Joshua’s Bucket List

In 2007 the movie “The Bucket List” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman inspired many people to think about what they wanted to do before they died. I have never made an official “bucket list” but there are a few things I hope to do before my life here on earth is complete. Near the top of my list is to visit to the Netherlands during the Tulip Festival. I would also love to spend some time walking the ancient streets of Israel retracing some of the steps that Jesus and his disciples took.

Near the end of the book of Joshua we read about the number one thing on Joshua’s “bucket list”, something that was not even for himself but for others. This compilation of verses from chapter 23 should give you a clue as to what he wanted for God’s people:

“Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left” (v6). “But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now” (v8). “So be very careful to love the Lord your God” (v11). In verse 14 he brings it all home, “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”

Joshua wanted what was best for the people as he was getting ready to “go the way of the earth”. His greatest concern was for the people and their relationship with the Lord. With one last opportunity Joshua addressed the whole nation, an address that I can only imagine was delivered with incredible passion and deep heartfelt emotion. Alongside each verse quoted here Joshua also gives a sharp warning of what comes if the people do fall into the temptation of doing life on their own, without God. With incredible grace and mercy through Christ today we have all we need to stay strong so that when we do fall, he picks us up to journey forward.

From the day Joshua spoke these words to this moment in time here and now and into the future, the promises made by God to his people continue to be trustworthy in their fulfillment. Knowing this brings incredible hope to me and many others who know and follow Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. 

What if we took a different perspective on adding things to our bucket list based on Joshua’s words? What if as followers of Christ we continue to build our own relationship with the Lord while also focusing on helping others do the same. We can continue to be strong in our own faith while helping someone grow in theirs; we can hold fast to the promises God has made to us and share them with someone who might not know about them. 

What if we move our attention away from what we want to what others need? Today more than ever people need Jesus. We have something that so many others need, as a disciple of Jesus a part of our responsibility is to share his incredible love with others. 

So, what might we add to our bucket list today? First, pray and ask God how he might inspire you to find a way to share his great love with someone else. Second, write it down and share it with someone close to you and third, do it. Easier said than done, I know. A wise man once said, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13)

Misread Intentions

We have all likely been in a position of misreading the intentions of another individual or organization at some point in our life. Our judgements are typically based on our personal or corporate values and creates the lens to which we measure the intentions of others. Often, without a complete picture of one’s intentions the resulting judgement results in friction or conflict between people or organizations. 

Part way through Joshua chapter 22 we have recorded for us the account of Joshua sending off the Eastern tribes to their home on their side of the Jordan River. This portion of land was what they asked for based on its physical qualities to support their livestock and families. (Numbers 32). On their way home they built an alter to be a witness between them and the rest of the nation, so future generations would know that they belonged to a nation who feared the Lord. 

Initially, the actions of the two and a half tribes (the Reubenites, the Gadites and half tribe of Manasseh) was misread as a departure from faith in God. Seen as a rebellion against God the Israelites prepared to wage war against them but first sent a delegation of men ahead to “clear the air” about their intentions. The nation of Israel was in fear because of past sins, past experiences where the Lord had dealt with them accordingly. They were concerned that the actions of the two and a half tribes would mean punishment for the whole nation. When confronted by the delegation, the two and a half tribes were able to explain their true intentions, finding favor with them and effectively avoiding a civil war. 

Given the history that the nation of Israel had experienced with past sin and its resulting actions I can see why they reacted the way they did; they did not want to see history repeat itself once again. 

This passage lays down some important foundations for understanding how we can work effectively to avoid undue conflict through misunderstanding. The wisest man to ever live once said “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:12 NKJV) Phinehas, the son of the high priest, the one who led the delegation of men who confronted the tribes heeded these words well. His first action was to go and meet with the leaders and begin a conversation. 

Following the expression of their concerns, Phinehas and the delegation took the time to listen to their side of the story. After hearing what they had to say the delegation was able to understand that their initial understanding of their intentions was misguided. The open conversation made way for understanding. Upon their return to Canaan, they reported this news and as scripture records it, “they talked no more about going to war against them” (Joshua 22:33) 

I have been guilty of jumping to false conclusions myself as I followed the path of misread intentions; conclusions I came to without fully understanding true intentions. I have also experienced the positive outcomes in following these simple and effective strategies found in Joshua 22.

Often the hardest step in understanding the truth of other’s intentions is starting the much-needed conversation. What is one conversation you can be praying about today? Pray that the Lord will lead you to a place of courage to begin that conversation today. 

What Will You Receive?

Recently there was some discussion at my house around a particular science assignment that one of my girls was working on. We inherit certain traits from our parents that dictate the outcome of our physical attributes; I have blues eyes and my wife has beautiful brown eyes. When my daughter plugged these variables into a Punnett square (a weirdly named scientific tool) and with a little explanation from our resident science teacher she finally realized why she and her sisters all have brown eyes. There are many things in life and in death that we can inherit. 
If you have the time and patience to read through chapters 13-21 of the book of Joshua, you will come across the word inheritance somewhere around 50 times. After leading the nation of Israel through many victorious battles it was time for Joshua to allocate the land that the Lord had given them as their promised inheritance. The reality of living in the land promised to them through Moses was coming to realization. 
To inherit something typically means something is passed down or given to you. You may not have earned it or even deserve it, but it comes to you in one form or another. Joshua and his army were one to be feared; they did things that are seemingly unimaginable for most of us to get them to the place they were in. God was the force in front of and behind them as they battled to secure the land he promised to them. We may be inclined to think that they deserved the land that they deserved it. Yet, without the Lord’s help they would have had nothing. The Promise Land was a gift of God’s incredible love for them as his chosen people. The land was their inheritance from their Father in heaven. 
These events that happened in centuries past are a strong witness to the assurance we have today in the fulfillment of 
another promise made to those who continue to faithfully follow God.  
1 Peter chapter one describes for us a promised inheritance that is kept for us in heaven, one that will never perish, spoil, or fade. As followers of Christ our inheritance is found in him. Our life (new birth) in Christ through his own death and resurrection promises us eternal life with him in heaven. 
We have been given an incredible gift of love by the same God that brought the people of Israel into the Promise Land. In many ways like the people of Israel experienced time and time again our promise of faithfulness often falls short of Christ’s command to be holy as he is. By the power of the Holy Spirit, through the complete forgiveness of all our sins and through the incredible gift of grace we are presented as blameless and pure in God’s eyes through Christ. 
As followers of Jesus, we are considered children of God, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). As his children we will inherit what God has promised, eternal life. As we live our lives in wait and wanting for the completion of our salvation (that day when Christ comes again) we can be assured that God continually works for the good of those who love him. It may be hard to see amid all that is going on around us in the world today, but we have inside of us a living hope that points us to a better day. 
Do you hope for an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade? Here is the best part of this promised inheritance, it is available to anyone who truly seeks it and humbly comes before the Lord and asks him for it. What will you receive?

Melting Point

This past summer as one of the particularly long heat waves passed through our area, we discovered that two of our Costco sized bags of chocolate chips melted and transformed from little, tiny morsels into large solid blocks of chocolate. Our chocolate chip cookies turned into chocolate chunk cookies. It seems that everything has a melting point. 

Six times in the book of Joshua we read about the idea of people “melting in fear”. (2:9; 2:11; 2:24; 5:1; 7:5; 14:8). In context of each of these verses there is a very real sense of fear surrounding life and death as people have witnessed the incredible power of God through the continuance of his promise to bring his people into the land promised to them through his covenant with Abraham. 

Chapter 2 of Joshua recounts the interaction between Rahab and the spies where she explains to them, “When we heard of it, (the crossing of the Jordan) our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” As we read this today, we recognize the transformation in Rahab’s life that speaks to a “melting” or “softening” of another kind. We don’t know a lot about Rahab, but we do know that at some point in time she recognized God for who he is and gave her life over to him, her heart was softened.

What started as a real fear in the sense of life and death became a life changing experience for Rahab. A new sense of understanding and fear of the Lord became a new reality of reverence and awe for a God who saves and protects those who love and follow him. Later in scripture (Heb 11:31; James 2:25) we hear of Rahab as an example of faith, one who stands out because of her actions in service to God. 

In life and ministry, I have had the opportunity to hear many incredible stories of life transformation as God continues to work in the hearts of his people. Each story, unique in their own way demonstrate the incredible power of love, forgiveness, and acceptance as people put their hope and trust in the Lord. Unfortunately, I have also heard stories that are surrounded by a paralyzing fear that keeps people at a distance from God. They fear that their life choices and actions are unforgivable, and that God could never love or forgive them.

The scriptures are filled with stories of forgiveness and redemption; Rahab’s story is only one of many. David is another example, and he shares these words for all of us:

He (God) does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

The God that we serve is so full of mercy and grace and no matter who we are and what we have done there is forgiveness available to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. 

The stories we have in scripture have the power to inspire and change lives. Our stories, just the same, have power to inspire and encourage others who may not know how great the love of God is.

When was the last time you shared your story? How has God has worked in your life to draw you close to him? Take some time to pray and ask God to give you the opportunity to share your story with someone, you never know the kind of change it will bring in someone’s life.

Big Shoes to Fill

Here is a somewhat interesting fact about me, I wear size 15 shoes. Now, to most of you that might not sound so interesting but when your “in my shoes” it certainly can make for some curious conversation. I have been the heel of many big shoe remarks like, “at least you don’t need water skies”, or “wow, you have your own flippers for swimming”. While I inherited my larger than average foot size from my father who was a size 16, I do wonder how this will play out for any one of my three daughters. 
We often use the expression they have some “big shoes to fill” when a person takes over a job that the person before them performed particularly well. It typically means that it is going to be hard to do the job as well as they did. 
Recently as I began reading through the book of Joshua I was thinking about the “shoes” that Joshua was filling. The leadership role that Moses provided in the deliverance of the nation of Israel out of Egypt and the giving of the law would have been a tough act to follow. Joshua had some big shoes to fill but he was not alone. 
Standing on the shores of the Jordan River the Lord gave direction to Joshua to move forward in the promise that he would provide for them all that they needed. His words to Joshua read like this, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” What incredible words these would have been for Joshua to hear from the Lord as he stepped into his new role as the nation’s leader.
As followers of Jesus, we all have some big shoes to fill as we are called to carry on his mission. Jesus clearly lays out his mission for us, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
These words in Matthew chapter 28 are as real for us today as the day they were spoken by Christ himself to his disciples. Just as Joshua had a mission from God to continue leading the nation of Israel, we too have a God given mission to continue as his disciples. The mission is clear and might sound simple enough yet in our eyes there are seemingly unmoveable barriers in front of us. We might feel like Joshua standing at the shore of the Jordan River wondering how the impossible might happen. 
The incredible words spoken to Joshua by God as he stepped into his role as leader are echoed in Christ words to his disciples and to us following the command to go and make disciples of all nations, Jesus reminds us of an incredible promise that we see and hear all throughout the pages of scripture, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Yes, we may have some big shoes to fill in carrying on the mission Jesus started but he continues to live in us through his Spirit today. We are not alone in our own shoes. As Christ followers, we carry within us the same power of the living God who parted the waters of the Jordan River for Joshua and the people of Israel. How many steps have you tried to take on your own in carrying out the mission given to us? Remember this, God is with you always, to the very end of the age, you are not alone. 

Looking back… Looking forward.

looking-backVerse 1&2 of chapter 23 in Joshua read like this: “A long time afterward, when the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies, and Joshua was old and well advanced in years, Joshua summoned all Israel…” Knowing his life on earth was near its end, Joshua takes one last stand as the great leader of Israel and calls together a meeting of the people to take them on a trip down memory lane. As I read these verses I wondered  what “rest” would have looked like for Joshua and the people of Israel? I can imagine that they began to settle in and build for themselves a home, a place were they could raise their families, establish their crops and get busy with life.

Even today we may find the same type of “rest”; we can become complacent with life, we can develop a sense of comfort within the day-to-day happenings and lose sight of where we have been and maybe even forget where we are heading. Like Joshua we need to take hold of the opportunities once and a while to look back on how God has been faithful to us in the past. We need to reflect not only on the good things in life but the things that were hard and how as a church or individual we have grown through those experiences.

Moving forward Joshua reminded the people of Israel that they needed to “fear the Lord, and serve Him with all faithfulness”. (24:14). Joshua challenged their faith and they responded by pledging to faithfully serve the Lord. This is my job; this is every leaders job in the church today, we must be taking our cues from men like Joshua. We must be marching forward serving the Lord and serving others so they might know who writes our story. We like the Israelites have to be reminded to serve with all faithfulness in obedience to the Lord’s commands.

God… The Master Planner

MapImagine for a minute the weight of the responsibility Joshua had to face in distributing the land among the twelve tribes. I often face adversity when having to referee my three girls as they protect their own space between their bedrooms and best places to play around the house. Joshua and the Israelites made it to a point where they could see beyond the major battles and conquests and begin to settle into the land that was promised to them through their fathers. I wonder about the disputes that happened between the people as the land was divided up, how many decisions would have been appealed because someone didn’t get a Dead-Sea view or beach access along the Mediterranean shores.

There is a certain amount of curiosity inside my mind that wants to see a picture of how Joshua approached this task. What did the planning documents look like, how did he select the land and why did the people listen to him. One of the things that I pick up on as I read between the lines of the awkward pronunciations of the names of the tribes, clans and cities is that Joshua is receiving his plans from God, He is orchestrating the whole event. God through Moses and Joshua had designed the plan for inheritance by direct order and some through the casting of lots.

Joshua’s dependence on God for direction in every area of this journey is inspiring, his faith in trust for protection as they battled, his kindness and patience as he distributed the land and his commitment to keeping the people on track with God is something to be desired as leaders. Joshua was a successful leader because of his faith in God. At the end of the day, at the end of my time it would be my hope and prayer that someone could write the same about me… Steve was a great leader because of his faith in God, not because it’s about me but because it is all about God.

The New Kid on the Block

Leader2Before I jump in and try and understand how Joshua built and managed the vast groups and teams entrusted to him I have to comment on his calling and direction from the Lord. Chapter one of Joshua outlines the commissioning of Joshua. After the death of Moses the Lord speaks directly to Joshua giving him instructions to move forward and take the people into the land that was promised to them. Joshua had a huge task before him and He knew that the Lord was with him just as he promised to Moses before him.

As Joshua assumes command over the entire nation of people he depends on the partnership of the officers and leaders and to help communicate the instructions handed down from the Lord for their journey ahead. Fitting into the shoes of one of the greatest leaders before him, Joshua had to be strong and courageous, a command given to him over and over at the start of his journey. As a leader it would have been music to his ears to hear the people respond as they did in verse seventeen of chapter one “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.

Joshua does not magically appear out of nowhere to become the new leader, he has apprenticed alongside Moses first quietly behind the scenes then becoming a commander of the army and his right hand man. Joshua had earned the respect of the people and I think that was one of the key factors in his success as a leader, aside for his own trust in the Lord. As I learn more about how God has been working in my life I see how he has been doing the same work in my life as he did in Joshua’s. As I continue to grow into leadership apprenticing with a strong leader and man of God it is my hope and prayer that I can gain the trust and respect that will help lead the way to building the Kingdom of God as God has called me to.

Moses and Joshua – Mentoring Team Dynamics

It is said that Joshua was around 85 years old at the time when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River. He died at the age of 110, which means he led the Israelites for about 25 years. I have to ask myself this question, what did he do for the first 85 years before he became the successor to one of the greatest leaders in biblical history? The answer I would suggest is that he was being mentored by one of the greatest leaders in biblical history.

As we read through the story of the exodus we begin to see the process of mentoring and leadership development that formed Joshua into the leader God called him to be. We are first introduced to Joshua as Moses tasks him as commander of the army that was to destroy the Amalekites, then we don’t see or hear much of Joshua until later when he arrives on the scene with Moses at the base of the mount of Sinai.

Although we have only a few details into the “ 85 year mentorship program” of Joshua we do get a glimpse into how the Lord teaches us some important leadership lessons and the value of mentoring. Joshua had the opportunity to work alongside Moses being involved in the day-to-day leadership of the people. Moses gave Joshua the roles and responsibilities that helped shape him into the leader God planned for him to be. Numbers 27:15-21 describes the commissioning of Joshua by Moses, giving him some of his authority over Israel, Joshua was “filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses laid his hands on him”. (Deut 34:9)

Did Joshua have an advantage over us today as leaders during the mentoring process with Moses? I don’t think so, it may have been in a different time and place but I think that we all have our own unique growth experiences as leaders. In fact I think we may even have an advantage in most cases, we have the stories and examples written for us in the Bible. We can learn from downfalls and victories that are written of all the great leaders and teachers throughout the Old and New Testaments.

I am thankful for all the mentors that God has placed in my life, I am thankful that I have people in my life that have been able to speak freely and honestly into my growth as a Christian leader, a husband, a father and a friend.


Obedience & Faith

As I read into the life of Joshua, I begin to understand the significance of the example of obedience he had in listening to and acting upon the will of the Lord. I begin to think about the incredible amount of faith that Joshua had as a leader in following the Lords instructions. Joshua’s obedience in faithfully following the Lord was an example that encouraged, instilled confidence and built loyalty in the people as they journeyed together. Chapter 1:16-18 gives us a glimpse of the trust that the people had not only in Joshua but also in the Lord to lead them to the land He promised to them.

Obedience, faith, and dependence on God I believe are what made Joshua one of Israel’s strongest leaders. I tend to want to paint a perfect picture of Joshua as a leader but as I continue to read I am reminded that even the best can fall. When Joshua fell short of full dependence on the Lord the picture I paint starts to become dark and clouded, it becomes hard look beyond the failure.

Today through the sacrifice of his son for our sins, God has provided each of us a choice to accept his love and a way to come before him to be forgiven. When we respond to His amazing gift of love and grace it allows us to bring before Him every one of our shortfalls. When we fail to be obedient to His word, as we confess our tendencies of dependence in others or ourselves He can use us just as he used Joshua. We all can be leaders that inspire and encourage when we live out a faith that fully depends on God.