Thursday, April 26, 2012

A leadership spirit

"So the LORD said to Moses, 'Gather for me 70 of the elders of Israel... and I will take some of the spirit that is on you and put it on them; and they shall bear the burden of the people along with you so that you will not bear it all by yourself.'"
(Numbers 11:16a, 17)

Moses was feeling overwhelmed by the demands of leader the people of Israel.  So God told him to pick 70 elders among the people to help him.  Then God did something very interesting - he took a portion of the "spirit" that was "on" Moses, and gave it to the 70.

As a leader, I found this fascinating for a couple of reasons:
  1. Our power comes from outside of us... God didn't tell Moses to train the seventy from his "vast experience as an outstanding leader."  No, he took a portion of the leadership spirit that HE had given Moses, and shared it with the new recruits.  So whenever any of us leaders start getting impressed by our own credentials (and press clippings), pay heed.  It's from God.  Not us.
  2. If we want effective & powerful leaders, we need to be praying for God's spirit to fall.  I have quite a few leaders in my church, both men & women.  I don't know if I've ever prayed for God's spirit to fall upon them.  Shame on me.  Time to start!


[From April 25, 2012]

"The Levites shall be mine... for they are unreservedly given to me from among the Israelites; I have taken them for myself, in place of all that open the womb, the firstborn of all the Israelites."
(Numbers 8:14b, 16)

Every time I read this passage, I'm struck by the fact that God chose the priests (Levites) as compensation for the "tithe" of the firstborn.  Because God saved the firstborn Israelites during the 10th plague in Egypt, all future firstborn children were to be dedicated to God.  But God redeemed that claim through the priests.

Being a "priest" myself, this is a powerful verse.  I belong to God.  I have been claimed by him as his own.  God can do with me what he desires.  Because of me (and many other "priests" in the world), others are free to use their lives as they see fit (hopefully, they'll seek the Lord's guidance, too!).

It also causes me to pause.  I'm accountable to God.  I know we all are, technically, but as a "priest," I'm even more so.  May I live accordingly.  Thank you for claiming me as your own, God.  Help me to stay faithful to that claim!  AMEN.


[From April 19, 2012]

"Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness sake, O LORD!"
(Psalm 25:7)

As an adult, I try to be honest with God about my life.  When I fall short of His will for me - when I act in ways that do not honor him - when I sin... I ask for his forgiveness & cleansing.  Many of us seek to live this way.

Psalm 25 talks about God not remembering the "sins of my youth or my transgressions."  Which got me thinking... was I as "spiritually aware" as a child & youth as I am now?  Was I quick to acknowledge & confess my sin?  Probably not.  I know that once I was baptized all my prior sin was washed clean... but still, can I say without a doubt that I've asked God to forgive & cleanse me from ALL of the sins of my youth?  I'm not sure.

I love how the psalmist ends verse 7: "Don't remember the sins of my youth, God.  Remember me!"  Remember the relationship not the sinful actions.

PRAYER: Oh Go, forgive & cleanse me of all my past (and present!) unrighteousness.  Create in me a clean heart!  Fill those dark places with your Spirit and Light.  Thank you for remembering your relationship with me over the years.  I love you, Lord!  I love you!

It happens to even the best of us...

[From April 12, 2012]

"When Silas & Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus.  When they opposed & reviled him, in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, 'Your blood be on your own heads!  I am innocent.  From now on I will go to the Gentiles.'"
(Acts 18:5-6)

Paul was such a passionate guy!  He grew up as a Pharisee... a strict adherent to the laws of God.  He even carried out his passion so far as to persecute the early Christians, whom he felt were distorting true Judaism.  Then God got a hold of him and that passion got redirected.  He became zealous for the LORD & the teachings of Jesus!  He took every chance he could to visit the synagogues and speak to the leading Jews about how Jesus was the Messiah.  Some believed.  Many didn't.  In fact, many took great offense at him.  But Paul kept at it.  At least until he got to Corinth.  That's when Paul "had enough."  After being "opposed & reviled," he turned his attention to the Gentiles (non-Jews).  He would have nothing more to do with his own people.

But 12 verses later, Paul reaches Ephesus.  And what's the first thing that he does?  He goes to the synagogue and has "a discussion with the Jews."  It actually goes well.  They ask him to come back again, but he's on his way.  "I will return if God wills," he tells them.

This impressed a couple of things on my heart as I read them today... first, ministry is frustrating at times!  We say things in the heat of the moment that we may not mean completely.  I'm sure Paul was tired of his own people rejecting his message.  So even though he "shook the dust off" in Corinth, he found himself down to the synagogues once again in Ephesus.  God has wired us with passion and a mission.

Second, there's always someone else hungry for an experience of God.  Even if most of his Jewish brothers and sisters rejected his message, there were folks in Ephesus who connected with him.  This encourages me to never give up!  We can't reach all the people all the time... but there are folks who want (and NEED!) to hear a message of hope!  So hang in there, all you fellow laborers in the vineyard... what you're going through happens to even the best of us!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Closer than you know!

"From one ancestor He made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and He allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him - though indeed, He is not far from each of us."
(Acts 17:26-27)

The city of Athens was famous for their houses of worship.  You name the "religious flavor of the month," and you could probably find it there!  In fact, as Paul was walking around the city, he noticed an altar with the description: "To an unknown god."  The people made sure they had all their bases covered.  Surely it was possible that there was some great & powerful god they had no knowledge of!

In a brilliant stroke of street preaching, Paul told the people that he knows the identity of the aforementioned "unknown god."  What follows is an appeal for them to seek after the LORD!

What I especially like about this (besides the cultural creativity used by Paul!) is his statement that God has created us to seek Him!  "To search for God and perhaps grope for Him and find Him - though indeed He is not far from each of us."  We're wired to seek God.  Many people also "grope" for God - desperate for something they can't quite identify.  But God doesn't play "hard to get."  God is near to us all.  Probably much closer than we know!  I love that.  Praise God for meeting us where we are.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


"But Peter said to him, 'May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God's gift with money!  You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God...'"
(Acts 8:20-21)

Simon was a traveling magician.  Evidently, a pretty good one, too.  In Samaria, he'd wowed the people for some time.  He proclaimed to be someone great, and the people believed him.  Then along came Philip with the power of the Holy Spirit, and even Simon was impressed by what God could do through him!

Peter & John came to Samaria after a while and began baptizing people with the Holy Spirit.  Simon, who'd been following Philip constantly offered to pay Peter & John money so he, too, could empower people with the Holy Spirit.  As you might imagine, this didn't go over well, and Simon was severely chastised.  God's gifts can't be bought, they told him.

We modern Christians hear this story and nod approvingly.  "Good for Simon... he got what was coming to him.  The nerve!"  And yet, are we as innocent as we think?  How often do we make a financial donation/gift to a church or ministry or spiritual leader and inwardly expect God's return blessing?  Do we believe belonging to a particular church or attending a particular school will make us more spiritual?  God's gifts can't be bought.  If our heart is in the right place, then our resources can be used for God with no strings attached.  God's gifts come when God knows we need them most.  And that's the way it should be.

Drawing Near the Darkness

"Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was."
(Exodus 20:21)

As God prepared the people of Israel to receive the 10 Commandments, he called them to come out of their tents and stand before Mount Sinai.  Then God's presence came upon the mountain in the form of darkness, clouds, thunder & lightning.  It was quite terrifying to the people.  After god gave the Commandments, verse 21 appears, saying that while the people stood at a distance from God, "Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was."

As a pastor, this verse resonated with me today. Life is filled with "thick darkness" at times.  It's everywhere, if you take the time to look.  Many get overwhelmed by the darkness in their lives and the world around them.  It's human nature to stand back at a distance. But Moses, as the spiritual leader, was called to "draw near" to the darkness.  Not to run away, but to approach it.  Enter it.  Embrace it.  Why?  Because God was present IN THE DARKNESS.

That's so true.  In the darkest moments of our lives, God can be found there - if only we'll "draw near" with expectant hearts.  May I, as a pastor, be bold enough to do so.  AMEN.