise to never leave or forsake you. Ask Him to help you to need Him more.

Do: Read Matthew 28:19-20 and notice the very last sentence of Matthew’s story of Jesus on Earth.

Take the Lead: Titanium Promises

“I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Great Sea on the west.” (Joshua 1:3-4)

Sometimes God gives us impossible missions. That is, He gives us missions that would be impossible to complete on our own. God doesn’t scour to the earth to find the most capable people and give them the toughest jobs. Instead, he takes the people most ready to trust Him and He does the impossible through them.

boat_350To reassure Joshua — a man with the impossible mission of leading a single nation into a hostile territory to conquer and occupy it — God personally gave Joshua the promises He’d previously given to Moses and Israel. And when God gives a promise, it’s an absolute guarantee. All that’s left is to believe it and take the next step.

Your impossible mission as a Christian is to live on earth in the power of God — and to escape “the corruption of the world caused by evil desires.” How? Peter said we can accomplish this because God has also given us “his very great and precious promises.” With God’s personal guarantee of success, what can’t you accomplish for Him?

Think: Do you tend to think of promises as “maybe’s” or “definitely’s”? How often do people keep their promises to you? How often does God?

Pray: Ask God for the courage to take Him at His Word; ask Him to help you believe His promises this week.

Do: Make a short list of five of God’s promises to you in the Bible. (There are lots to choose from.)

Take the Lead: Prepared to Obey?

“After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites.’ ” (Joshua 1:1-2)

This week, we’re going to read about Joshua and talk about what it means to be a leader. It’s hard to imagine a more intimidating job than his. How do you “take over” for Moses? God handpicked Moses to lead His people out of captivity in Egypt. God showed Himself to Moses and delivered to him the Ten Commandments and the Law. God inspired Moses to write the first five books of the Bible. Moses had been the top guy in Israel for 40 years!

boat_350If I’d been Joshua — about to lead Israel into the Promised Land after Moses’ death — I would have been scared. For 40 years, the people of Israel had been waiting for this very day. And now their leader Moses was gone. How was Joshua going to pull this off?

God’s first words to him: “Get ready to go.” Joshua is about to learn that even when God is the one taking care of everything, good leaders must prepare to do what God tells us. We can’t just wait for all the details to fall into place on their own. Part of obeying God is getting ourselves (and those under our influence) ready to obey God.

Think: How do you prepare to obey God’s instructions to you? What do you do to get yourself ready to honor your parents or love your neighbor, to remain sexually pure, to keep yourself from telling lies? Is anyone following your example?

Pray: Ask God for new insight from Joshua’s life about how you can get yourself ready to obey whatever He asks you to do.

Do: Make a short list of a few people in your life under your influence, anyone who might follow your example one way or another.

Money Matters: Enough Trouble

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

Jesus’ final word in this passage on the issue of money and worry and worrying about money is refreshingly realistic. He has been telling us, “Don’t worry; your Father cares for you.” But He has NOT been saying, “Since your Father cares about you, you’ll never have a day of trouble in your life.”

money_350In today’s verse, He practically promises that you and I will have trouble “tomorrow.” Trouble comes built in to every day on this side of heaven. It’s a fact of life in a fallen world. People who make a goal of not having any trouble will spend their lives feeling sad, angry, frustrated — and worried.

Instead, Jesus says, “Trust your Father to take care of you today and leave tomorrow to itself.” Does that mean we don’t make plans or preparations for tomorrow or next month or next year? Of course we do. But Jesus tells us not to invest the emotional energy in worrying about how those plans and preparations will turn out. Always worrying about the next day leads to a life of endless worry. Focusing on today — and how God provides in it — leads to a life of endless gratitude.

Think: Are you surprised Jesus would admit that trouble comes built into this life? Do you expect there to be trouble or are you surprised when things don’t go according to your plans?

Pray: Ask God for the courage and self-control not to worry about tomorrow. Thank Him for how He has provided for you today.

Do: Make a quick list of ways that God has provided for you today.

Money Matters: First, Look

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33)

What’s the difference between a child of God and a pagan (someone who does not serve the one true God)? One difference, according to Jesus in this passage, is that pagans are consumed with worry about what they will eat, drink, and wear. God’s kids, on the other hand, assume that because He loves them and is powerful enough to care for them He will provide what they need when they need it.

money_350What practical difference would that make? For one thing, it should free up God’s kids to do other things with their mental and emotional energy — like spending their inner lives in a continual treasure hunt for evidence of God’s kingdom and His righteousness.

According to Jesus, God’s only birth Son, all of us who make our first job in life to discover the realm and rightness of our Father will see Him provide for all of our needs time after time after time. In other words, while we’re always on the lookout for what He’s doing in our world, He never loses track of what we need.

Think: What do you do in your life to actively “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness”?

Pray: Ask God to help you to never make your to-do list more important than seeking Him.

Do: Tell someone this week about one way in which God has provided for your most basic needs.

Money Matters: Dress Like Flowers

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30)

Here’s Jesus’ logic when it comes to worrying about not being able to buy clothes for yourself or your family: God clothes the flowers. They look nice. God likes you more than flowers. God will clothe you. Trust God.

money_350The logic is air tight. The problem in our culture is that very few of us are worried we might get so poor we’ll have to walk around naked. Some of the first hearers of Jesus’ words did worry about that. We’re more likely to worry that we might be so poor, we’ll have to walk around looking like we’re poor. We might not be able to buy the “right” shoes, shirts, pants, etc.

Two things about that: A) God does care about how we look. He created the beauty of lillies. He’s got good taste. B) However, God cares a lot more about our gratitude for and contentment with what He provides for us today — even if it’s not the clothes we wish we could buy — than He cares about us looking good in our own eyes. If you’re not grateful for what you have now, you’re not likely to be grateful for long when you get what you think you really want.

Think: Do you ever worry about money for clothes? Do you believe God cares that you worry about that? Why or why not?

Pray: Thank God for all the clothes you have right now. Ask Him to help you learn to be content with what He provides for you.

Do: Read 1 Timothy 6:6-10.