Let Cooler Heads Prevail

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God created us with a high capacity for passion, and that’s a wonderful thing. Much of the good that has been accomplished in the world began in passion. But while passion is a powerful spring, it’s a horrible regulator, and when it’s untempered, can do much harm. So how do you temper your passion? Internal and external controls—develop the fruit of self-control, but also give cool-headed friends access to the kill switch of your passion for those moments when your self-control get wobbly.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 25:10-13

“Who is this fellow David?” Nabal sneered to the young men. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters. Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?” So David’s young men returned and told him what Nabal had said. “Get your swords!” was David’s reply as he strapped on his own. Then 400 men started off with David to kill Nabal.

David heart was on fire with passion for God—he was characteristically a man after God’s own heart. But at times, David’s heart was on fire with passion for other things, too. That got David into trouble on more than one occasion. 1 Samuel 25 is one of those occasions.

Nabal, a man whose name meant “fool,” foolishly refused to share provision with David and his men. David had politely requested it, and it would have been customary for Nabal to graciously grant such a request since David’s small army had afforded Nabal and his ranching operation protection from thieves and marauders that harassed the locals. Not only did Nabal refuse, he insulted David to the men who had made the request. When they reported back to David what this fool had said, David’s knee-jerk response was, “strap ‘em on boys, we going to make Nabal pay up—with his life.”

Now it just so happened that this brutish man, Nabal, had a lovely and wise wife, Abigail. Sensing the looming disaster, she skillfully intervenes—intercedes really—with David and averts the death of her husband and destruction of all that he owned. However, when Nabal found out what his wife had done, rather than react with gratitude, he went into such a rage that he had a stroke or a heart attack, or something really bad, and died!

Among the many streams of life application from which we might drink in this story, the one I want to call to you attention is David’s unregulated passion. Let it stand as a warning to us that when we let anger rule our emotions, we are in danger of allowing it to ruin our lives. Anger almost ruined David’s life on this occasion—had he followed through on it, he would have been guilty of murder.

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said that passion is a powerful spring, but a bad regulator. It will get you motivated, but don’t depend on it to manage you. David’s passion got away from him—he let it regulate his emotions—and it led him to the brink of doing something really dumb.

Which, by the way, I think, is why we love David so much—he was so thoroughly human. In David, we don’t get the polished ideal to which we aspire but never attain, we get a rough-edged reality in a meandering journey of spiritual transformation. And we can relate to a guy like that. You’ve got to love a guy who’s capable of unmitigated dumbness. But you certainly don’t want to follow his dumb ways. In this moment, David was full of passion but empty of God—in an instant, he’s become a fool. He was on the verge of becoming Saul.

And that is where Abigail comes in. She steps in and puts David in touch again with the beauty of God as David had done for Saul in the cave (1 Samuel 24:16-21). Through Abigail, David realized who he was, he recognized what he was about to do, and he remembered what his life was destined for. Thankfully, on that day, cooler heads prevailed.

God created us with a high capacity for passion, and that is a wonderful thing. Much of the good that has been accomplished in the world began in passion. But, as Emerson noted, while passion is a powerful spring, it is a horrible regulator, and when it is untempered, can do much harm. How do we temper our passion? Internal and external controls—we must develop the fruit of self-control internally then empower cool-headed friends externally and give them access to the kill switch of passion.

Make sure to cultivate a cool head. But on the occasion when emotions get the best of you and you shift into hothead, make sure you check in with your Abigail.
Without exception and at all times, let cooler heads prevail.

Going Deeper With God: Who is your “Abigail?” Believe, you need one, and so do I!

Recipe For Revival

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Much is said in the spiritual community about revival—a longing to return to a sustained space of divine favor and uncommon blessing—yet little of revival is ever experienced. Why is that, and is it even possible in our day to have revival? The reasons we don’t and the reasons we still can are the same. There are conditions that must be met to live in the revival zone. Over and again in scripture we are told that it is nothing less than wholehearted devotion, authentic repentance and an organic pursuit of holiness that releases the mighty hand of God.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 7:1-4

So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord. They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord. The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all. Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord. So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.

Finally! We traveled through a nearly 400 year cycle of backsliding, subjugation, repentance and rival during the period of the Judges, and it has been a consistently depressing journey with only brief sunbreaks of spiritual awakening for the most part. Now, however, the prophet Samuel bursts onto the scene and catches Israel at a time of willingness to once again turn their hearts to the Lord.

Samuel will lead Israel as its last and greatest judge for at least a decade. His righteous administration wouldn’t be the longest of the judges, by far, but he would usher in a period of deep and abiding righteousness that he would faithfully pass on to Israel’s first king, a promising young man named Saul. When Saul’s leadership eventually went off the rails, Samuel was still there to steer the brightest star in Israel’s history to the throne, David, the man after God’s own heart. Samuel’s righteous influence cast a large and indelible shadow in Israel’s history.

This chapter is most instructive as Samuel laid out the conditions for national revival. Israel suffered under their pesky bully of a neighbor, the Philistines, until they finally came to their good senses and humbly returned to the Lord. And the Lord welcomed them back—and he would bless them with freedom, joy and prosperity over the course of the next century. 1 Samuel 7:10-12 highlights just one of the many victories that Israel would experience during this golden period—a stunning win over the Philistines where the Lord himself actually took up their fight:

But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

“Thus far the Lord has helped us.” That was a prophetic description of life for Israel under godly leadership like Samuel’s. It likewise prophetically described what the nation would experience through the kingly reigns of Saul, David and Solomon—this would be a time of military, economic and spiritual expansion for Israel. Moreover, it is a prophetic description of what will be true for God’s people of any time and place when they, too, return to the Lord and live in the revival zone.

The revival zone—what in the world is that? Samuel was very clear to explain what it would take to get into and stay in that blessable space:

  • Wholeheartedness: “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts…” Samuel was not referring to just a sense of remorse, but deep repentance and godly sorrow that God’s people needed to offer if they wanted to come back under his sustained favor.
  • Sanctification: “then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths…” Repentance meant a change of mind and heart—a 180 degree turn from evil to pursue what was righteous. It required them to cast off their ungodly practices and dependencies to follow hard after holiness.
  • Service: “commit yourselves to the Lord…” It was not just about what they were no longer to do (worship idols), but what they were now going to do (actively serve God’s purposes).
  • Devotion: “and serve him only.” This was not to be just a partial return, but a full surrender to the rule of God over their lives individually and collectively.

Then Samuel adds that when those conditions of revival are met, God’s favor will ensue: “He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” We are told that the Israelites did just that, “they repented and served the Lord only.” And the Lord did what he had promised:

So the Philistines were subdued and didn’t invade Israel again for some time. And throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the Lord’s powerful hand was raised against the Philistines. (1 Samuel 7:13)

This marked a turning point for Israel. During the time of the judges, God had also delivered Israel, but they always turned back to their sinful ways once the thrill of the victory had faded. And each time, God would again allow their enemies to subdue them. Not this time; there would be no backsliding. That is why Samuel set up a stone between Mizpah and Jeshanah and called the stone, “Ebenezer”- the stone of help. (1 Samuel 7:12) Each time the Israelites passed this marker, they would remember the joy and freedom of God’s favor. As they passed their Ebenzer, it would be a visual reminder that the conditions of living under God’s mighty hand of blessing required of them wholeheartedness, sanctification, service and devotion.

God still longs for his people to live in the revival zone—that space of uncommon blessing and divine favor. Maybe we need to set up Ebenezer of our own, because those same conditions that Samuel gave will invite God’s uncommon favor into our lives, too!

Going Deeper With God: Do you have an Ebenezer stone that reminds you of the spiritual conditions that invite revival in your personal life or in your church? Think through what would help you to daily remember how you are to live before God.

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.”

Romanticizing The Past

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

In a very real sense, sin is an attempt to fill the emptiness in our lives with the things that God will ultimately provide, but doing so apart from waiting and trusting through faith for him to give them in his way and in his time. The scary thing is, when we stubbornly persist in our fleshly attempts to satisfy the empty part of our soul, God may actually give us what we crave—but allow an even deeper emptiness within. We must be careful what we ask for, and rather learn to seek only what he desires to give.

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 11:4-6

The foreign rabble within the Israelite community began to crave other food, and again the children of Israel started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

The children of Israel were a couple of years into their wilderness experience, and God was developing their faith by testing their trust. And on several occasions, the people failed the test. This was just such an occasion. The “rabble” among them—likely a non-Israelite group that followed them out of Egypt, for whatever reason—were a constant source of trouble. In this case, they influenced God’s people to complain about his provision by romanticizing “all the wonderful provisions” they so enjoyed back in Egypt. Of course, they wouldn’t have left Egypt if those were truly the good old days. But undisciplined desires began to taint their memories, and they started longing for a return to the “pleasures” of Egypt, which of course, were sinful pleasures.

Is sin pleasurable? You bet it is—that’s why it works so well. Hebrews 11 refers to this very thing: “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebrews 11:24-26)

To be sure, sin is attractive. There is a certain “value in its treasures”, as we see in the case of Moses’ rejection of sin’s seasonal satisfaction. There is an enjoyment of the “pleasures of sin for a season”: the buzz from that alcoholic drink, the high from that illicit drug, the thrill of crossing that sexual boundary, the emotional release of that angry, hurtful tirade, the general freedom of that life controlled by sinful desires rather than by the Holy Spirit. Yes, there is pleasure in sin—for a season.

But seasons end and sinful pleasures are fleeting: they are short-lived, and they are progressively destructive to everything that God intends for us: a healthy body, harmonious relationships, and a holy life. And sinful pleasures dull our sense of reality—we begin to romanticize what we once had. In that sense, when we long for the good old days where sin reigned in our lives, we need to snap ourselves back into reality and admit that the good old days weren’t actually that good; in truth, they were the bad old days. Listen to how author Larry Osborn talks about this very thing:

Almost every generation looks back and wonders what happened to the “good old days.” It’s human nature. The evils of the past tend to fade from memory, while the injustices and evils of the present stand out in bold relief. Perhaps that is why Solomon wrote, “Do not say ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10)

Whenever we are tempted to ask, “why were the old days better than these?”, that should be a red alert that we need to do as Moses did and compare the short-lived benefits of sin with the long-term reward of trusting God. When we fail to trust in God’s promise to fully meet our needs and satisfy our desires, we will end up romanticizing the past’s sketchy track record of fully pleasuring our heart’s desire. The things we once depended on for satisfaction and security, the pleasurable sensations that money or power or attention or relationships or possessions or food or sex produces, apart from God, are what C.S. Lewis referred to as the “sweet poison of the false infinite.” These are what we might call substitute sacreds—the surrogates we desperately use to fill the emptiness of our dissatisfied lives.

In reality, however, no substitute sacred ever fulfills what it so brazenly promises. Only the one true Sacred can do that! St. Augustine said, “Sin comes when we take a perfectly natural desire or longing or ambition and try desperately to fulfill it without God…All these good things, and all our security, are rightly found only and completely in him.” God longs for us to come trustingly to him with our needy souls so he can graciously and abundantly and unendingly satisfy our deepest longings and most powerful passions—in his way and in his time. As Augustine said, God has created us for himself, and we will only find satisfaction when we find our satisfaction in him.

In a very real sense, sin is an attempt to fill the emptiness in our lives with the things that God will ultimately provide, but doing so apart from waiting and trusting through faith for him to give them in his way and in his time. The scary thing is, when we stubbornly persist in our self-centered attempts to satisfy the empty part of our soul, God may actually give us what we crave—but allow an even deeper emptiness within. Psalm 106:13-15 offers this sad and sobering commentary on our undisciplined desires:

The children of Israel soon forgot God’s works;
They did not wait for His counsel,
But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness,
And tested God in the desert.
So He gave them their request,
But sent leanness into their soul.

To get what we want, yet end up with leanness in our souls—what a sad possibility. Let the Israelites in Numbers 11 be a continual cautionary tale that we must be careful what we ask for. Rather, we must learn to seek only what God desires to give and be grateful for what he has already graciously provided.

Going Deeper With God: Read and reflect on Psalm 106, then do two things: First repent of your fleshly desires and cry out to God to lead you not into temptation. Second, practice gratitude for what you’ve got. Doing that will cause you to focus on the rewards of following God and reject the false infinites of what you left behind in your life of sin.

Pray Bigly!

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Why not pray audacious prayers for victory! Why not shout—yes shout, that’s what Moses did—shout out your prayer as you open the front door: “Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered! Let them flee before you!” It might freak your neighbors out a bit, but if it came down to it, I would rather have God’s favor going ahead of me into my day that than my neighbors’ approval.

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 10:33-36

The Israelites marched for three days after leaving the mountain of the Lord, with the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant moving ahead of them to show them where to stop and rest. As they moved on each day, the cloud of the Lord hovered over them. And whenever the Ark set out, Moses would shout, “Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered! Let them flee before you!” And when the Ark was set down, he would say, “Return, O Lord, to the countless thousands of Israel!”

Should we pray each day for protection and victory? Do we need to daily ask God to watch over our children, our work, our homes? Should we be bothering him to give us success in what is out in front of us as we leave the house? Doesn’t God already know what we need; doesn’t he already have us covered?

My response to that is, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Besides, Jesus taught us to pray, “keep us from the evil one.” It seems that the Lord’s Prayer Jesus urged us to pray had a sense of dailyness to it: “Give us today our daily bread.”

These kinds of prayers for protection and victory aren’t so much to remind a God who may have forgotten about us. He never forgets. How could he? We are his own special people. Isaiah captured the Lord’s tender watchfulness over our lives when he said, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne. Though she may forget, I will not forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hand.” (Isaiah 49:15) No, these kinds of prayer are not to shake God out of his lapse of memory, it is to remind us that he has us continually covered. They are to bring us back to a daily acknowledgement of our utter but joyful dependence on him for provision, protection and victory.

So I say why not pray these audacious prayers for victory! Why not shout—yes shout, that’s what Moses did—shout out your prayer as you open the front door: “Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered! Let them flee before you!” It might freak your neighbors out a bit, but if it came down to it, I would rather have God’s favor going ahead of me into my day than my neighbors’ approval. And at day’s end, why not offer a prayer before your family wraps up and heads to sleep, “Return, O Lord, to the people in this house!”

Some think these kinds of prayers are pointless, even showing a lack of trust in a God who already knows. Others say when we pray prayers like this, we are using prayer like a magic charm to gain the favor of the gods. I disagree. Scripture would lean less toward those opinions than the one expressed by author and pastor Mark Batterson. Let me offer some insights from his book, The Circle Maker,

Each prayer is like a seed that gets planted in the ground. It disappears for a season, but it eventually bears fruit that blesses future generations. In fact, our prayers bear fruit forever.

God won’t answer 100 percent of the prayers we don’t pray.

Why do we mistakenly think that God is offended by our prayers for the impossible? The truth is that God is offended by anything less! God is offended when we ask Him to do things we can do ourselves. It’s the impossible prayers that honor God because they reveal our faith and allow God to reveal His glory.

God won’t answer 100 percent of the prayers you don’t pray. If that is true, I say why not ask, and ask bigly! Ask him daily, and nightly, for protection and victory and anything else you have in mind. God can handle even the prayers that are kind of ridiculous. He doesn’t get offended by your praying. In fact, my guess is, since he is your Father, that he likes it when you as his child believe enough in his generosity that you are willing to ask early and often for anything that is on your heart.

Going Deeper With God: Pray about everything—big, small, medium. Take it to God. Be audacious in praying. It both honors God and pleases his heart because it reveals your trust in his goodness and generosity.

Obliterating Sin

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

“Making them right with the Lord!” What a power-packed phrase, wouldn’t you say! This is the great effort of God and that is the great need of man. And through God’s initiative, both through the Levitical system of sacrifice and the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice of his Son and our Savior, that has been made possible.

Going Deep // Focus: Leviticus 4:20

By this sacrifice for sin, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven.

“Making them right with the Lord!” So much is packed into that phrase, wouldn’t you say! That is the great effort of God and that is the great need of man. And through God’s initiative, both through the Levitical system of sacrifice and the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice of his Son and our Savior, that has been made possible.

You see, sin, that which makes us un-right with God, is number one the problem of the human race! All other problems stem from this. Both our acts of sin and our Adamic sinfulness separate us from our Creator and Provider. God is pure and cannot tolerate impurity. Nor can he bless the impure. And because God is not only holy, but also just, his justice demands punishment for sin—our sin. And the only proper punishment for sin that can satisfy an utterly holy God is death for the sinner.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. …The wages of sin is death… But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.” (Romans 3:23, 6:23a, Exodus 34:7)

Houston, we have a problem! We are sinful and can do nothing to change that; God is holy, and cannot tolerate sin. Death to the sinner!

But God, who is rich in mercy and ceaseless in grace, has provided a way of escape for the sinner. Under the Old covenant, a sacrificial system was established that transferred the guilt of the guilty onto the sacrifice and thus absolved God’s righteous anger. Throughout the Old Testament this plan is made plain, and specifically in Leviticus 4 and 5, the phrase is repeated: offer sacrifice for sin…making them pure…they will be forgiven.

But, thank God, our Holy Creator went a step further and established a new and better covenant with his people: He sent the perfect sacrifice, his one and only Son, to be the sacrifice for our sins. And the offering up us Jesus on the cross as the atonement for our sin not only satisfied God’s righteous wrath and absolved the guilt for our sins, but the blood of his sacrifice obliterated our guilty standing before God created and perpetuated by our Adamic sinfulness. And best of all, his death was the once-for-all sacrifice to end all sin offerings—we don’t have to offer it over and over again.

And the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all. … Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. …the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus our Lord. (Isaiah 53:6, 1 Peter 3:18, Romans 6:23b)

Hallelujah! Once cleansed, the blood of Jesus keeps on cleansing us from all unrighteousness:

But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:7-9)

What a God, who made a way in the Old Covenant for his people to be made right with him, at least temporarily, until the time for the permanent, perfect offering of his Son, our wonderful, merciful Savior, who offered himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for our sin.

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-2)

Blessed indeed! We have been made right with God.

Going Deeper With God: As you consider that your sin is permanently covered by Christ’s sacrifice, you may want to make this prayer your prayer: “Holy God, I thank you for Jesus, by whose sacrifice I can call you ‘Dear Father.’ By his death, I am pure and brought near to you. My sins are forgiven—all my sinful past is erased, my guilt from today is removed, my future failures have already been taken care of, my mistakes are redeemed for the glory of God. I am made right with you. How loved I am how blessed I am! I am forever grateful.”

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.”