Key verse: Joshua 14:12
Big idea: Victory is not about who we are but who God is.
It has been some time now since we read about the spies going into Canaan before the Israelites crossed the Jordan River. Perhaps you remember that there were 12 spies, 10 of whom convinced the Israelites that the land was too dangerous and thereby condemning that whole generation to die in the wilderness. The two faithful spies were the only ones over the age of forty who were allowed to enter the Promised Land. One of those spies, Joshua, has been a key figure in the narrative so far. The other has faded into the background (he is mentioned only a dozen or so places in the whole Bible) but comes back to the top here. Caleb, now eighty-five years old, comes to Joshua to request a specific city as his inheritance. Hebron, where the giants lived that had scared the nation away before, remained unconquered.
Caleb was either the eldest or second-eldest Israelite (depending on how old Joshua was). He was at an age where, even today, many people have hung up their work boots and decided that they have done their share and it is someone else's turn. Not Caleb! He told Joshua that God had maintained his strength all these long years so that he could do something. He said "Now, therefore, give me this mountain."
It is simple enough, isn't it? If God has kept the strength to breathe in your lungs and the strength to beat in your heart, it is not because He is ready for you to quit. We may be tired sometimes, we may be discouraged sometimes, we may think that others are not doing their share. But God has given us our strength as a stewardship. It does not belong to us, but has been entrusted to us for investment. Let's do it.
Discussion idea: Caleb refused to say that he couldn't serve God because he was too old, and 45 years earlier, he had refused to say he couldn't stand up for what was right because he was too young. What excuses do we give for not serving God? What should we say instead?
Prayer focus: Lord, remove my excuses. Strip away the pride that makes me think I can do things on my own or uses my condition as an excuse for why I can't. Use me for Your glory. Give me that mountain.
Key verse: Luke 23:43
Big Idea: The Son of Man died among us and for us.
There is a kind of love that can take place at a distance. Indeed, if I take the New Testament seriously, I must love some people I could never meet. But there is also a level of love that requires contact. It comes in the wake of a hurricane with mud on your jeans and blisters on your feet. This is love that holds the hand of a coronavirus widow who, even in her grief, is waiting to see if she will succumb to the same fate as her husband. That love which Jesus demonstrated when He was crucified between two thieves, their blood and sweat mingling in the hot Israeli dirt. He did not love us only from a distance but descended to die among us.
He was surrounded by the wicked as He died. Beneath His pierced feet, soldiers gambled for His clothes. He prayed, “Father, forgive them.” Walking past on the street, passerby mocked Him and spat on Him. He stayed on the cross for them. They nailed “King of the Jews” above His head. Their King died for them. Charles Wesley wrote well: “‘Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies! Who can explore His strange design? In vain, the firstborn seraph tries to sound the depths of love divine!”
Jesus could have called out: “I am not like them!” Then He could have proven it with a host of angel armies slaughtering Roman legions. But He stayed. And when one of the thieves turned from rejection to faith, Jesus promised Him, “today you will be with Me in paradise.” Jesus came and died with us so that we could live with Him. What an incredible model of love!
A local church can love her community in name and maybe even in theory, but the kind of love that transforms is up close. Are we willing to cross the boundaries of comfort and follow in the footsteps of Jesus? It may hurt. When we give our all, we may find that the thief on one side accepts us while the other continues to laugh. But this is the trail blazed by our Lord, and we cannot do better than to follow Him.
Discussion Idea: Why do you think Jesus’ behavior drew one man to him while another stayed away? How does this inform our theories of ministry?
Prayer Focus: Pray for the opportunity to show Christ-centered love to someone, up close and personal.