Don't Miss Old Rag Mountain
Saturday, October 21
Calling guys of all ages. That means dads, sons, men, boys. Let's hike Old Rag mountain together! It's a reasonably strenuous 9 mile, 6 hour hike. Carpool from 6565 or rendezvous with everyone at Warrenton IHOP at 7:15 a.m. We'll hit the trail at 8:45 a.m. Bring a day pack that includes water lunch.
The opening of Joshua starts with an alarming charge from God to Joshua. Following the death of Moses here is what Joshua hears from God (Josh 1:1-2): "After the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aid: '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.'"
Moses. My servant. Is dead. Now then…
To fully grasp the death of Moses is to grapple with a death of a human being, the likes of which we’ll never know in our lifetimes. Moses was great. In fact, he was the greatest leader of the children of Israel. If you read the end of Deuteronomy here is the epilogue to Moses’ life. It’s a eulogy any of us would be honored to have pronounced over our dead, average bodies (Deut 34: 5-8, 10-12):
"And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died YET his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over...Since then, NO prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt - to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has EVER shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel."
It actually says ‘no one EVER’ in the NIV. No big deal - the greatest person ever to this point in recorded history has died. And who’s taking over? His aid.
Now we don’t have recorded the exact thoughts of Joshua at this time, but it doesn’t tax the imagination to envision that they were something like, “Holy Toledo! NOW, what am I going to do?” We start to get the very real sense, based on how God engages with Joshua next, that the man may need some reassurance.
“Moses, my servant is dead. Now then…”
As I spent time reading Joshua this summer, two things popped out to me from this chapter that I’d offer to you all for consideration. The first is on this balance of FAITH IN THE FACE OF FEAR.
Over the last 6-7 months since the last men’s retreat, I’ve been struck by how many men of faith I hear talk about fear. It’s everywhere. It’s fear of losing a job, fear of taking a job, fear of starting new relationships, fear of losing relationships, fear about the changing seasons of life, fear of losing identity, fear of losing momentum, fear that even this Men’s Fellowship momentum will fizzle, fear we’ll continue to grow more divided as a society, more marginalized for our faith. Fear. It feels like it’s in the air. I’ll confess I’m one of these fear mongers too - and I’ll talk about this more in a bit.
I had the privilege of participating in the Global Leadership Summit via live telecast with TFCA this summer - it’s a conference that Bill Hybels’ puts on every year. Steve asked me to come, Robert Mackay was there too. It was awesome. If you are a junkie for leadership development, you have to at least stream it. You get to hear Christian and non-Christian leaders talk about how to be a stellar leader. The closing speaker this year was Gary Haugen, CEO of International Justice Mission. He talked a lot about fear. Given Gary and his team’s line of work, I don’t think anyone of us would fault the IJM team for being a tad afraid to do the work they do. Gary had an interesting observation about fear. Here’s what he had to say: "There is one thing that determines the difference between what you are capable of doing, and what you actually accomplish: fear. Fear is the most powerful force standing in the way. Nothing undermines the power and blessing of a leader like fear."
Joshua was a leader appointed by God for a monstrously big task, and as he receives the charge the Lord immediately starts stamping out any kindling fires of fear. The Lord gives a three-fold reiteration of his presence with Joshua specifically:
Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.
Be strong and VERY courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go...
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
God knows that Joshua needs encouragement so he layers it on not once, not twice, but thrice. If you look at the components of his encouragement it reads like a thoughtful, strategic plan:
- God has already promised Victory to the Israelites through his promise to Moses
- God gives a blueprint - follow my laws and they bring success (not might, not cunning, not even seeing God’s backside is a prerequisite)
- The Lord is with you wherever you go - like literally wherever
I think what God is doing here is stamping out fear, and the dual sins of hubris and self-loathing. God is calling Joshua to a momentous task, but he’s not calling him on his own strength. He’s calling him in God’s strength.
As I read through Joshua this summer, well before the GLS or being asked to do this talk, the thing that stood out to me in God’s call to Joshua is his proactive, strong, loving REBUKE of fear. When God calls us, he demands trust - but he gives us GOOD REASON to trust: he makes good on his promises; he plans things out in advance and tells us how to win; he’s always got out back. Joshua is called to live in the tension of Faith + Fear, but God gives him every reason to believe.
There’s one more thing that pops up to me as I read the first chapter of Joshua. Remember how it starts: "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."
On its face, it seems that God drops this huge challenge on Joshua’s plate and asks him to immediately execute. It seems daunting, if not impossible. And it certainly would be had God NOT been working in Joshua’s life for decades to prepare him for the mission.
If we take a few steps back from the actual book of Joshua and look at what the Bible says about him elsewhere, you start to see that God has been equipping Joshua for some time for this monumental task. Look back to Deuteronomy 34 to the epilogue of Moses’ life - within that there’s a parenthetical statement about Joshua, the man selected to lead the Israelites (Deut 34:9): "Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses."
We see that God has been preparing Joshua for leadership through the spirit led leadership of Moses. He wasn’t just observing Moses or taking notes along the way. God’s spirit was poured out on him by a veteran, - a wiser, bright-eyed, visionary man of God. If you look even further back into Deuteronomy and Numbers you start to see other examples of this. In Numbers 14, Joshua and Caleb go with 10 other spies on an espionage mission into Canaan, the promised land; only Joshua and Caleb come back reporting that, “Yeah the people in this land are big and their cities are fortified but guys, GOD is with us and TOLD us to go here. He will fight for us” (that’s in the message). I’m not sure if you recall this tidbit in the story - and not sure who is fact checking me in Numbers - but their own countrymen try to KILL THEM! Because of their faithfulness, however, God permits they and their families to enter the Promised Land. And decades later at the beginning of the book of Joshua, God makes good on his promise.
God gave the vision for Israelites entering Canaan. God was with Joshua - through Moses’ support - when the Israelites tried to kill him. God was pouring his spirit into Joshua through Moses’ prayer. As Moses’ aid, God gave him a ring-side seat to see HIS faithfulness and HIS promise to support those who follow him. And ‘aid’ here means ’protege’, not like ‘here lean on my shoulder for stability you old man’ type aid. And when God delivers the charge to Joshua he reiterates over, and over, and over that HE will be with Joshua along the way. If we pull back we can see that God equips Joshua for leadership - for this task. It takes decades of equipping, but it’s clear GOD gave the vision and GOD equipped.
Whom God calls, God equips.
It may be because I’m getting older, or maybe because I have kids now, but the world seems more connected. The more I think about the concept of leadership, the more I’m convinced that there are no sole actors, no lone wolves, no Great Man leaders. All leaders are the by-products of faith and fear. All leaders are the byproduct of someone else pouring into them. God equips, and we act out His good plans.
These two ideas - living by faith through fear and who God calls He equips - have been anchors for me in this season of life. I’ll admit I’ve struggled for almost 2 years to figure out what to do next in my career and life. I’m so thankful for my job, but it’s lost its luster and moreover - I’ve lost my luster. I’ve been whipsawed by insecurity about my abilities, my understanding of what I want to do in life, and where I think God is calling me. I’ve been a final interview candidate for 5 jobs in the last year, none of which I got. I’ve been denied from graduate programs that I thought were a sure fit for my capability. I’ve watched literally dozens of my peers in and outside work get promoted or take on new and expanded roles. And the nagging feeling that keeps me awake at night says, “Your success to date is a fluke. Your passions are wildly idealistic. No one wants you.”
I know for a fact that God is with us ‘wherever we go’ - just like for Joshua. I know he helps us ‘be strong and very courageous’. And I know that when God calls us to a plan - and He does have a plan for us all - HE equips. It’s been hard, personally, for me to make that move from head to heart. I know, it’s kind of a downer and it’s maybe uncomfortably personal but look, this is life and this is where I am.
I’ll end with this. A charge. Consider one thing you fear. Name it. Write it down. Bathe it in prayer. Ask God to equip you to what he’s called you, and give your fear over to Him. He loves you, he wants you to follow his words, and he’s with you wherever you go.
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Mondays, 6:45 -8:45 p.m.
Sept. 18-Nov. 20
6565 Arlington Blvd.
This is an introduction to Pure Desire for Men. It's a video based program designed to equip men with tools for purity.
Contact: C.B. Nagel
Sundays, 9-10:30 a.m.
Men: Life should be an adventure, but too often it seems tiring, even boring. The Great Adventure video series and discussion will equip and challenge you to break free from the bondage of boredom and begin the great adventure that God has uniquely designed for you.
Mondays, 7:30-9 p.m.
6565 Arlington Blvd., Ministry Center
In-depth Bible study where men dig into God's word and consider its meaning and purpose.
Contact: Gam Rose
Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.
Home of James Love
A weekly Home Group that uses the weekly e-notes to go deeper into the Sunday Sermon. All are welcome!
Contact: James Love