Permissible vs. Blessable

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God may give us what we want, but what he gives and what we want do not guarantee it will be for our best. What is permissible is not always blessable. Rather, we should always and only seek what God wants, and trust that he will then take care of what we want.

Going Deep // Focus: Deuteronomy 17:14-16

You are about to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you take it over and settle there, you may think, “We should select a king to rule over us like the other nations around us.” If this happens, be sure to select as king the man the Lord your God chooses. You must appoint a fellow Israelite; he may not be a foreigner. The king must not…

“Like the other nations.” That is an oft-repeated commentary on the mindset of the Israelites. In this case, Israel wants a king, against God’s clear warning. And ultimately, God gave them what they wanted, when what they needed was to trust in his God sovereign leadership.

God had pulled the Israelites out of bondage and ignominy among the nations to be their only God, their one true king, and to give them the high honor of being his distinct people—a holy nation set apart for his purpose. But early and often, they would want to crawl back into the pit from which they were dug. “Everyone else is doing it!” was often the basis of their appeal. “We want to be like them.”

Since God knows the end from the beginning, he anticipated the Israelite’s cry for an earthly king. When they settled into the Promised Land as a nation, he knew they would see that all the other nations had a monarch—even though that wasn’t working out too well for the heathen—and Israel would begin to long for what they didn’t have: a king to rule over them.

Four hundred years after Moses, the Israelites rejected the Lord’s desire to be their sole ruler and asked for a king. At the end of the period when the judges ruled Israel, the people came to Samuel with the request:

“Look,” they told Samuel, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.” (1 Samuel 5-9)

God knew way in advance what was in their heart, and in his permissive will, he would accommodate their worldly desire. That brings us to a teachable moment: Sometimes God gives us what we want, but what he gives and what we want do not guarantee it will be for our best. (Psalm 106:15) What is permissible is not always blessable. In Deuteronomy 17, God anticipated their longing for an earthly king and told them when that time came, he would grant the desires of their hearts. However, his provision would be with several important provisos:

One, the king was to be a man the Lord chose. The king was not necessarily to be the obvious, the smartest, the wealthiest or even the guy that would win the popular vote: “be sure to select as king the man the Lord your God chooses.” (Deuteronomy 17:15) God wanted the Israelites to look to him for the leader that he would choose for them. God wanted the people to trust him in the selection.

Two, the king was not to be dependent on human power. He was prohibited from amassing a huge army with overpowering weaponry. He was to trust in God (see Psalm 20:7), not in the arm of flesh: “The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’” (Deuteronomy 17:16) God wanted first and foremost the king’s trust.

Three, the king was not to use his royal position to gain sexual satisfaction. As king, he would have all the power, so he could easily leverage it to gratify his fleshly appetites If he did, God warned that this would be his spiritual undoing—the women he took to himself would turn his heart away from God: “The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 16:17) Both David, and especially Solomon, were royal poster boys of unrestrained fleshly desire. God wanted the king to trust him for satisfaction of his every desire.

Four, the king was not to use his position to gain inordinate wealth. Rather, he was to serve God by serving the people, and by doing this, earthly and material blessings would come: “he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.” (Deuteronomy 17:17) The temptation with a king, as with all positions of power, would be to use royal authority to serve self rather than the sheep. Again, the king was to trust in the Lord, not in his position, for material blessing.

Fifth, the king was to lead by God’s law, not human wisdom. When a human being ascends to leadership and the people he leads begin to applaud, like clockwork, ego will rise up and cause his downfall. Israel’s king was to lead by the book—Book of the Law: “When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17:18-20) The king was to trust in the Lord with all his heart and not to lean on his own understanding.

God wanted the king’s trust. He wants your complete trust, too—now and at all times. Does he have it?

Going Deeper With God: Power, sex, money—those were the three temptations about which God warned the king. How about you? Are you jockeying for position, pursuing pleasure or chasing money to give your life meaning? God will give you what is best for you as you always and wholly trust him. Surrender you fleshly longings to him.

What Makes A Leader Great

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

The great leader is truly a servant of the people. Unfortunately, too many in leadership today—in government, in business, in the church—are not public servants. They may run to get elected or selected based on what they will do for their constituents, but soon after getting into power, their main purpose seems to be doing whatever they can to stay in power. But the good heart of a godly leader cares about the health and happiness as well as the success and significance of the people they serve in the present moment, in the journey forward, and in the season after the leader’s time is up.

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 27:15-17

Then Moses said to the Lord, “O Lord, you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Please appoint a new man as leader for the community. Give them someone who will guide them wherever they go and will lead them into battle, so the community of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”

What makes a great leader? Charisma? Skill? The right look? The ability to move people to achieve the vision of the leader or the mission of the community they lead? An impressive record of throttling the competition? Improving the company’s financial bottom line? Likeability?

Most, if not all, of the aforementioned qualities and benchmarks are good, but I would submit to you that what sets a leader above all the rest is the addition of this one attribute: they shepherd the people with a passion for their wellbeing, present and future. In other words, they are not in it for themselves, and they are not in it for the moment. They truly care about the health and happiness as well as the success and significance of their people in the present moment, in the journey forward, and in the season after the leader’s time is up.

The great leader is truly a servant of the people. Unfortunately, too many in leadership today—in government, in business, in the church—are not public servants. They may run to get elected or selected based on what they will do for their constituents, but soon after getting into power, their main purpose seems to be doing whatever they can to stay in power. People are no longer theirs to be served, but to be used to further the aspirations of the leader, the board of directors, the stockholders and the powers that be.

Jesus had some different thoughts about leadership, didn’t he? He told his disciples, “Jesus called his disciples together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

Simon Peter, one of the twelve disciples, a guy who didn’t mind pushing his agenda forward before his transforming encounter with Christ, said, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-3). He went on to say, “clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-6)

Of course, Jesus and Peter were both referring to spiritual leadership, but nonetheless, their exhortations show us God’s ideal for all human leadership. Regardless of the venue, this is the leadership of which God approves: “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1 Peter 5:4)

In the account of Numbers 27, Moses is overlooking the promised land, gazing upon what he would never attain in this life. God had called him up to the heights of this mountain range, and there the Almighty, the giver of the breath of life, informed this faithful leader that he would take Moses’ breath from him. Moses’ work was coming to an end. As indispensable as he had been in leading Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness, establishing them as a nation under the law of God, he was dispensable. God was, after all, the true leader of Israel and Moses was only the human instrument in God’s hands. He would not lead them into the Promised Land; another leader would.

But rather than being fearful, upset, or even curious about his life’s end, Moses’ concern was for the people he had shepherded all these years. He wanted to make sure they had a worthy leader; one who would protect and guide the people, who would shepherd the flock so they wouldn’t be scattered, who would ensure they came into the promised fullness of God.

Over the forty years in the wilderness tending his father-in-law’s sheep, and over the past forty years tending to the people of Israel as they wandered in the Sinai wilderness, Moses had truly developed a pastor’s heart. Even in the face of his own death, he was still pastoring his people.

That is the good heart of a great leader, for in his heart, he always carries his people.

Going Deeper With God: Pray for your leaders—your boss, your president, your pastor. Ask God to give them the godly heart of a good leader.

Thin Ice: God’s Patience Has A Limit

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God has a limit, and it’s best not to push it. He has given us ways to pour out our frustrations with his methods—prayer; ways to voice our concerns about human leadership—respectful debate; ways to speak our mind over grievances—Matthew 18. But there is a point when God says, “trust me on this. I’ll handle it in my way and in my time. In the meantime, submit to your current circumstance—consider your hardship as my Fatherly discipline.” At that point, is best not to wear God’s patience thin by continuing to push your grievance!

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 17:1-5

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff.  On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe. Place them in the tent of meeting in front of the ark of the covenant law, where I meet with you. The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.”

I grew up in the era where parents still disciplined their kids for misbehavior, in a physical sort of way, if you get my drift. At least mine did! And one thing my siblings and I learned after several encounters with our father’s approach to corporal punishment was that there was a thin line of parental patience that we dare not cross. We could crowd the line—which we did, early and often—but we were wise not to step beyond it. It took several missteps, but eventually we got it. And once we did, we settled into sort of a parent-child détente, if you will. Childhood was much more pleasurable for Ken, Bill and Ray (by the time our little sister Teresa came along, she seemed to live under a different set of discipline rules than we did—boo—but that’s for later).

One of the things that the child of God learns along the way, if they are wise, that is, is not to wear God’s patience thin. Of course, God is patient, and kind. He is the gold standard of longsuffering, for which we all should continually say, “praise the Lord.” He finds no pleasure in punishing his wayward children, but as some point, like a good parent, he must punish our sins in order to teach us to live in a manner that is glorifying to him and health-giving to us. Deuteronomy 8:5 reminds us,

Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.

Numbers 17 is a continuation of the story from the previous chapter where some of the so-called leaders of the new nation of Israel are challenging the leadership authority of Moses and Aaron. In particular, Aaron seems to be the butt of their jealousy. Numbers 16:1-3 sets the scene,

Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”

What we learn in this uprising, and others like it throughout Scripture, is that the protest is not against a man, in this case, Moses or Aaron, but against God himself. You see, Moses didn’t elect himself to be the president of Israel, nor did Aaron anoint himself as the nation’s preacher. God chose them. So when the other leaders, for whatever reason, criticized the current leadership structure, they were in reality criticizing the Lord himself. They were showing disrespect and distrust of Almighty God, even if they were unware of what they were doing:

Moses said, “It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?” (Numbers 16:11)

Now to be transparent, Moses himself, had learned this very lesson the hard way. Remember when God met Moses at the burning bush and called him to lead the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt? (Exodus 3-4) Moses thought himself quite unqualified for the job, thank you very much, especially since he had already failed miserably in delivering Israel from Egypt forty years prior. But God had now come to him in a burning bush—a burning bush for crying out loud—and Moses was actually arguing with the miracle of God’s fiery presence. And after quite a few protestations, God’s patience with Moses wore dangerously thin:

But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” Then the Lord became angry with Moses. (Exodus 4:13-14)

Similarly, in Numbers 17, the other leaders who were questioning God’s choice of Aaron found the limit of God’s patience. And wisely, they backed off, which was a good thing, since God said of them, “This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” (Numbers 17:10)

The point being, God has a limit. And it is best not to push it. It is best not to make him angry. He has given us ways to pour out our concerns about his will and his ways. It is called prayer. He has given us ways to voice our concerns about human leadership. It is called respectful debate. He has given us ways to speak our mind over grievances and hurts that others have inflicted on us. It is called Matthew 18. But there is a point when God says, “trust me. I will take care of this in my way and in my time. In the meantime, submit yourself to your current circumstance—consider your hardship as my Fatherly discipline.” At that point, is best not to wear God’s patience thin by continuing to push your grievance!

It is best not to wear God’s patience thin! You do not want to cross the line from the Fatherly discipline of hardship and discomfort to Divine punishment. A wise child will figure out when that is—and learn to back away from the line in loving trust.

Going Deeper With God: Have you been pushing the limits of trust by refusing to accept the things that you cannot change, and that God has refused to change for you? Give that some thought; it is an opportunity for you to grow in patience and trust.

Submission To Spiritual Authority

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Next time you are frustrated with your spiritual leader, or are tempted to go along with someone who is criticizing them, just remember what Hebrews says: “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as those who must give an account.” So give your leader a break.

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 16:1-3, 11

One day Korah…conspired with Dathan and Abiram…they incited a rebellion against Moses, along with 250 other leaders of the community, all prominent members of the assembly. They united against Moses and Aaron and said, “You have gone too far! The whole community of Israel has been set apart by the Lord, and he is with all of us. What right do you have to act as though you are greater than the rest of the Lord’s people. …Then Moses said, “The Lord is the one you and your followers are really revolting against!”

Just as we have learned in previous chapters about complaining (Exodus 15, Leviticus 6, Numbers 14), so criticism and rebellion against a spiritual leader is tacit rebellion against God himself:

The Lord is the one you and your followers are really revolting against! …these men have shown contempt for the Lord. (Numbers 16:11, 20)

Let this be a warning to all of us who follow Christ. God has placed spiritual leaders to watch over his people. They are charged with caring for them, protecting them from predators, representing their needs to God, representing God’s will to them, and leading them to accomplish God’s mission on Planet Earth. God always works through human leaders.

It is true, as Korah and Company pointed out, the spiritual leader that God has placed over the spiritual community, big or small, is no better than the people they serve. All of God’s people have been set apart. Yes, God is with them all. Korah was right.

But Korah was wrong to assume that there was no difference between Moses and those he led. He was mistaken in thinking that just anyone could lead. He failed to understand that not all had been set apart to administrate God’s presence among his people and to ensure those people were following in the ways of God. You see, not all had been taken into God’s confidence as the representative of the people—only Moses. Not all had been given the leader’s measure of authority to use for the good of the people—only Moses. Not all had been called to surrender their lives for the well-being of the flock they lead—only Moses.

You see, God has ordained a leader to lead his flock, and that leader alone is accountable to God for the faithful execution of the duties of leadership.

So when people reject the authority of the leader by complaining, criticizing, comparing and/or creating a rebellion, God will remove his covering from that person and they will suffer the consequences. In the case of these usurpers in Numbers 16, their punishment was instantaneous death in the most dramatic fashion: the four leaders of the uprising, along with their families and everything they owned were swallowed up by the earth while the 250 prominent people who sided with them were instantly vaporized by holy fire. Never has God made such a point about his desire that we submit to spiritual authority as he did on that day.

Now God may no longer execute judgment that quickly and dramatically toward against those who criticize and rebel against the spiritual authority that he has placed over them, but make no mistake, at some point, those who rebel have set up a blockage to God’s blessing. I am not predicting what the consequences might be—sickness, financial lack, loss of influence, family rebellion—but “don’t be misled—you cannot mock God. You will always harvest what you plant.” (Galatians 6:7)

Rebel against God’s authority and you will pay a heavy price. So let me make my appeal to you: honor your leader. Hebrews 13:7 and 17 says,

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. …Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Next time you are frustrated with your spiritual leader, or are tempted to go along with someone who is criticizing them, just remember what Hebrews says: “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.”

Give your leader a break. Not only do they have to watch over their own soul, they have the impossible task of keeping you holy and presenting you perfect before Christ.

Going Deeper With God: Take a moment to express your thanks to God for the leaders he has placed over you to tend to your soul. Then take some time this week to write your leader a note expressing your love, support and gratitude.

Can God Trust Me?

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

The most important benchmark for spiritual leaders is that they have gained God’s trust. If you aspire to influence with God, and by that, influence with people, then you must make it your prayer that God will find you trustworthy. And not only in your praying, you must make it your conscious and continual effort to be a man or woman of unquestionable trust. Nothing matters more.

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 12:7-8

Of all my house, my servant Moses is the one I trust. I speak to him face to face, clearly, and not in riddles! He sees the Lord as he is. So why were you not afraid to criticize my servant Moses?

Time and again, Moses, hands down the greatest leader the world has ever known, faced challenges to his leadership. Even from within his inner circle there were people, who for a variety of reasons—all of them wrong—tried to take him down. Particularly disappointing was the uprising of his own brothers and sister against his God-given authority.

Miriam, with her brother Aaron’s support, became jealous of Moses and criticized him. God had been doing marvelous things among the Israelites, revealing his presence in ways not seen nor heard before. Most satisfying to the nation of Israel was that God was revealing himself to them as a very personal and powerful Deity. Of course, up to this point, Moses had been God’s point man. God spoke through him to the people in unheard of ways. But Moses was just one man, and the nation was exceedingly large, so God instructed Moses to expand the base of spokesmen so the word of the Lord could be spread more effectively among the two million Israelites. In Numbers 11, seventy elders of Israel were selected for that role. And even these men had gotten into the act and were prophesying as the Spirit of God came upon them. God was showing up, revealing his presence, revealing his word, revealing his power and revealing his provision.

Something else was showing us, too. Pride! Miriam and Aaron, too, had tremendous encounters with the Lord, and had been used in outstanding ways, but they wanted more. But when they saw Moses getting so much recognition from God and from the people, they were critical because, as his sister and brother, they knew he was flawed. And the perfect opportunity to bring him down a notch or two came in the form of his wife. They focused their criticism on the fact that he had married a non-Israelite woman, and used that as their justification to diminish him while seizing more recognition for themselves.

Amazingly, God stepped in to defend Moses: “Listen carefully to what I’m telling you. If there is a prophet of God among you, I make myself known to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But I don’t do it that way with my servant Moses; he has the run of my entire house; I speak to him intimately, in person, in plain talk without riddles: He ponders the very form of GodSo why did you show no reverence or respect in speaking against my servant, against Moses?” (Numbers 12:6-8, MSG)

If you are a spiritual leader, how awesome would it be that God would literally come to your defense? Would to God that he would do that today when his human leaders are under unfair criticism and flesh-inspired attack!

But what is even more powerful is God’s evaluation of Moses as he sets Miriam and Aaron straight. God acknowledges that he speaks through others prophetically, but Moses is on an altogether higher plain—God trusts him, so he speaks to him face to face; Moses received the Lord’s direct communication; Moses sees the Lord as he is.

What a testimony! And as a spiritual leader, that should be the benchmark I set for both my life and ministry—that God trusts me.

That is my prayer, that God will find me trustworthy! How about you? In whatever role of influence God has given you, whether great or small, whether others respect your leadership or you are facing challenges, make it your aim to humbly, submissively offer yourself to the One you represent, and allow him to put his divine affirmation upon your leadership.

Going Deeper With God: Do you desire to be like Moses? Try offering this prayer: “Father god, make me Moses-like in my attitude, in my service to you, and in my influence with people. Thank you for hearing my prayer and answering me when I call out to you. What a gracious, merciful and loving Father you are.”

God’s Work—Our Work

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Our work matters to God, because it reflects his DNA. God is a working God and creative God. We ought therefore to work as if we were to be saved by our works; and so rely on Jesus, as if we did no works.

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 39:42-43

So the people of Israel followed all of the Lord’s instructions to Moses. Then Moses inspected all their work. When he found it had been done just as the Lord had commanded him, he blessed them.

Thank God for work!  No—really!

When we first meet God in the Bible, he is a creating, working God. In fact, we first learn of God that he is the Creator. He takes nothing and makes it something, turning the mess into his masterpiece. Often in the creation account, we find that when God has finished a certain aspect of his work, he looked it over and upon examination, exclaimed, “that’s good.”

When God created the human couple, he declared that his work as Creator was done, and that it, too was good. In fact, he declared it to be his most impressive work: “Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” But he didn’t stop either his work or his creativity; he simply assigned it to Adam and Eve. In Genesis 1:28, God says to the couple, “Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” In other words, now you take what I’ve done to the next level. Creatively work it so that it brings honor to me.

All that to say, in our passage today, we find a parallel to the creation account in Genesis: “Moses saw that the people had done, that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded, and his summation was that it was good. How do we know that? We see that in response to their creative work, “Moses blessed them. On God’s behalf, Moses is looking it over, then saying, “it is so good.”

Among the many things that could be said in commentary on the construction of the tabernacle, one of the things we can draw from this is a theology of work. Work is what God does, and being made in his image, being assigned responsibilities of co-rulership with him, work is what he has called us to do. Work is not a necessary evil, it is at the heart of our God-infused DNA. Furthermore, we have his creativity in our DNA as well, so our work is to be done in a way that creates beauty and value, bringing honor and glory to the Creator. That is why, over in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul exhorts the Colossians believers,

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. (Colossians 3:17-24)

So whether it is managing creation on God’s behalf in Genesis, or doing God’s work in constructing a beautiful tabernacle in Exodus, or giving effort in whatever our daily life brings to us, in marriage, our family, or on the job either as an employee or an employer, God has ordained our work. So therefore,

  1. Our work is to do God’s work. In fact whatever we do is God’s work.
  2. In our work we are actually managing God’s creation for him, no matter what it is we have been assigned to do.
  3. When we do our work as God’s work, and we carry out our work in God’s way, we will never lack God’s favor and God’s provision. Like Moses did with the tabernacle workers, God will review it and reward it.

And as we approach our work in that way, whatever we do, big or small, glorious or common, we will find great joy and eternal significance in knowing we have done it as service unto the Lord Christ.

Going Deeper With God: Reevaluate your work: What you are doing is God-ordained and is an opportunity to be God-honoring. It is an opportunity for you to manage the part of creation assigned to you—at least for the time being—to add value and beauty to it, and to please the true Boss of your work.

The Radiant Face of Your Pastor

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Moses was tasked with leading a people, some of whom didn’t want to follow, others who were jealous of him, and some who just didn’t like him or his style of leading. But God gave Moses a gift to fulfill his high call: the dramatic Presence of God himself. As a result, the glory of the Lord lit up Moses’ face whenever he returned to the people from the Lord’s presence. Most pastors don’t expect something that dramatic, but they do crave God’s approval as they stand before their people. Without that, they’ve got nothing.

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 34:29-30,35

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him…they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD.

Most of the direct interaction pastors have with the people of their church is quite positive and appreciative. Those who are upset and who do not appreciate their pastor’s leadership style or his ministerial abilities don’t usually speak to the pastor directly—which is certainly the Biblical approach to handling differences—they tell other people. Pastors usually hear of it either second or third hand, or after the fact when those who are disgruntled have landed in another church.

This is, undoubtedly, the most disheartening thing that the pastor faces. Don’t let your pastor kid you: he takes it personally. (I realize your spiritual leader may be a woman, but just for the sake of discussion, let me use the masculine pronoun to refer to your pastor.) It gnaws at his insecurities, shakes his confidence in his abilities, discourages his spirit, frustrates his vision, and if all that weren’t enough, it hurts his feelings. Yes, pastors have feelings just like you. I know all of this because I am a pastor, and because I interact with enough of them to know this is true.

Is the challenge the pastor faces any different than the one Moses faced? He was tasked with leading a people, some of whom didn’t want to follow, others who were jealous of him, and some who just didn’t like him or his style of leading. But God gave Moses some special gifts to fulfill his high call: miracles, Divine interventions, the dramatic Presence of God himself, and in this case, the glory of the Lord that lit up Moses’ face whenever he would return to the people from the Lord’s presence.

Most pastors I know don’t expect something that dramatic—neither do I. But we do crave some sort of Divine aide that will indicate the Lord’s approval as we stand before our people. Our only qualification to lead is God’s anointing upon our life and ministry. Without that, we’ve got nothing.

What is interesting to note is that even though Moses had these Divine displays of affirmation on his résumé, there were still those who resisted and rejected his leadership. I guess it happens to the best of them—and I guess I, and every other spiritual leader, have to steel ourselves against the insecurities, oppositions and rejections that will assault our leadership at one time or another.

But at the end of the day, for most of the pastors I know, including me, the privilege of representing God to the people and the people to God is more than enough to make up for any slight, oversight, or personal inconvenience we may experience.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Going Deeper With God: Here is a prayer you might consider lifting up to God on behalf of your spiritual leader: “Dear Father, I am not asking for you to make my pastor’s face to glow like Moses. But Lord, it is true that my leader cannot fulfill his Divine calling to lead me and my fellow believers to the victories you have destined our church to achieve without your visible anointing and favor upon his life. So I ask that you would put your hand on him in a special way. Cleanse him that he might contain your holy favor and purify his motives that he might handle your blessing and anointing as a sacred trust. And fill him with the Moses-like enabling Presence that your people will be inspired to follow. Cause your Presence to go before him…let your hand be with him…expand his territory…bless him indeed…and cause his life to expended for your glory and honor.”