We Have One Job and One Job Only: Make Jesus Famous

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Never in the history of Christianity have we had so many famous pastors—and those wanting to become famous—as we do now. But the true spiritual leader, the one with whom God is pleased, has one job and one job only: to make Jesus famous! And if Jesus wants to make the leader famous, well, that is Jesus’ business.

Going Deep // Focus: Joshua 6:27

So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.

With the advent of television—and all the media technologies that followed—came the rise of the celebrity preacher. Never in the history of Christianity have we had so many famous pastors—and those wanting to become famous—as we do now. If you’re a spiritual leader and you aren’t hawking several books you have authored, beaming your mug to adoring congregants in a muli-site campus, tweeting to your six figure Twitter followers and getting quoted by the media on the issue du jour, you ain’t all that much.

Of course, media technologies now allow us to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world in unprecedented ways—and that is a great thing. But inherent in this ability to communicate to the masses is the danger of showcasing ourselves. The god of fame is lurking; the seduction of celebrity has never being stronger in the Christian world than it is right now—and that’s not a great thing!

The true spiritual leader, the one with whom God is well pleased, has one job and one job only: to make Jesus famous! And if Jesus wants to make the leader famous, well, that is Jesus’ business. Joshua was a leader that God decided to make famous. Joshua 2:7 and 4:14 says,

The Lord told Joshua, “Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites. They will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses.” …That day the Lord made Joshua a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites, and for the rest of his life they revered him as much as they had revered Moses.

And of course, our featured verse today says, “God was with Joshua. He became famous all over the land.” (The Message) How refreshing! In today’s culture of celebrity where leaders do everything they can to make themselves famous, here is a guy who didn’t have to. God did it. And there is no better PR firm that the Holy Trinity!

What makes a leader great and opens the door to his or her fame? Some would say charisma is the key. Others might say it’s a combination of skill, intellect and the ability to inspire others to accomplish a compelling mission. Then there are those who would argue that not only are charisma and persuasion necessary, but it’s also a matter of being the right person in the right place at the right time.

I wouldn’t argue with any of those ideas. But above all else I would argue that what makes a leader a great and fame-worthy leader is simply God’s touch upon his or her life. Where God makes a man or woman great in the eyes of the people, there you have the makings of a leader who is one for the ages. Joshua was just such a leader.

In Joshua, you find true success! Not that he leveraged his considerable talents, sharp intellect, political capital and magnanimous personality to lead the people to victory, but that God made him great in the eyes of the people. Never did Joshua take any credit for himself in the victories and miracles that God performed. As Moses had been a humble leader, so too was Joshua. Like his predecessor, he was a true servant of God and of the Israelites. He served at God’s pleasure and recognized that his success came only by God’s power and grace. And it was God who made Joshua great before all Israel.

That’s the kind of leader I want to be. I want to be a great leader because of the touch of God on my life; because of the work that he does in, for and through me. If there is anything that makes me worth following, may it be because of what God has done. What I do through my own gifts, personality and personal determination will, at best, quickly fade. But what God does through me will last for all eternity, and best of all, bring all the glory to the God who has equipped me to lead.

What about you? Do you desire to be a leader—a person of influence in your home, school, business or some other arena? You might feel unqualified and unworthy. Part of you may want to let someone else to lead; someone more qualified, smarter, holier, better than you. But it could be that God has placed in you the kinds of gifts, talents, brainpower and favor that he wants to use in leading people to extend his Kingdom in this world.

If God is calling you to leadership, submit your life to him. Then, if he chooses, let God make you great in the eyes of those you would lead.

Going Deeper With God: When you evaluate the spiritual leader whom God has placed over your life, make sure this is the chief indicator of their greatness: their consuming passion is to make Jesus famous. If it isn’t, seriously pray for that leader. If it is, thank God for them, and do everything you can to affirm their leadership.

The Making of a Leader

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

What a makes a leader great? Some would say charisma is the key. Others might say it’s a combination of skill, intellect and the ability to inspire others to accomplish the mission. Then there are those who would argue that not only are charisma and persuasion necessary, but it’s a matter of also being the right person in the right place at the right time. I wouldn’t argue with any of those ideas. But first and foremost I would argue that what makes a leader a great leader is simply God’s touch upon his or her life.

Going Deep // Focus: Joshua 4:14

That day the Lord made Joshua a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites, and for the rest of his life they revered him as much as they had revered Moses. ”

What a makes a leader great? Some would say charisma is the key. Others might say it’s a combination of skill, intellect and the ability to inspire others to accomplish the mission. Then there are those who would argue that not only are charisma and persuasion necessary, but it’s a matter of also being the right person in the right place at the right time.

I wouldn’t argue with any of those ideas. But first and foremost I would argue that what makes a leader a great leader is simply God’s touch upon his or her life. Or at least that’s what should be the defining factor in great leadership. Where God makes a man or woman great in the eyes of the people, there you have the makings of a leader who is one for the ages. Joshua was just such a leader.

In Joshua, you find true success! Not that he leveraged his considerable talents, sharp intellect, political capital and magnanimous personality to lead the people to victory, but that God made him great in the eyes of the people. Never did Joshua take any credit for himself in the victories and miracles that God performed. As Moses had been a humble leader, so too was Joshua. Like his predecessor, he was a true servant of God and priestly guide of the Israelites. He served at God’s pleasure and recognized that his success came only by God’s power and grace. And God made Joshua great before all Israel. Notice the backstory to the verse I selected for today’s reading; here is Joshua 2:7 in combination with Joshua 4:14:

The Lord told Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites. They will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses’…. That day the Lord made Joshua a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites, and for the rest of his life they revered him as much as they had revered Moses.

That’s the kind of leader I want to be. I want to be a great leader because of God’s touch on my life; because of the work that he does in, for and through me. If there is anything that makes me worth following, may it be because of what God has done. What I do through my own gifts, personality and personal determination will, at best, quickly fade. But what God does through me will last for all eternity, and best of all, bring all the glory to the God who has equipped me to lead.

What about you? Do you desire to be a leader? You might feel unqualified and unworthy. Part of you may want to let someone else lead; someone more qualified, smarter, holier, better than you. But it could be that God has placed in you the kinds of gifts, talents, brainpower and favor that he wants to use in leading people to extend his Kingdom in this world.

If God is calling you to leadership, submit your life to him. Then let God make you great in the eyes of those you would lead.

Going Deeper With God: When you think of the advancement of God’s kingdom over the millennia, it is amazing how many times this saying has been true of its leaders: “God didn’t call the qualified, He qualified the called.” Maybe he is wanting to qualify you—he is still looking for a few good men…and women!

Let Go of the Past

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

We ought to learn from the past, both our mistakes and successes, but our focus needs to be on the future. As Christ followers, we are always standing at the edge of new opportunities that God has set before us, and the thing that will keep us from possessing our Promised Land is not menaces in front of us but memories of what is behind us, both good and bad. We’ve got to let go of the past and grab hold the future!

Going Deep // Focus: Joshua 1:1-2

After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them.

Sarah Ban Breathnach offers sage advice for living in victory each and every day of our lives: “You’ve got to make a conscious choice every day to shed the old—whatever ‘the old’ means for you.”

Think for a minute about the very first thing God said to Joshua after the death of Moses: “Moses is dead!” Obviously! Do you think Joshua didn’t know that? Joshua knew pretty much everything about Moses; he had been Moses’ right hand man for most of the forty years the Israelites had wandered through the desert. In passing the leadership baton, Moses had just laid hands on Joshua and commissioned him to lead the people into the Promised Land in Moses’ place. Joshua was well aware that God had just taken Moses up the mountain to take his breath away for the final time. Obviously Joshua knew Moses was dead.

So there is something more going on here than meets the eye. God isn’t revealing new information to Joshua. Rather, what he is telling him is that he is going to do a new work in a new way with a new person. In other words, Joshua needs to bury the past and get on with the future—starting now. In other words, “shed the old.” As someone has wisely pointed out, you cannot set sail for new horizons in your life if you are still tethered to the shore. You’ve got to let go of the past!

That means a couple of things: one, don’t lean on past successes, and two, don’t limit yourself by past failures. Don’t get stuck in the past—either good or bad! Moses represented both: unequaled successes in bringing Israel out of Egypt and unmitigated failure to get Israel into the Promised Land. I suspect that Joshua could have thought, “If Moses, the great leader of all time, couldn’t get the job done, what makes anyone think I can be successful?” So God says, “Hey Joshua, Moses is dead. Let it go. Don’t get caught up in the past; catch a new vision for what is ahead—I’m going to do a new thing in a new way through you.”

The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4: “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ… Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (4:7,13-14) Shed the past; let it go. Catch a vision for the future and move resolutely toward it.

That is a good word for you and me. We ought to learn from the past, both mistakes and successes, but our focus needs to be on the future. We are standing at the edge of new opportunities that God has set before us, our Promised Land, and the thing that will keep us from attaining them are not menaces in front of us but our memories of the past, both good and bad.

What is it from your past that you need to let go of? Perhaps you are resting on your laurels from some past accomplishment, and you are thinking, “that’s good enough for today!” Maybe you are relying on a spiritual experience from years ago, but honestly, you have never moved on from it into a deeper dimension with God. Don’t make the mistake of assuming a good start ensures finishing well. On the other hand, maybe you are entangled from the guilt, fear and condemnation of sin. Maybe a failure last year, a mistake that you made years ago, keeps you in bondage emotionally, relationally, or spiritually.

Hebrews 12 talks about the weights and sins that so easily beset us in our life’s race. So identify whatever it is that is holding you back from running a great race, good or bad, and declare it over, Moses is dead! In Joshua 1:11, Joshua says these words to the Israelites that I would encourage you to personalize, and say to over your past before you take another step: “I will cross my Jordan right here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord my God is giving me for my own.”

Let go of your past. Remember, you cannot set sail for new horizons if you are still tethered to the shore of yesterday. Today, God is going to do a new thing in a new way with a new person—you. So be strong and courageous, for your God will be with you each step of the way. (Joshua 1:9)

Going Deeper With God: Make a list of the mistakes and victories in your life from this past year. Then put an “X” through them and write over them, “Moses is dead!” Carry that list with you and look at it through the day today.

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.