a pair of scouts

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a pair of scouts

Joshua 2:1 (JDV)

Joshua 2:1 Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two men as spies from the Acacia Grove, saying, “Go and scout the land, especially Jericho.” So they left, and they came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab, and stayed there.

pair of scouts

Joshua had been one of the original twelve scouts sent by Moses to get a sense of the task before Israel and report back. He and Caleb had given the minority report, and encouraged the people to obey God and possess the land without delay. But they had been overruled by the majority which had expressed fear and doubt.

Now it was Joshua’s turn to send out a party, and he chose only two scouts. Everyone knew about the past failure, and nobody wanted to repeat it. If either of the two spies had come back with a negative report, it would be Joshua who would have the final say.

One of the frustrating things about news is that people tend to take it seriously, and one negative comment can do a world of damage. Yet, we are hard-wired to expect bad news. It takes courage to look beyond the superficial facts and trust God in challenging circumstances. Even if what you and I are facing will take a miracle (Jericho did) we should be ready to face it. God does miracles.

Lord, give us the courage to face the facts, but still keep going in the direction you send us.

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encouraging our leaders

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encouraging our leaders

Joshua 1:16-18 (JDV)

Joshua 1:16 They answered Joshua, “Everything you have commanded us we will do, and everywhere you send us we will go.
Joshua 1:17 We will obey you, just like we obeyed Moses in everything. Certainly Yahveh your God will be with you, as he was with Moses.
Joshua 1:18 Anyone who rebels against your order and does not obey your words in all that you command him, will be put to death. Above all, be strong and courageous!”

encouraging our leaders

Good leaders are supposed to encourage their team, but it sure feels good when the team also encourages the leader. That is what is happening here with Joshua.

As we go about reaching the nations for Christ, let us show our appreciation for those the Lord has called to lead us in the task, and commit ourselves to submitting to their leadership.

Lord, thank you for those leading the charge to make disciples. Make us people eager to encourage them.

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our most capable

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our most capable

Joshua 1:12-15 (JDV)

Joshua 1:12 Joshua said to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh:
Joshua 1:13 “Remember what Moses Yahveh’s servant commanded you when he said, ‘Yahveh your God will give you rest, and he will give you this land.’
Joshua 1:14 Your wives, dependants, and livestock may remain in the land Moses gave you on this side of the Jordan. But your most capable soldiers must cross over in battle formation ahead of your brothers and help them
Joshua 1:15 until Yahveh gives your brothers rest, as he has given you, and they too possess the land Yahveh your God is giving them. You may then go back to the land of your inheritance and take possession of what Moses Yahveh’s servant gave you on the east side of the Jordan.”

our most capable

Even though God’s intention was for all the Israelites to find rest, their most capable soldiers from the 2 1/2 transjordon tribes had to leave the land that they possessed to make sure that the other tribes could possess theirs.

Under the new covenant, the land we possess is the minds and hearts of the peoples of the nations to which God will send us as missionaries. Are we giving the most capable of our sons and daughters to this task? I think we can do better. We still need to invest our most capable until the whole work is done, and Christ’s name is named in every nation.

Lord, give us capable sons and daughters, and give us the courage to give them back to you.

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provisions for possessing the land

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provisions for possessing the land

Joshua 1:10 -11 (JDV)

Joshua 1:10 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people:
Joshua 1:11 “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get provisions ready for yourselves, because within three days you will be crossing the Jordan to go in and take possession of the land Yahveh is giving you to inherit.'”

provisions for possessing the land

When I was harvesting blueberries in Maine (many years ago) I would prepare for the next day’s work by making the meals I would eat, and freezing water overnight in a gallon jug so that I could drink from the jug as the ice melted. There were no stores I could go to out on the blueberry barrens, so that all had to be done the night before the harvest.

Good leaders don’t just let things happen — they prepare their team for what is coming next. If our mission is making disciples in our hometown and in other nations, we need to be organizing the troops to make that happen. We need to be preparing for the next harvest.

Lord, give us the wisdom to prepare for the work of leading people to Christ.

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sources of strength and courage

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sources of strength and courage

Joshua 1:6-9 (JDV)

Joshua 1:6 “Be strong and courageous, because you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance.
Joshua 1:7 Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully keep the whole instruction my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go.
Joshua 1:8 This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. You see, then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.
Joshua 1:9 Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, because Yahveh your God is with you wherever you go.”

sources of strength and courage

Joshua is told to be strong and courageous numerous times here, but where will he find that strength and courage? Let me suggest three sources: the presence of the Lord, the promises of the Lord, and the revelation given to us in God’s word. These are all we need to get stronger and more courageous as we follow his mission.

Lord, give us the wisdom to seek our strength and courage from your sources.

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the land of the Hittites

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the land of the Hittites

Joshua 1:4-5 (JDV)

Joshua 1:4 Your territory will be from the open country and Lebanon to the great river, the Euphrates River – all the land of the Hittites – and west to the Mediterranean Sea.
Joshua 1:5 No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just like I was with Moses. I will not leave you or abandon you.

the land of the Hittites

Why did God give Joshua and his people the land of the Hittites? Couldn’t God have found some unoccupied land to bless his people with? I mean, he created the whole planet. He could have created new land for them, without them having to fight to possess it. So, why give his people land in this way — already taken?

There are many reasons, but I want to concentrate on the relevance of that question to you and me today. As citizens of God’s kingdom, we have a mission. That mission does not require that we fight for land, but for something even more valuable. He has called us to claim the minds and hearts of people for his gospel and his Christ. But every one of those minds will begin as enemy territory. No one comes with a ready-made occupancy for the gospel. We must invade the land of the Hittites and claim it for Christ.

God’s promise if we dare to take him up on his challenge is that no one will be able to stand against us. The task will not be easy, but we will always have his help.

Lord, send us to those whom you are calling to join us as your people, and give us the courage to claim them for your kingdom.

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a mission manual

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a mission manual

Joshua 1:1-3 (JDV)

Joshua 1:1 It happened after the death of Moses Yahveh’s servant. Yahveh spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’s assistant:
Joshua 1:2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now you and all the people get ready to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites.
Joshua 1:3 I have given you every place where the sole of your foot marches, just like I said to Moses.

a mission manual

Joshua is the mission manual of the Old Testament. It helps us understand and accomplish the missions that God gives us.

God is not calling us to fly to Israel so we can do battle with the Canaanites. That was the mission he gave Joshua and his generation. The missions he gives you and me are different than that. He wants us to make disciples of all nations, to love him with all our hearts, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But I have discovered that the lessons we learn from the book of Joshua are just as valid and helpful for my missions as they were for Joshua’s.

Lord, teach us how to accomplish your mission each day.

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someone else’s letter

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someone else’s letter

Colossians 4:7-18 (JDV)

Colossians 4:7 Tychicus, our dearly cared about brother, faithful assistant, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you everything about me.

Colossians 4:8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are and so that he may encourage your hearts.

Colossians 4:9 He is with Onesimus, a faithful and dearly cared about brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here.

Colossians 4:10 Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you greetings, as does Mark, Barnabas’s cousin (concerning whom you have received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him),

Colossians 4:11 and so does Jesus who is called Justus. These alone of the circumcised are my coworkers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a slave of Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. He is always wrestling for you in his prayers, so that you can stand mature and fully assured in every preference of God.

Colossians 4:13 You see, I testify about him that he works hard for you, for those in Laodicea, and for those in Hierapolis.

Colossians 4:14 Luke, the dearly cared about physician, and Demas send you greetings.

Colossians 4:15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the congregation in her home.

Colossians 4:16 After this letter has been read at your gathering, have it read also in the congregation of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.

Colossians 4:17 And tell Archippus, “Pay attention to the ministry you have received in the Lord, so that you can accomplish it.”

Colossians 4:18 I, Paul, am writing this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Favor be with you.

someone else’s letter

As usual, Paul concludes this letter with a long list of people who are important to him. He always had a team who helped to spread the gospel.

This letter was intended for a group of congregations in a particular region, but it was also intended to be copied and passed along to other groups of congregations in other regions as well. The Colossians would also benefit from the reading of the letter to the Laodicean congregations.

The whole Bible is God’s gift to us, not just the bits we tend to hover over. There are storehouses of treasures we deny ourselves when we only stick with our favorite bits.

Lord, open our minds to your truth in every book of your divine library.

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the master’s purpose

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the master’s purpose

Colossians 4:2-6 (JDV)

Colossians 4:2 Persist in prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.

Colossians 4:3 At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains,

Colossians 4:4 so that I may disclose it as I need to.

Colossians 4:5 Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the season. [1]

Colossians 4:6 Let your word always be in favor, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.

the master’s purpose

Paul had just told the Colossians to do everything “for the Lord and not for humans” (3:23). He now explains how to follow that instruction.

First, bathe every moment in prayer. The master in the sky has a purpose for this moment in your life.

Secondly, make every interaction with outsiders count for the gospel. This season may be the only one you have to present the gospel to them.

Thirdly, watch every word you say. Know the words which will lead people to Christ, and not away from him.

Lord, fill our minds with your purpose, so that our actions and words lead others to you.
_______________________

[1] καιρός = season.

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a master in the sky

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a master in the sky

Colossians 3:18-4:1 (JDV)

Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is suitable in the Lord.

Colossians 3:19 Husbands, care about your wives and don’t be bitter toward them.

Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they won’t become discouraged.

Colossians 3:22 Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.

Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for humans,

Colossians 3:24 knowing that you will get back [1] the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:25 You see, the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong he has done, and there is no favoritism.

Colossians 4:1 Masters, deal with your slaves justly and fairly, since you know that you too have a master in the sky.

a master in the sky

We are told that this passage identifies a God-given hierarchy, and that this hierarchy should be followed carefully because it is how God governs the world.

Malarkey.

Paul was not adding to the gospel here. He was not setting up a separate set of laws that Christians are obligated to follow, and he was definitely not advocating slavery, or encouraging children to follow their ungodly parents into sin, or commanding wives to allow themselves to be abused by hateful husbands.

The key to unlocking the meaning of this passage is the previous verse, where Paul says we are to “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” We have one master in the sky: it is not our employer, or our parents, or the “man of the family.” Everything we do should be as a direct response to the commands of our master in the sky: Jesus.

Every act of submission is to be more than an act. It is to be “from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for humans.” Every leadership choice is to be done with consideration, justice and fairness, because everyone in authority has to answer to a higher authority: the master in the sky who is coming back, and will hold us all accountable.

Lord, we want to live for you, to lead by following your example, and to follow those who lead us as is suitable to you.

________________

[1] ἀπολαμβάνω = get back.

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