Choosing to be Chosen


Choosing to be Chosen

Exodus 19:9b–25

The People Consecrated

When Moses had told the words of the people to the Lord, the Lord said to Moses: “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and prepare for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. You shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Be careful not to go up the mountain or to touch the edge of it. Any who touch the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch them, but they shall be stoned or shot with arrows; whether animal or human being, they shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they may go up on the mountain.” So Moses went down from the mountain to the people. He consecrated the people, and they washed their clothes. And he said to the people, “Prepare for the third day; do not go near a woman.”

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently. As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder. When the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, the Lord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people not to break through to the Lord to look; otherwise many of them will perish. Even the priests who approach the Lord must consecrate themselves or the Lord will break out against them.” Moses said to the Lord, “The people are not permitted to come up to Mount Sinai; for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and keep it holy.’ ” The Lord said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you; but do not let either the priests or the people break through to come up to the Lord; otherwise he will break out against them.” So Moses went down to the people and told them.

Matthew 9:2–8

Jesus Heals a Paralytic1

And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.

Consecration is a church word that goes back thousands of years to the time of Moses, and perhaps even earlier. It is the ritualistic separation of people or things for the purpose of spiritual and/or religious work. It is something archeologists would appreciate as they study the ancient objects of worship. Nowadays, we have a bit less appreciation for religious anything in our increasingly secular world.

I think perhaps a better analogy would be for autographed items. If you have a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth, you are not going to use it to play a pickup game in your backyard. If you have a guitar autographed by Eric Clapton, you are not going to play around the fire on a camping trip. An autograph changes both the value and purpose of such items.

To be consecrated is like being signed by God.Tweet: To be consecrated is like being signed by God. While God did consecrate certain religious items in the Old Testament, His focus has always been on consecrating people. He doesn’t sign bibles, He signs His name on us. When God signs us, our value goes up drastically. Not only are we a human being, we become a child of God. Our purpose changes too. We are no longer made to live common lives. We are “set apart” for the special works that God has for us. The way we live everyday takes on more meaning.

But this new life doesn’t automatically happen. We can choose to live ordinary lives, or even less dignified lives if we want, just as we can take those priceless, autographed items and toss them around like cracker-jack prizes. Doing so is incredibly foolish, but part of the gift God gives us by choosing us, is in giving us the choice to choose how we will live. We can live up to our new worth in His name, or we can go on living as though we were never chosen by Him at all. God give us the gift of new, abundant life… but we have to choose to stand up and walk with it.

What do you think your value is?

How has God changed your value?

What difference does that make in the choices you have to make today?

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  1. (Mk 2:1–12; Lk 5:17–26) 

Teaching Trust


Teaching Trust

Exodus 18:13–27

The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?” Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me. I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases before God; teach them the statutes and instructions and make known to them the way they are to go and the things they are to do. You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain; set such men over them as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Let them sit as judges for the people at all times; let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their home in peace.”

So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men from all Israel and appointed them as heads over the people, as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. And they judged the people at all times; hard cases they brought to Moses, but any minor case they decided themselves. Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went off to his own country.

Philippians 1:15–21

Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.

Most people today are not taught to trust. Instead they are taught to look out for themselves.Tweet: Most people today are not taught to trust. Instead they are taught to look out for themselves. In some pockets of the world, they are taught to believe that nameless, faceless governmental bodies will give them an allowance, but because they remain nameless and faceless, it is not really trust.[1] We only know how to use others to get by.

That is the main difference between good team leaders and micromanaging supervisors. They can set up the same meetings, assign the same duties, even use the same evaluation processes. In the end, one type of leader invests in the people themselves, while the other simply moves them around to get a job done. One teaches trust. The other teaches distrust.

Micromanager is the derogatory term for someone who has trouble giving up control to others. One place I am a micromanager is in teaching beginner piano lessons. It might seem kinder to let my students (elementary and middle school children) just do their best and congratulate them on their efforts without being critical of their performance. However, I know from personal experience, that mistakes that go uncorrected become habits over time, and those habits actually hold you back from being able to play well later on in your development. In places where skill is low, leaders need to pay more attention to detail – not for the sake of the performance, but for the sake of developing those who work with them.

However, if the values and overall mission are not communicated because we spend too much time fussing over the details, those who work with us will become frustrated easily and not have any motivation or understanding of the value of their work. Some details we have to let go, for the sake of moving forward. It’s not just a balancing act, it is making sure we are using our various leadership tools for intentional purposes, instead of just defaulting to whatever bad habits we may have become comfortable ourselves.

Moses learned not to micromanage from Jethro, his father-in-law, and from his own personal frustration leading Israel. Paul, was not given the chance to micromanage. He was run out of most of the cities he planted churches in. His only means of communicating with those churches was through letter correspondence sent from his prison cells through his visitors. Paul not only had to trust the people he chose to lead after him, he had to learn to trust God to work through those he did not choose and had no control over.

The truth at the heart of this struggle is that we are never completely in control, but God is. It may not be easy or natural to relinquish control of the very things we are responsible for. It is the paradox of being responsible while relinquishing control. Or is it a paradox after all?

What are your top responsibilities?

What do you struggle most to give up control over?

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  1. There may have been a slight change toward trusting a person during the Presidency of Obama, because he was racially distinct from former presidents… however, I do not get the impression that anyone else in his administration was trusted. The evidence of this is the 2016 election, where Hilary Clinton could not win the trust of the people, even the democratic party, but was instead split with Burney Sanders, who was not part of Obama’s working team.  ↩

Diversity in Recruitment


Diversity in Recruitment

Exodus 18:1–12

Jethro’s Advice[1]

Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro took her back, along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been an alien in a foreign land”), and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”). Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came into the wilderness where Moses was encamped at the mountain of God, bringing Moses’ sons and wife to him. He sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you, with your wife and her two sons.” Moses went out to meet his father-in-law; he bowed down and kissed him; each asked after the other’s welfare, and they went into the tent. Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had beset them on the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in delivering them from the Egyptians.

Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because he delivered the people from the Egyptians, when they dealt arrogantly with them.” And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God.

Philippians 1:3–14

Paul’s Prayer for the Philippians

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Paul’s Present Circumstances

I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.

Who do you want on your team?

There is a lot of talk about diversity in the media. In the past, it has been eluded to in the form of organizational status. Those companies with more diverse leadership are seen as being “progressive”, implying that they will soon rise to become the elite groups of tomorrow. Lately it has often appeared in the negative form of “racism”. In our polarized culture, I think it is important to look at some of the basic truths of forming groups and raising up leaders.

  • We choose our groups either actively through recruitment or passively through our choice to participate or not.
  • The kind of diversity in our group is influenced by us. Everyone shares the credit or blame. There have been many groups that I could have added my own diversity to, but instead I chose to turn down the invitation, or avoid their attention altogether. We influence others by our absence as much as by our attendance.Tweet: We influence others by our absence as much as by our attendance.

  • Diversity is helpful within a group.
  • The old story of the blind men observing an elephant held an almost sacred status during the birth of post-modernism because it taught us the value of multiple perspectives in a world that was growing smaller and more global by the minute. That was partly true, although this unity was being drawn around by drawing broader divisions between progressive vs non-progressive groups. East vs. West. Iraq vs USA. Afghanistan vs USA. Iran, Syria, China, Russia, North Korea vs. USA and whatever “progressive”[2] allies we can make among the European nations, and today, some of the less extreme Eastern nations as well. The underlying truth remains, that “two heads are better than one”, so diversity is still an important factor in teams and leadership, but it may not be as simple as greater diversity = greater teams.

  • Greater Diversity = Greater Division.
  • It is a simple fact that the more people you get together, the more personal agendas you adopt into the group. Most segregation occurs unconsciously on the assumption that someone who looks like me will think and feel like me as well. (Although that is not necessarily the case!) The flip side to “two heads are better than one” is the old adage of “too many cooks in the kitchen”.

    It is a balancing act between keeping a broad perspective and having a focus on mission. Moses did not go seeking out non-Hebrews to lead the new nation, but when his father-in-law Jethro, a pagan priest, came recognizing the superiority of the God of Moses, Moses saw an opportunity to bring in some important insight. He knew the wilderness. He knew the neighbors. Being a priest, he knew people as well, and how to lead them… a skill that would quickly come to be useful for Moses.

    Paul’s prayer to the Philippians may not exactly look like a prayer for diversity. However, Paul was teaching them to see God working in all places. That is one of the best ways we have of maintaining that balance between diverse perspective and mission focus. We let God lead us and remain open to His ability to work ini and through every person and situation.

    Where have you experienced the benefits of diversity?

    Where have you experienced the challenges of diversity?

    Where do you see God working now?

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    1. (Deut 1:9–18)  ↩
    2. Text cannot communicate the full context by which these labels are used. One of the multi-faceted aspects of “progressive” nations has been the protection and promotion of women’s rights. Another has been the breakdown of the family unit through increased divorce and children being raised by guardians rather than biological parents. This may also be linked to children spending less time with adults than ever in the history of the world in those places, and a growing inability to trust in relationships. In cases of abuse and slavery, it is often the non-progressive groups who are made victims in their own culture, but whose abuse is funded or ultimately by people of power in those more “progressive groups”. If we are truly going to embrace the blind man and the elephant philosophy, we have to be willing to look critically at all perspectives, measuring the harm and good done by everything, including those ideas that promote freedom and equality… especially because sometimes freedom and equality for some mean that it is denied to others. We live in a complex, messy world.  ↩

    Doing What Works


    Doing What Works

    Exodus 17:1–7

    Water from the Rock[1]

    From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

    Matthew 21:23–32

    The Authority of Jesus Questioned[2]

    When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

    The Parable of the Two Sons

    “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

    There always at least two ways to do anything. Most of the time, along with those law enforcement officers playing good cop, bad cop, we break it down into two categories: the easy way and the hard way.

    It would seem that the best answer is to always choose the easy way. Indeed, that is what the interrogators would want us to believe. However, that logic does not always play out.

    If you want to gain physical strength, is it better to take the long winding path of regular exercise, building up slowly over time OR to take steroids or other hormonal supplements to boost muscle creation?

    If you want to become a musician, is it better to just focus on learning the songs you want to play by ear, learning what you want to be able to perform quicker OR to take the much more difficult path of learning music notation, theory, and learning all the classics so you will someday be able to play anything you see or hear?

    When it comes to marriage, is it just easier to have your parents or guardians choose your mate OR take the long and winding path of traveling the world, discovering who you are, and finding someone you believe you can spend the rest of your life with?

    Don’t give me that simpler is always better business. Sometimes we actually show up because we want the scenic tour.Tweet: Don't give me that simpler is always better business. Sometimes we actually show up because we want the scenic tour.

    God knows that about us. That’s why sometimes we get the water from the rock, instead of just being led to a stream. We get it into our heads that “streams just happen” and “we deserve them every so many miles”. Sometimes God has to take us back and show us exactly how a stream gets started in the first place and remind us of the miracle that every stream is.

    That’s what trips everyone up about Jesus as well. He doesn’t take the wide, easy path. When he was interrogated, He chose the hard way instead of the easy way. Then He asked us to follow Him. That is always easier said than done.

    When we are tempted to simply do what works, Jesus calls us to do what is right.Tweet: When we are tempted to simply do what works, Jesus calls us to do what is right.

    Do you struggle more with wanting to know where you are going or wanting to know who you are following?

    Do you find yourself taking the easy way or the hard way more often? Why?

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    1. (Num 20:1–13)  ↩
    2. (Mk 11:27–33; Lk 20:1–8)  ↩

    The Passage of Authority


    The Passage of Authority

    Numbers 27:12–14

    Joshua Appointed Moses’ Successor[1]

    The Lord said to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim range, and see the land that I have given to the Israelites. When you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin when the congregation quarreled with me. You did not show my holiness before their eyes at the waters.” (These are the waters of Meribath-kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.)

    Mark 11:27–33

    Jesus’ Authority Is Questioned[2]

    Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

    The passage of authority from person to person is not about passing on skills. It is about passing on values.Tweet: The passage of authority from person to person is not about passing on skills. It is about passing on values.

    Moses had been raised in the court of Pharaoh, learned to be a shepherd in the wilderness, and brought the Hebrew people the Law from God’s own voice and hand. No one was going to be able to replace him as a leader with those kinds of experiences and qualifications. Joshua was being raised up to be a good leader, but he was going to be a different kind of leader for a different chapter in the story of the Hebrew people.

    There needed to be some kind of connection though. It would have been a very short chapter if Joshua had not followed the same God as Moses. Both Joshua and/or the entire people would have been overwhelmed and overrun without the God that Moses showed them and followed through the Red Sea, as well as 40 years through the wilderness. It was not simply the unique gifts of courage that Joshua had either. It was the effective way that Moses passed on the torch of leadership, which contained the values Moses had learned from God Himself. If Moses had chosen to stay on the pedestal that the people put Him on, their would not have been a second generation of the Israelites. They would have abandoned the vision and mission of being a “royal priesthood” and a “holy nation” and simply become Moabites, Amalekites, or Philistines instead. It would have been easier for them to do so.

    So what were those values that Moses passed on to Joshua? The first one and perhaps the most important one was the willingness to ask God for help in anything and everything. Neither Moses, nor Joshua, were afraid to go face to face with God, even though everyone else was. They did it not out of privilege, but because they were lost without Him. They knew they desperately needed God in order to do anything.

    Secondly, they trusted God’s advice (except when emotion took over and they tried to make things up themselves). Moses and Joshua valued God’s leadership over them and they let God lead.**Tweet: Moses and Joshua valued God's leadership over them and they let God lead.

    Joshua, it appears, had little trouble being accepted as a leader of the Hebrew people. Yet somehow Jesus, his New Testament namesake, had more challenge. Why would the Israelites have an easier time following Joshua than Jesus? Because Jesus did not have the same values as the people He was sent to save. Joshua, as well as the people he led wanted land, food, water, and shelter to start a new life in. He was not terribly picky as to where it would be either. The people in the time of Jesus were looking for similar things, although they were pickier about what location they wanted to be in… but Jesus did not come to give them land, food, water, or a place to make a new home in. He came to transform the world around us by changing us first.

    One of the biggest lessons Jesus taught was forgiveness, and he taught that the whole concept of forgiveness breaks down if we want forgiveness ourselves, but refuse to forgive others. No one wanted to hear that, because, in all truth, they did not really value forgiveness. They, and we, all too often desire license to sin, excuse for our sin, and most importantly a way out of the consequences of sin, but we don’t want to stop sinning. We certainly do not want to let others get by with sinning against us, especially if we are not given the same leniency.

    The real work of leadership, the kind that outlasts us, is the passing on of values. Joshua had it a little easier than Moses… and both had it easier than Jesus. If we are going to lead in the name of Christ though, we have to be sure we have received His values and are passing them on to those we lead.

    What are the values of Jesus?

    How are you sharing and passing them on to others around you?

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    1. (Deut 31:1–8)  ↩
    2. (Mt 21:23–27; Lk 20:1–8)  ↩

    Grief that Grows


    Grief that Grows

    Numbers 20:1–13

    The Waters of Meribah[1]

    The Israelites, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. Miriam died there, and was buried there.

    Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and against Aaron. The people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had died when our kindred died before the Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here? Why have you brought us up out of Egypt, to bring us to this wretched place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; and there is no water to drink.” Then Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting; they fell on their faces, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. Thus you shall bring water out of the rock for them; thus you shall provide drink for the congregation and their livestock.

    So Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he had commanded him. Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and by which he showed his holiness.

    Passage through Edom Refused

    Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, “Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the adversity that has befallen us: how our ancestors went down to Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians oppressed us and our ancestors; and when we cried to the Lord, he heard our voice, and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt; and here we are in Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory. Now let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from any well; we will go along the King’s Highway, not turning aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.”
    But Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through, or we will come out with the sword against you.” The Israelites said to him, “We will stay on the highway; and if we drink of your water, we and our livestock, then we will pay for it. It is only a small matter; just let us pass through on foot.” But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against them with a large force, heavily armed. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through their territory; so Israel turned away from them.

    The Death of Aaron

    They set out from Kadesh, and the Israelites, the whole congregation, came to Mount Hor. Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron at Mount Hor, on the border of the land of Edom, “Let Aaron be gathered to his people. For he shall not enter the land that I have given to the Israelites, because you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. Take Aaron and his son Eleazar, and bring them up Mount Hor; strip Aaron of his vestments, and put them on his son Eleazar. But Aaron shall be gathered to his people, and shall die there.” Moses did as the Lord had commanded; they went up Mount Hor in the sight of the whole congregation. Moses stripped Aaron of his vestments, and put them on his son Eleazar; and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. When all the congregation saw that Aaron had died, all the house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days.

    Acts 13:32–41

    And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm,
    ‘You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.’
    As to his raising him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way,
    ‘I will give you the holy promises made to David.’
    Therefore he has also said in another psalm,
    ‘You will not let your Holy One experience corruption.’
    For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, died, was laid beside his ancestors, and experienced corruption; but he whom God raised up experienced no corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, that what the prophets said does not happen to you:
    ‘Look, you scoffers!
    Be amazed and perish,
    for in your days I am doing a work,
    a work that you will never believe, even if someone tells you.’

    We behave badly when we are grieving.Tweet: We behave badly when we are grieving. Moses had just buried his sister and the people couldn’t find water. They started grumbling. Well, in all actuality, I suspect they had been grumbling for awhile. Moses just began to notice it more in his grief. Then the people picked up on his irritation with him and began to move from grumbling to quarreling with Moses and each other. I’m sure this was not all over one day without a nearby water source. It was that, in his own grief, they feared Moses would be unable to lead them any longer. They were ready to abandon ship and crawl back to Egypt.

    They were throwing a fit. So Moses threw a fit. Instead of following God’s instructions, as he had for so very long, he took matters into his own hands. He struck the rock with his grief and anger instead of speaking to it with his faith. He let doubt rule in his moment of grief, and it would haunt him the rest of his life.

    Paul told another story though. He told of the grief experienced by the disciples at the death of Jesus and how their grief was transformed into joy at the resurrection. It did not eliminate their grief and suffering, but it transformed it. Raising Jesus from the dead redeemed all of their suffering by showing that even death does not have the last word.

    Everyone suffers. Everyone grieves. For those in Christ, suffering is temporary and joy is everlasting. For those without Christ, joy in this world is temporary at best, but suffering and grief will be eternal. Don’t let momentary grief – no matter how bad it is, take away your hope in the peace and joy that awaits us when God sends His Spirit to raise us from the depths we find ourselves in.

    Where have you experienced your most profound grief?

    How is God speaking to that grief today?

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    1. Ex 17:1–7  ↩

    The Teacher


    The Teacher

    Isaiah 48:17–21

    Thus says the Lord,
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
    I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you for your own good,
    who leads you in the way you should go.
    O that you had paid attention to my commandments!
    Then your prosperity would have been like a river,
    and your success like the waves of the sea;
    your offspring would have been like the sand,
    and your descendants like its grains;
    their name would never be cut off
    or destroyed from before me.
    Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea,
    declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it,
    send it forth to the end of the earth;
    say, “The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob!”
    They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts;
    he made water flow for them from the rock;
    he split open the rock and the water gushed out.

    James 4:11–16

    Warning against Judging Another

    Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?

    Boasting about Tomorrow

    Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

    The Lord is the Good Teacher, not just because He knows everything but because He teaches us for our good.Tweet: The Lord is the Good Teacher, not just because He knows everything but because He teaches us for our good. He desires our success and well-being, and He wants to teach us what true success really means. This should be one of the easiest concepts to grasp and apply in the Christian life. However, many of us have come to see the role of Jesus as mainly a sacrifice for our sins with some good teaching if we have the time/energy/desire to seek, learn, and live out that teaching. Most of us do not.

    Some church leaders get a bit itchy when we focus on Jesus as teacher, as if that somehow takes away from His atoning sacrifice for our sins. I have not been able to follow that logic myself. To me it is one and the same. Jesus lived out (sacrificially) what He taught, and He taught what He lived instead of keeping it selfishly to Himself. To be truly Loving and truly God, He really needed to be both Sacrifice and Teacher.

    So, how do we compensate for our acknowledgement of Jesus as teacher and our failure to be His student? We try to supersede His authority by taking on the role of teacher ourselves. We “fulfill our Christian duty” by passing the teaching on to others, often before we ourselves have learned to live it out. We teach fellow church members. We try to teach non-Christians in our lives. We do a lot of teaching our children about what Jesus wants us to do – sometimes for our own purposes. But we do not teach them to learn from Jesus directly. We become the priest figures in their lives, not interceding for their sin, but interceding between Jesus and them.

    I’ve experienced both sides of this under the guise of what we sometimes refer to as the gift of prophecy. “God has given me a message for you… He wants you to…” I believe in the gift and power of prophecy, but when we come to lean on that gift as if it were the gift of teaching, we become unbalanced and cease to come to Jesus as teacher.

    James taught from a position that had a strong respect for teaching and wisdom. Wisdom stands apart from prophecy because it is teaching that is built to last, rather than the temporary word of the prophet for a specific time and place. Teaching, and teaching wisdom specifically requires greater commitment and greater life transformation. It does not just give us the next direction. It tells us where we are going and what it will look like, so that we begin to be open to the smaller directions ourselves, without relying on a person to be that constant guide for us.

    Where do you experience Jesus as the Good Teacher in your life?

    What areas of your life are not being actively shaped by Jesus teaching you?

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