Faithful Service

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Faithful Service

Exodus 20:1–4, 7–9, 12–20

The Ten Commandments1

Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.

>Matthew 21:33–46

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants[2]

“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

Come and See AND Go and Tell Ministries

Many have put their particular spins on the Christian faith, claiming it as either a Come and See or a Go and Tell kind of model. In truth it has probably been both of these and more from the time of Jesus and over the centuries. Jesus had a Come and See ministry as He called His disciples, but for those He healed and worked miracles upon, it was much more of a Go and Tell ministry. Tweet: Jesus had a Come and See ministry as He called His disciples, but for those He worked miracles upon, it was more of a Go and Tell ministry. The common thread that runs between both kinds of ministry is the power and character that God imparts to us.

Come and See and the Law

God works through all things to change our lives and redeem the world around us. Two particular means stand out consistently behind much of this work though: God’s Spirit and the Law – God’s Word. These two interact together in a powerful way as the person of Jesus Christ, but throughout the Bible, God’s Word has the effect, not of suggesting how things should be, but by calling things into existence. God’s Law is not like government law. It is more like the laws of Gravity or Thermodynamics. They describe the way the universe works and how we can best live in it.

The Law is a guide to order in our Christian life and in our Christian community. It shapes our behavior and shapes the activities and attitudes of our gatherings. While innovation and even spontaneity can be helpful and life-giving at times, we cannot live in a world that does not have order and we get lost and confused if we cannot establish and understand some basic expectations.

Over time, the Law leads to consistency. Patterns develop when things are repeated, and our understanding of how to participate is limited by the consistency of the activities. If we want people to Come and See, we need to show them what to watch for and how to take part themselves.

As we are brought together under God’s order, the Law that helps us be greater than ourselves. It is not randomness that calls us to greatness, but an order greater than our own ambitions and desires. We grow into the people God created us to be by Coming to Him and Seeing the plans He has set before us. Then, Empowered by His Spirit, we begin to live according to those plans.

Go and Tell and the Law

That same Law that leads us into an ever deepening relationship with God leads us out to Go and Tell the world. Because it is a Law of Love, we are made to go and share the very grace that we have received. If we are to follow the Law of God, we cannot sit still and remain silent. We must Go and Tell.

But how will we know where to go and what to say? The Law gives us guidance there as well. There is not a point where God’s Word hands us off to God’s Spirit, never to touch us again. Both work continually in us, in partnership, to grow and move us. That which one speaks, the other echoes.

This work enable us to truly bear witness to the Love and Grace of God in us, which is our work and purpose as followers of Jesus. When we turn away from the Law, we quench God’s Spirit, and we become selfish rebels and enemies of God’s Kingdom. While we can trust in the grace of God, that grace is given to those who will share it, not for those who will exploit it

How is the Law of God, leading and guiding your spiritual growth today?

What are you going to do about it?

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  1. (Deut 5:1–22)
    [2]: (Mk 12:1–12; Lk 20:9–19) 

Growing Inward instead of Outward

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Growing Inward instead of Outward

Exodus 23:10–13

Sabbatical Year and Sabbath

For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.
Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed. Be attentive to all that I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.

John 7:40–52

Division among the People

When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

The Unbelief of Those in Authority

Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not arrest him?” The police answered, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” Then the Pharisees replied, “Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” They replied, “Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.”

Temple Police

It should have been a dead giveaway that something was off in the spiritual life of the Israelites when they hired “Temple Police”. It reflected a lack of faith in God’s authority and a desire to protect the Jewish leader’s own authority instead. God established a tribe of priests who would oversee and regulate worship in perpetuity, but moving from priests to police was beyond the established Law. It may have even been at the request of Rome.

Either way, I think is true that a movement of God does not need police. Not that we don’t need police, or that police are bad. Simply that those tasked with the spiritual transformation of the world, sharing God’s grace with all people, should not require that kind of protection. We certainly face danger. Our chief protector is God though, not man. Walking into danger without protection is consistently shown as a sign of faith in God and a means of witnessing to the world around us in the Scriptures – both Old and New Testaments. Tweet: Walking into danger without protection is consistently shown as a sign of faith in God and a means of witnessing to the world around us...

That doesn’t mean we should throw our lives away foolishly. It means that“Those who live by the sword, die by the sword”, and if we put our faith in our weapons or warriors, we will be sorely disappointed. It truly becomes a form of idolatry if we let it outweigh our trust in God. Instead, those who live by faith, walk by faith, not by sight, which certainly includes the physical protection we can see.

Sabbath

God gave the Hebrew people a gift in the Sabbath command. It was not solely a means of setting His people apart from the rest of the world. It was not intended as a screen to filter out the chosen from the leftovers. It was not designed to be a threat, keeping Israel sheltered or brainwashed into worshipping Him. It as truly meant to be a gift.

Honoring the Sabbath, practicing… doing sabbath is not a passive act. It is a series of varied activities that remind and reconnect us with God. God is the source of our life, and without that connection we fail, fall, and ultimately die. Sabbath is not about separating us. It is about keeping us alive so that we can share that life with the world dying around us.

God created us to grow upward and outward, onward, forward, even down and deep, but He did not call us to grow so inward that nothing could get through to us.

What restores you so that your mind, body, and spirit?

What do you need today so that you can carry your faith out into the world as a gift to it, instead of trying to change, correct, or police those around you?

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Shining

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Shining

Exodus 23:14–19

The Annual Festivals1

Three times in the year you shall hold a festival for me. You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread; as I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt.
No one shall appear before me empty-handed.

You shall observe the festival of harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall observe the festival of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God.

You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my festival remain until the morning.
The choicest of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God.
You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.

Philippians 2:14–18, 3:1–4a

Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you— and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me. “

Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.

Breaking with the Past

To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard.

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh— even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.

Sacrifices

Context really throws us for a loop when it comes to understanding the sacrifices God commanded in the Old Testament. Our retroperspective, reading backwards into that time and place, is completely colored by consumerism, animal rights, humanism, the industrial revolution, and a market society. All of these things were nonexistent in the time of Moses, and most of the millennia in which the entire Bible was written. They are new things that we try to look for to connect with in the scriptures, often leading us to see shapes in the shadows that are not real and are not there, like the men inside Plato’s cave.

So What was the purpose of all those sacrifices in the Old Testament anyway?
The sacrifices, as set out in the books of Exodus and Leviticus were set around functional events (such as when a person was sick and had been healed, or when a person realized they had sinned), and around seasonal times of reflection and celebration. Those seasonal celebrations were set to retell the story of the people’s relationship with God, beginning with Passover, their day of atonement and deliverance from slavery and Egypt. The next series of celebrations followed both their story getting to the Promised Land as well as their agricultural seasons.

These celebrations served the dual purposes of bringing the community together and reinforcing the story that their community was based upon and the values that God was instilling within them. As any ruler knows, there is a certain amount of taxation that is necessary to remind people that their leadership has value. It is not an act of cruelty. It is a fact of human existence that if we are not asked to give anything, we begin to love the giver more than the gift. We begin to become entitled. Offering up meaningful and valuable sacrifices created a bond between God and His people. Most ancient religions were very similar. Perhaps the biggest difference was that God regulated those sacrifices so that all people, rich and poor, could participate, while keeping them from going too far, sacrificing too much, such as one another or their children. God gave them clearer boundaries that helped them keep their community identity centered around Him without allowing it to fall into fanaticism.

Traditions

Today, we rarely practice sacrificial rituals, at least in an agricultural sense. We have many traditions though, and the bigger the effort involved, the more sacred the tradition typically becomes. First birthdays are a big deal. Fifty-first birthdays… not so much. First weddings are a big deal. Fifth weddings… not near as much. There are small but sacred traditions practiced by military families when their soldier family members ship out, as well as when they return, that those who have not ever offered up their spouses and children to the military sacrificially will never understand.

Some of these traditions are very good, and embody the best values we have. Others are not good and embody some of our worst. Hazing parties in secret societies often embody our worst. Bachelor and bachelorette parties sometimes embody our worst. Reunions of all sorts can often go either way. People look on us and see our true values by when and in what way we choose to celebrate Tweet: People look on us and see our true values by when and in what way we choose to celebrate

God’s ultimate purpose is not to prevent us from celebrating, nor to control our celebrations. Instead He wants to infuse our lives an give us something good that is really worth celebrating. He wants our joy to shine forth from us in such a way that the world stands up and takes notice of us and the God we are thanking in our celebrations. He wants the world to hear about and see His work in us.

What do you have to celebrate this week?

How will you celebrate it?

What role does God have in your celebration?

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  1. (Ex 34:18–26; Deut 16:1–17)  

Stumbling-blocks

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Stumbling-blocks

Exodus 23:1–9

Justice for All

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit.

When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back.
When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free.
You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.
You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

Colossians 2:16-23

Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

Warnings against False Teachers

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.

Naysayers

Every group has naysayers

God gives every team a naysayer. It is what separates us from the lemmings.Tweet: God gives every team a naysayer. It is what separates us from the lemmings.

Lemmings video game

Naysayers keep us from marching off cliffs when we get passionate about the direction we are going. At their best, they also act like bumpers in the bowling lane or guard rails that keep us moving in the right direction by preventing us from getting off course. They are made to be not only guardians of the faith1, but guardians of the mission.

People are not born naysayers. We are created by being put in groups where we feel like an outsider while everyone else seems to want to move quickly. It’s a reaction to feeling out of control. In a group, we naysayers often function as the voice that calls everyone back to unity, precisely because we feel out of place ourselves. If we let our feelings of discomfort drive us instead of guide us, we can shift from being naysayers to becoming full stumbling-blocks.

Stumbling-blocks

Crossing the line from naysayer to stumbling-block

We cross the line from naysayer to stumbling-block when we begin to let our personal problems drive our decisions within the team. No, I’m not talking about psychological disorders. I mean our personal grudges and grievances we carry with us. Jesus called this unforgiveness and He taught that it prevented us from receiving forgiveness ourselves and living in grace (or working in teams well). These grudges against people or grievances about past experiences not only color, the cloud our perspective of reality and prevent us from seeing the potential in front of us. They cause comments such as:

What good can come from Nazareth?

Sometimes it is not just our bad experiences that misguide us. Our good experiences can lead us to be a stumbling-block for others as well, particularly if they have not shared them. We let our personal agendas get in the way of the work of the team. Oh, but surely there is a win-win situation… a way for everyone to get their way. With a lot of work and compromise, most of us can come to a lukewarm arrangement that pleases no one in particular, but is the least offensive – often because it entails the least amount of real change or movement. So instead we go on the aggressive by putting our thoughts in their minds by saying:

Don’t you think we should…

Instead of being direct by claiming our role on the team saying:

I think we should…

Our criticism for personal reasons show our lack of faith and hope, not only for the group, but for the mission as well. Since we are not part of the solution, we become or continue to be part of the problem. Where there is no hope, we can expect non responsible leadership.

It is difficult for us to handle sometimes because the reality is that most change happens incrementally, not instantaneously. Those who become stumbling-blocks for personal reasons are often not the guardian types who can say that they do not feel comfortable with the direction the group is going. These stumbling-blocks are idealists who, comfort aside, do not see the group following their own agendas.

Paul and Moses, and every other leader has dealt with stumbling-blocks, perhaps even been one themselves. There is hope for those of us who find ourselves in that precarious position though.

Stepping Stones

Constructive Criticism for the sake of building up the Body

Real teamwork is about doing the right thing, not the easy thing. At it’s best, criticism is used to sharpen the group as a whole, helping them to be better. It is meant to be a tool of encouragement, not discouragement. As we use constructive criticism to prune our growth, we grow even more, and the body is built up and made stronger. Instead of being stumbling-blocks, we become stepping stones, lifting others up higher as we help them grow.

Who are you lifting up?

How is this criticism helping fulfill the mission?

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  1. Sometimes there has been a misidentification between “guardians” of the faith and “purifiers” or “reformers” of the faith. Guardians protect the forward momentum and stable identity of a group. Purifiers and reformers seek to change the direction or identity of the group. Theoretically guardians do not get along with the other two types unless the guardians can be won over.  

Choosing to be Chosen

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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

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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

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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.  ↩