Comforting Confidence

Happy Tuesday and Post 4th of July!

July 5, 2016

Let’s jump right into His Word.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

God is talking to Jeremiah in 1:5. God speaks with Jeremiah many times over many years.  Actually, He doesn’t only speak with people from the Bible, He speaks to us. How is He speaking to you today? Are you hearing what He is saying?

Is knowing God speaking to us reassuring and comforting in our everyday lives of controlled chaos? It should be. This is true when our human mind tends to make us feel like we are lacking purpose, adequacy, or direction.  But, God has a purpose through it all for you and me. Yet, there will be our tribulations and breathtaking events of awesomeness!  But similar to Jeremiah, Deuteronomy 31.8 says, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”  He is always there for you. God should be glorified. He is there for us in the middle of those important decisions  or when you think you are losing a little control of a situation God steps in and let’s you know He controls it all.

As I reflect on life before a relationship with God, I may have a response like Jeremiah did in verse 6 where he says,  “I do not know how to speak for I am only a youth.” To me, this youth represents not knowing God.  I focused only on myself and was hurtful to others in the process. This would include lacking in confidence or being boastful and only being about myself.  In our lives it also can mean being fearful and lacking courage to take that next step.  God doesn’t say, “Go; you are ready” he says, “Go; I’ll go with you”. Today, in all choices He is walking alongside you waiting for your call.

In my “youth” I was unhappy with many decisions I was making in my life. Most of the time trying to answer, prove, and do everything on my own making one mistake after another. This was the point where I was ready to “lose my life” like in John 12:25.

whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

I was about myself and stayed there for a long time until God purposefully put me around events in my life that allowed a life-changing attitude to surrender it all to Him. My excuses I would make started to change. “I don’t have enough money. ~ What am I doing with what I have? “; I’m not smart enough. ~How am I using God’s gifts?; I don’t have two parents. ~ Am I being an example for God? I don’t go to church. ~ What am I doing with my time?  The list can go on and on about excuses I could make to allow myself to have a “stay-theist” attitude or I can do it myself! I could just stay in my own dysfunctional world and not let anyone in or do what I had to in order to superficially make connections with others.  Yet all along God has known me and had a plan. He has this plan for you too. Each of us have a purpose, maybe you don’t know it yet? The details of our plan we don’t know and often can change in our lives but we know the root of what we need to do as a Christian. We are to love, obey, and serve God. In doing this our mission will become more clear.

Do not say I’m only a youth; for to all whom I send you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 1:8

Struggling with confidence, failures, and insecurity keeps you from doing many things and often making poor choices to compensate. Lacking in my faith because of my inadequate abilities outside of surviving skills, lack of experiences outside of an addiction dependent divorced household, and the tendency to make bad choices for the benefit of myself and no one else around me. This faith that God is with you allows your choices of serving to be about Jesus-Others-Yourself (JOY).

So what changed? Letting God into my life and surrendering to the relationship He planned for me. Not only as a last resort thing anymore. Dedicating waking hours with more consistent communication throughout my day. Being thankful and grateful for giving me one more day to impact His kingdom. I believe now that God is with us all the time and knowing this gives me the confidence to obey His call even if I’m unsure about the results.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

When God gives you a job to do, He will provide all that we need. By no means have we figured out what job He has planned for us, but the doors God opens will lead us to a place he has already prepared.  I pray for our desire to seek His guidance. Turn to Him prayerfully and ask am I doing this for me or for You Lord?

No, we don’t have it all figured out, we are human. We are tempted by sins that sometimes we follow through on and in turn ask for forgiveness. We divinely and prayerfully follow God’s plans other times. Either way, God transforms us by changing our hearts. Whether lacking in confidence or full of confidence or in-between does our decisions, actions, and whole heart trust and serve God?

“Behold I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pick up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

God gives you all you need in order to fulfill His plan for you. In reading, “The Places You’ll Go” by Ortberg I’m reminded of this glory. He goes before us and is with you throughout ALL you do. God doesn’t promise a trouble free or temptation free life but that He will be with us and we need to call on Him. He will walk with us through the storm and calm the seas.

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” Matthew 19:26

Dear God,  You alone are the Creator of everything.  You have a perfect plan for all of us. You are the perfecter of my faith, and I thank you for the Grace when I didn’t believe or trust in the seemingly impossible dreams you had planned. Help me to have courage to place my faith in You in all things. To trust your strength when mine fails.  Thank you for allowing me to be part of your master plan. Stir in my heart a passion and gratefulness for all that you do in my life. Thank you for the comfort we have knowing you are always with us. Amen

Today’s ReadingJoshua 7; Psalms 137–138; Jeremiah 1; Matthew 15

Phantasma

Azure Window, Gozo Island, Malta

Today’s Readings: Joshua 6:6-27, Psalms 135-136, Isaiah 66, Matthew 14

The ancient greeks used the word phantasma to describe the experience of dream visions or spirit apparitions. It’s the word that’s used in Matthew 14, when he describes how the disciples felt when they were in the boat in the midst of a storm and saw Jesus walking on water. As I read Matthew 14 this week, I anticipated this very feeling. The story of the loaves and fishes didn’t surprise me. Of course, we’ve heard this one since we were young. Having been to several potlucks myself, I can imagine sitting amongst the crowd, awaiting my turn to eat and being awestruck that there was something left. After all five thousand people had eaten, he sent the disciples in the boat to the other side of the lake. He dismissed the crowd and went up onto the mountainside to pray.

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he ad dismissed them, he went up ton a mountainside by himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:22-23)

 He went by himself to pray. Did you catch that? I took that short phrase as my first and most important lesson today. Seeking solitude was an important priority for Jesus. He made time away from his “celebrity moments” to be alone with the Father. Spending time with God to nurture our relationship with him is critical. Jesus shows us here that disciplining ourselves to spend time alone with Him will prepare us to manage life’s challenges.

We know what happens next! The disciples are halfway across the lake in the boat when the water starts to get a little rough:

“But the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them…” (Mattthew 14:24)

 Ever feel like the wind is against you, like you’re being beaten by the waves? Jesus sees that! He’s standing on the side of the mountain. We may feel alone in our boats. We may feel like we wish we hadn’t set out on that journey with a few of our best disciples and no leader on the ship! But the very best is yet to come:

“And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:25).

 In that moment Jesus revealed himself to his disciples. He revealed himself to us as his people. He wants very much to be there with us and for us when our boats are rocking in the wind. But the disciples responded with fear. They immediately said, “It’s a ghost!” I think I would have too. I don’t know that I find myself worthy of a walking on water moment. Certainly Peter and the other disciples didn’t either. In fact it looks like Peter gives Jesus a little test. He tells him,

“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. He said, “Come” so Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt.” (Matthew 14:26-27)

 What looks like a test is really an act of faith, right? Peter is the only disciple willing to step off that boat and meet his Jesus. He started to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the menacing waves. Jesus reaches out and takes hold of him, right in that moment of his doubt. Jesus is not a phantasma, he’s not a ghost that comes in and out of our dreams. He’s not intermittent at all. He’s revealing himself to us every day. Walking on water isn’t just a thing that happened in 400 B.C. He’s leading us to him, but we must be willing to follow. I loved that there was a little message to me in Matthew 14 today. That short sentence that told us about Jesus going to the mountain to be alone with his Father. It’s a holiday weekend. We’re all focused on our potlucks, parties and fireworks. But JESUS is the real fireworks. There’s nothing phantasma about him. I hope you spend time today with family and friends but I also hope you take time to be with the Father. Reach out, take hold of him. He’s waiting to walk with you.

The Tornado Effect

Life is uncertain. Some would say it’s a gift from God. And the closer I got to God, the more often unusual things seemed to happen. These statistical anomalies were also happening with greater frequency in the lives of other believers I knew.

I have come to believe that the kingdom of God is a real thing. It exists in the heavens and also in our midst, hidden from those who don’t have the “eyes to see” or “ears to hear.”  Each day it was revealed, and for some it became a new reality. Others glimpsed it’s truth, discovered its power and felt it’s JOY, only to have it snatched away, as Jesus shared in the parable of the sower.

Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. -Matthew 13:18-21

About six weeks ago, we started having our twenty five year old home remodeled. Rooms were painted; new flooring put down; a new roof; and a new furnace and air conditioner. Despite the blessing of being able to repair and replace old failing systems and tired finishes, after a while, the process was starting to add stress to our lives. Furniture was piled up in a several rooms, making them unusable. The ones that were being worked on were also unusable, while dust settled everywhere, day in and day out. As the days turned into weeks, this chaos was increasingly hard to take. And while we knew this wasn’t a horrible problem, it was still frustrating. I needed the contractor to try to wrap things up, so Thursday morning I called.

“Jeff, I appreciate all the great work you guys have done, but we really need you to finish today if possible. Perhaps you don’t know what it’s like to have your house turned upside down!”

“I understand, but we’re probably not coming today. Did you hear about the tornado that touched down in Pontiac last night? Well it destroyed Danny’s home.”

It turns out that the trailer belonging to Jeff’s niece Rachel, and Danny (one of his assistants), was turned upside down (three times) and destroyed. Jeff and his other helper were going there today to help see what might be salvaged.”

“That’s crazy! Was anyone hurt?” I asked, not sure what to think.

He calmly shared the story, “Danny took his six year old son to get a blanket to put over Rachel, who was in the bathtub protecting their two year old, when tornado hit. They’re at the hospital now. Her pelvis is shattered and he broke or bruised a bunch of ribs and was cut up pretty bad. Fortunatly the kids are both fine, though a bit terrorized.”

“Wow” was all I could say. When I shared this story with my wife, she felt terrible too, not only for this young family, but because we had been impatient about the condition of our home. It had taken a near tragedy to re-gain a better perspective! And it was also in God’s grace, that Danny, as he lay in a field surrounded by the debris that was once his home, looking up at the stars in the heavens, saw his life in a new way.

“I haven’t been to church for a long time. I’m going now!” He told me the following Monday.

Amazingly, Danny and I shared transformation and gratitude in his tragedy, both in the grace of my God who was always calling, always teaching, and always present.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Danny and his family! Please grant us the strength and the power to put you above all other things in our lives. In the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

Joshua 5–6:5; Psalms 132–134; Isaiah 65; Matthew 13

A Servant Leader

Autumn landscape on the lake in the woods

Joshua 4; Psalms 129–131; Isaiah 64; Matthew 12

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;

My eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.

O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore (Psalm 131).

Last week, I watched a leadership video by Andy Stanley called Empty Your Cup.  In this video Stanley describes a leader’s duty to “pour into” the lives of those they lead.  He makes the statement that no leader, working alone, has everything their followers need to fill their cup.  A humbling reminder for those of us in leadership roles. He then goes on to tell leaders, “your responsibility isn’t to fill anybody’s cup, it’s to find ways to pour into the people around you what you do know, not because it’s all there is to know, but because it’s all you know.” He calls this emptying your cup.

Do you see the Empty Your Cup theory of leadership in Psalm 131?  A leader whose mission is to empty their cup for the betterment of those they lead describes a servant leader.  This leader is not arrogant nor does he/she carry an attitude of superiority.  Rather than occupying themselves with things too great and marvelous for them (Psalm 131:1), they find a way to teach others about what they know because it is all they know.

This theory leads me to a couple of key questions:

  • If all I can pour into others is what I know, how do I make sure I know the right things?
  • What is the secret to maintaining a servant’s approach to leadership?

I think Psalm 131 verses 2 and 3 provides some answers. Calming and quieting our souls before God (Psalm 131:2) gives him an opportunity to shape our hearts and minds/fill them with godly things. When our hearts and minds are filled with godly things, we can’t help but put our hope in the Lord (Psalm 131:3). This naturally helps us serve others rather than ourselves.

Growing up, my family vacationed every summer in the north woods of Minnesota on Long Lake. When I read the words “I have calmed and quieted my soul”, it takes me to this place.  Calming and quieting your soul before the Lord is an art.  In my experience, it isn’t something that comes naturally, but takes time and practice.  Perhaps that is why this verse takes me to Long Lake.  When I was a kid, we didn’t go to Long Lake for just a weekend or even a week at a time.  We went for 2 or 3 weeks every summer.

For each of us to calm and quiet our souls before the Lord, we need to get away from the business of schedules, from email, from 24 hour news media and so much more.  This definitely isn’t easy.  But if we are distracted by the craziness of life, how can we ever expect God to get through to us?  If we aren’t filled with godly things, how will we ever be prepared to pour goodness into the lives of others?

How do you calm and quiet your soul before God?

In the mid-1980’s, the choir at Eastview performed a musical titled Psalms Alive.  It was simply the words of 10 different Psalms (113, 84, 92, 143, 40, 23, 148, 86, 131, 19) set to music.  I remember sitting on Long Lake singing the song I Have Stilled and Quieted My Soul.  All these years later, the beauty of God’s creation, quiet surroundings and the soothing words of Psalm 131 still help me calm and quiet my soul before God.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxaQjEjYp40

Do you need rest?

Notifications of new emails and text messages rolling in and adding to the backlog of messages that demand a response, a calendar full of business and social events, supporting people who need me, keeping existing customers satisfied while exploring new opportunities to generate income, investing in the spiritual and professional lives of others, a heavy heart for those who are hurting, broken and lost, managing a household, seeking to maintain a healthy relationship with my God, my wife, and my family, and pursuing personal fitness goals. That was a brain dump of my life. Does yours sound similar?

I labor, I am heavy laden… I NEED REST!

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

How can Jesus give us rest? What does he mean by rest?

A recent burden in my life triggered the need for me to make a choice regarding where I’m going to put my trust, worry, and hope. The problem didn’t actually seem insurmountable for me to tackle myself, but I knew from experience that my way would likely lead to frustration, anxiety, and attempts at knocking on many closed doors before finding the open door – it would have worn me out. About a month ago I said to Amy, “we are going to trust God in this like never before; this problem is now his, not ours… let’s see what he does and look back on this day in awe.” The focus here is not on the end result; God is not a genie granting us everything we want. What I’ve encountered in this journey thus far is peace and rest. As soon as I start to worry, I think about His promises and greatness. Through this journey I’ve encountered:

  • Friends who don’t even know of this burden have offered assistance, from seemingly out of nowhere (although I KNOW where!)
  • Conversations with new acquaintances have given me peace and great insight.
  • Opportunities for me to share this burden and my story on trusting God with those who do not yet proclaim Jesus as their savior.
  • Inspiration from Bible Journal; specifically Jillian’s post on “The Big Ask”.
  • A greater closeness with God as I read scriptures and prayer.

Have I stumbled? Yes. There have been times when I’ve let myself worry and have attempted to take control because I was impatient. The result: stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, and agitation.

I am writing all of this to you today before the “end result” with the hope that our readers can see that this life is not about immediate resolutions to problems. This is about the journey. I have no idea what God has in store, but I know that he is faithful, he is with us and he will never leave us. This leaves me humbled, thankful, and yes, it gives me rest.

Joshua 3; Psalms 126–128; Isaiah 63; Matthew 11

Is God On Your Side?

FB-purple-royalty-EJoshua 2; Psalms 123–125; Isaiah 62; Matthew 10

In the time of Rahab, Jericho’s news reports were filled with stories of the Israelites conquests. They started with wild tales about seas parting and the people walking across on dry land. As time passed, however, the number of stories raised greater suspicions.   Before long, there were reports of the Israelites destroying people. Not just regular people, they were defeating giants.  Amos describes them as mighty as oaks and as tall as cedars! How could it be?  The Israelites were puny!  Sihon had recently been sacked and the latest reports indicated that Og was utterly destroyed. How was it possible? “God is on their side,” was the only possible explanation. With Og gone, Jericho was the next likely target. Every resident feared the inevitable.

Rahab confirmed the danger as she answered the door.  She knew instantly that trouble was imminent. The men standing outside were not locals, they were Israelites. Clearly, Jericho was next. But, she was trapped. There is no way out. Nobody would save her. As a prostitute, Rahab was despised and scorned. Not even God would help her. He was on their side, not hers.

When the men asked for safe harbor, she contemplated the great risk in protecting them. Treason is punishable by death. Even so, she knew that Jericho was doomed. When the Israelites come, they will quickly and easily devastate the city. Nothing can stop them. God is on their side. Surely, Rahab considered how great it would be to have God on her side.

What is your story of God? Do you see great things that he has done? Is he on your side, or are you still oppressed, like Rahab? Did you notice how she turned it around? Rahab realizes that a better life is possible. One that does not live in fear and oppression, but one that is purposeful and filled with opportunities. She saw this living hope clearly in lives of the Israelites. What she saw was God. She confesses to the men, “the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below. “ (Joshua 2:11). It’s that simple.

What happened to Rahab? Was her life changed? Was God on her side? Thankfully, the Bible provides the answer. Matthew 1:5 tells us that she gave birth to a boy named Boaz. Boaz son fathered Obed, who fathered Jesse, who sired King David. David, of course, is the predecessor to the King of King’s, Jesus.  Obviously, God honored Rahab’s confession.  He changed her from a slave to the world, facing certain death, and replaced oppression with life. Not just any life, but life worthy of a King’s lineage. Royalty. God was on her side!

There is no other force, no other power, no other name that can compare with the power of God.  Is God on your side?

According to your faith

Today’s reading: Joshua 1; Psalms 120–122; Isaiah 61; Matthew 9

June 29th, 2016

And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. – Matthew 9:27–30

Reading about this miracle lead me into a study on all the miracles Jesus performed. Many questions came forth in the study. All throughout the gospel scriptures we read about the critical element of faith in those seeking Jesus restoration (Matthew 8:10, Matthew 9:2, Matthew 9:22, Matthew 15:28, Matthew 17:17-20, Mark 6:5-6, Luke 18:42, Mark 10:52, John 40:50-51, John 11:22-27). Another version of faith in my estimation is humility, in which faith in God’s word is required, specifically that He is God and we are not. Humbling ourselves and aligning ourselves underneath our LORD and Master in truth (Mark 1:40-41, Luke 7:13-14, Matthew 9:18, Mark 7:32, Mark 8:22, Matthew 15:22, Matthew 20:30, Luke 17:13).  Why did God choose faith as the key to unlock His mercy?

Why does Jesus tell those he healed not to talk about it (Mark 7:36, Mark 8:26, Matthew 9:30)? Why did Jesus withdraw from crowds to perform miracles (Mark 7:33, Mark 8:23)? When performing miracles, why did Jesus command the evil spirits not to reveal who He was (Mark 1:25, Mark 1:34, Mark 3:11-12, Luke 4:35, Luke 4:41)? Why did Jesus tell the disciples not to tell people who He was (Mark 8:29-30)? Could it be that Jesus knew that His kingdom would require a stronger faith that did not include a ‘seeing is believing’ level of faith (John 2:22-24, John 4:48, Matthew 18:1-4, John 20:29, 1Corinthians 1:22, John 9:4)? I’m not sure I can answer all these questions, but I know Who has all the answers.

What is faith? 

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1

Why faith?

That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:7-10

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. – Hebrews 11:16

Extra Credit. For a more complete answer read all of Hebrews chapter 11 and Ephesians chapter 2. You will not regret it.

Lessons in Leadership

Ever since I was a young kid I would say that I want to live to be 100 years old. To this day I will say the same thing until I read Deuteronomy 33-34. I’ve change my mind,  I’d like to 120. Yesterday, in Jillian’s post The Not So Promised Land Jill talked about the life of Moses and the missing out of this promise land because of a prior choices.  At the top of Mount Nebo in Moab the Lord speaks to Moses one more time before he dies.

Deuteronomy 34:7 says that His eye was undimmed, and his vigor was unabated.

Moses was seeing clearly and his mind was still focused on the Lord. Moses then gives one final blessing to Israel. Instead of worrying about himself and the fact he was told he was about to die. He gives a final blessing to Israel. Moses was serving others, just like he had his whole life.  Today, I want to share a couple lessons on leadership we can learn from Moses.

Today’s Date: June 28, 2016

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 33–34; Psalm 119:145–176; Isaiah 60; Matthew 8

Moses life of leadership (excluding the run in he had with an Egyptian who was hurting a Hebrew, even in this event he saw something was wrong and he was trying to do something about it. ) models principles of how we can become better disciples of the Lord.

  • God is always speaking in our lives. The first thing that we need to always do is trust that God has a plan for your life.  From Moses’s birth in Exodus 2, God has his plan for Moses The life of Moses shows how He will take care of you. Moses kept this faith in adversity.
  • Moses cared for others.  The phrase, “people don’t care what you know, until they know how much you care” comes to mind.  He truly cared for others and their well being. It was more then a superficial level. Moses showed concern for his people while they were in Egypt and at the time of the exodus, but as well in his continued care for them during their wanderings in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land.
  • Moses was a great listener.  We read about Moses listening to God and listening to the Israelites. He believed in the message of the Lord and shared this message so they could also be brothers and sisters in Christ.  (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)  Personally, I know I could do more whole body listening as I tell students at school. We listen with our ears, eyes, and mind.  I need to continue to empathize and affirm the things others say to me. This is especially true when people share their emotions and feelings in a situations where I do not share those same emotions and feelings. I need to make sure I am whole body listening to the people I’m around and actively adjusting what I say and do in light of what they feel.
  • Be humble in your leadership. Moses showed humility. Exodus 4:10 But Moses said to the Lord, Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Moses was always willing to listen to others and not do everything by his own accord. He would listen and give credit to others.
  • Moses didn’t change or compromise in the face of adversity. He stayed true to what the Lord asked him to do.  He was responsible in making sure that the job gets done. Throughout the life of Moses God was always in charge and always provided direction for what Moses did and how Moses led. Whether it was from when Moses was first called by God in Exodus 3:1-3  or Moses taking steps to ensure the people were obedient to God’s teaching in Deuteronomy 31:9. Moses never changed when staying faithful to God and His word.

A defining character trait of a leader is someone who is willing to take responsibility. Moses is willing to step up to the plate because the job needs to be done. He wasn’t perfect, he wasn’t experienced, and he stuttered when he spoke. But when he saw his people were in trouble, when he saw a job that needed to be done, he acted on it. He took responsibility, even at risk to his own life. Therefore the Almighty chose him to lead. We demonstrate our leadership traits to ourselves, our partners, our children, our friends, our colleagues, our community, and what is important to us by our actions.

Will you find ways to mirror some of the leadership traits from Moses in your life today?

At times we can feel inadequate in our ability to lead people and do God’s work. Personally, based on Moses’s life I need to have more belief and confidence in God. We need to have more confidence because if we allow God to be in charge of leading the way for me to follow, then He will do what He wants done.

What leadership qualities have you learned from the life of Moses?

Dear God, We pray for your presence in us and in our world. We pray you impact our hearts to lead our lives, families, and others in a manner that would fulfill Your will.  Thanks you for sharing examples of disciples of Christ like Moses. Help us to understand Your word so we can open doors for others and lead like Moses.  Thank you for your Love and Grace in order to help us  “Finish ” the journey.  Amen

Psalm 90 offers the Prayer of Moses, the man of God

 

 

 

The Not So Promised Land

Fantastic dreamy sunrise on top of rocky mountain with view into misty valley.Mountain view.Foggy mountain.Dreamy forrest. Sunrise clouds. Forest hill.Autumn mist.Misty peaks.Foggy landscape. Rock top

Deuteronomy 32, Psalm 119: 121-144, Isaiah 59, Matthew 7

Hello friends! It’s Monday again. What a beautiful weekend we had! I hope you had some time with your family and friends and most of all I hope you spent some time worshiping God this weekend. I did and it renewed my soul! We have so many great scriptures to consider today. I just love Matthew 7:24 Build Your House on a Rock! I read that one over and over and was excited to apply that timeless message to our daily life. I made lots of notes about building foundations and came up with a few paragraphs of good stuff to raise our spirits today. But…then I changed my mind. Of course, Matthew 7 has so many pearls of wisdom including: judgment of others, the golden rule and false prophets. I decided instead to take a little risk. If you are a frequent flyer here at Bible Journal you know that I’m a new Christian. Often, when I’m writing my weekly post, I come across a scripture I’ve never read in my life. It’s usually really exciting for me and I get all fired up about the message I’ve uncovered. This week something different happened. I read something at the end of Deuteronomy that broke my heart. Something that has been bothering me all week. Here it is:

“That very day the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel for a possession. And die on the mountain which you go up, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, because you broke faith with me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, and because you did not treat me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel. For you shall see the land before you, but you shall not go there, into the land that I am giving to the people of Israel.” Deuteronomy 32:48-52

 Are you kidding me? I am so upset about this. Moses, the only person who has ever spoken to God face to face, Israel’s greatest prophet is not allowed to enter the Promised Land? I can’t even take it. The guy that brought us the Ten Commandments and persevered for years through trial after trial has to climb to the top of a mountain and just die there while looking directly at the treasure he fought so hard for? Spoiler alert…In Deuteronomy 34, he obeys God and does exactly that. 120 year old Moses sidles up this Mount Nebo where the Lord shows him the whole land from one end to the other. Then God says to him:

“This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to your offspring. I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” Deuteronomy 34:4

 So then Moses just lays down, or I don’t know maybe he’s still standing up but he dies. What does this mean for me? I can’t shake the feeling that I’m nowhere near Moses-ness in my journey to heaven. When it’s my time, is God going to send me to the top of the mountain and say, “here’s all the great stuff I promised for your kids and their kids and all your friends…you weren’t 100% faithful on earth so this is your punishment” Yikes. I did a little research into just exactly what Moses did wrong, so that I could definitely avoid this transgression myself. All study bibles pointed me to Numbers 20:10.

“Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” Numbers 10-12

 What now? Ok so more research revealed that God told Moses and Aaron in Numbers 20:8 that they should speak to the rock and water would flow out for the people but instead Moses and Aaron told the stressed out thirsty people that they were going to bring water from the rock and then they hit it with the staff not once but two times instead of speaking to it like God had commanded them. So by striking the rock and taking credit for the miracle, Moses disobeyed God’s direct command and dishonored God in the presence of his people. The punishment was grave and irreversible. I must admit it makes me a little worried. It seems like a real human thing to do in such desperate circumstances. I can see how Moses just wanted the people to trust him and that it probably felt great when they were all praising him for the miracle of water. How often to I take credit for something I don’t really deserve? It feels good to be the one that swoops in and saves the day. I’ve really been wrestling with this one. It’s just not the way I wanted Moses’ story to end. I want him to run on his 120 year old legs and lay down in his promised land. It’s just not a photo finish. It leaves me wondering if it was impossible for a guy like Moses to be fully obedient to God, is it even worth trying for a sin filled person like me?

I was encouraged by the commentary in my NIV today. It says:

“No matter how good we are, or how much we’ve done for God, we sometimes disobey him. The result of our disobedience is that we will be disciplined. God disciplined Moses severely, but still called him his friend. When you experience the sting of God’s discipline, respond as Moses did. Don’t turn away in anger, embarrassment, or resentment. Instead, turn toward God with love, openness, and a desire to do better.”

Isn’t that just great advice? That’s exactly what Moses did, he was open and accepting, he wasn’t at all resentful. He climbed up that mountain, looked out on the Promised Land and then surrendered to his heavenly Father. It doesn’t say in my Bible if he went to heaven or not. So, here comes the risk in my post today. If you are still reading, I hope you’ll leave me a comment below. I’d like to know how you feel about this part of the Moses story? I hope you’ll share your wisdom and experience with me. How does this story make you a better Christian, what can we learn from it and how can we understand what God wants from us? Also, I couldn’t find any later references to whether or not Moses gets to spend eternity with God, even though he was disobedient on earth. I’d like to know, so please share!

A Letter to Hate

The other morning I found myself watching the news about the Orlando massacre and crying. As I looked over at my wife Heather, there were tears streaming down her face as well. How is it that there is so much senseless violence in our country, in our world? Where does such hatred come from? My only answer was it is born of selfishness, confusion and pain. Perhaps some form of mental illness triggered by indifference that flourishes in self pity and self righteous.

When I think about history, I know that in other times and other places there have been terrible genocides and atrocities of massive proportions. Perhaps these are just as senseless, even on a grander scale. Sometimes the history of the world seems mostly about people taking each other’s stuff and killing. Certainly not the utopia of the garden where man once “walked” in harmony with God.

We live in a modern society with abundant freedoms to pursue our dreams and raise our children in relative tranquility. In contrast, violence of any kind is quite disturbing, and perhaps, without a strong anchor of truth, contagious. This all makes me wonder, where does such evil come from?

Does selfishness and indifference reside in the heart of man? My personal experience tells me it does, and so does the Bible. In our own power we will always fall short of God’s greater glory. The tendency to justify our desires, and our achievements; sometimes with great pride, always puts the focus on us instead of on others; instead of on God. Is it possible that even the smallest acts of self interest ripple beyond our understanding into great evil?

Todays Reading Link: Duetoronomy 31, Psalm 119:97-120. Isaiah 58, Matherw 6

The verse below from last Sunday’s reading offered me hope and understanding. It also encouraged me to write a letter to the problem, HATRED.

Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. -Psalm 115:1

Dear Hatred,

Why do you torment the helpless, the weak and the unprepared? Why do you spill the blood of grief upon those who suffer for your treachery? Are you a coward? Is your life driven by fear or confusion? Did you not see the sunrise or the sunset, and the dome of the heavens or the magnificence of nature that hath ceaselessly proclaimed the glory of the living God? Have you been passed over by love, unable to feel God’s love in the lives of those who have chosen to turn from their selfish desires? Have you not heard the good news: God’s grace is sufficient for all mankind! God’s love endures forever!

Yes, even you Hatred are loved are offered freedom from your malice and self loathing, through the redemption of the blood of Jesus. God proclaims your salvation as His hand reaches deep, into the depths of your despair, to pull you into the light of His amazing grace and love. Look away from your self. Look up. What would your life be if you knew the truth of God’s amazing love?

Hatred, I cry for you in your confusion, and for those who must wrestle in the pain that you deliver in the evil of your delusion. But you need to know this; love cannot be overcome! You cannot extinguish the light of hope, for it will only grow stronger, as the wounded and the left behind search for answers to your senseless violence.

In the light of the glory of God.

With all my Love,

Love