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.”

Knowing The God Who Wants To Be Known

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

To ask God that you might know him is a request that pleases his heart! After all, that is the reason he created you; that is why you exist. God himself says in Hosea 6:6, “For I desire…the knowledge of God [from you] more than burnt offerings.” That should be your chief aim in life. To know God who wants to be known is truly the sweetest nectar of life.

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 33:11

The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.

If I could choose an epitaph that described my life, it would be this: “The Lord would speak to Ray Noah face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” But is that really possible for a human being?

It was for Moses! If anyone ever really knew God, if a human being ever experienced an extraordinarily intimate revelation of God, if a man ever truly had a close personal friendship with God, it was Moses.

But Moses didn’t always have this kind of relationship with God. If you were to review Moses’ life, you would be reminded that in his first forty years, Moses knew a lot about God. He was born to Hebrew parents, but raised in the lap of luxury in the Egyptian palace as one of Pharaoh’s sons—he was a prince of Egypt. Moses knew about God through his heritage, but there is no indication of a walk with God characterized by love and obedience. In fact, it appears Moses was somewhat indifferent to God.

But then Moses tried to play God and killed an Egyptian, and he had to flee the palace to the backside of the Sinai Desert, where he lived as a fugitive for the next forty years until he met God at the burning bush. And during these four decades, Moses unlearned everything he knew about God in the first forty years. It was a desert experience—literally and spiritually—where Moses knew nothing but the silence of God. God had enrolled Moses in the University of the Desert—the Graduate School of Sinai—where he trained Moses in the curricula of solitude, monotony and failure.

But then came the burning bush, which marked the beginning of the final forty years of Moses’ life. And in this period, he came to know and experience God the way we want to know and experience him: In his power and glory. Moses, unlike any other man, experienced first hand every attribute of God a human being could possibly experience: God’s omnipotence—that he is all-powerful; his omniscience—that he is all-wise and knowing; his omnipresence—that he is everywhere at all times; his Divine nature—that is, his justice, righteousness, holiness, and incomparable greatness.

What more could a human being want? Yet that wasn’t enough. Moses didn’t just want to know about God, he wasn’t satisfied with seeing the evidence of God’s activity. He wanted more:

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so that I may know you and continue to find favor with you…Now show me your glory. (Exodus 33:13,18)

You’ve got to admire Moses’ boldness, audacity and greediness for God! Here is what he’s really asking: “God, I want to know you…your character…your nature…what makes you tick. I want to enter into the deepest dimension of intimacy with the Almighty that’s possible for one human being.”

Amazingly, God obliged this big, audacious request—he revealed himself fully to Moses. (Exodus 33:14-23) Now this doesn’t simply tell us something about Moses, it mostly reveals something vitally important about God: God wants us to know how much he wants to be known.

He has made himself knowable. He is not some unapproachable deity way out there in a galaxy far, far away. He is the God who is there, the God who is near, the God who will reveal himself to those who long to know him.

What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him. (Deuteronomy 4:7)

God wants us to know that he’s near and that he is knowable: “I will cause my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence.” (Exodus 33:19) In other words, I will let you know me.

To ask to know him is a request that pleases the heart of God! You see, that’s what we were made for: To know God. That’s what he desires from us. God himself says in Hosea 6:6, “For I desire…the knowledge of God [from you] more than burnt offerings.” And that should be our chief aim in life—to know God—because that is truly the sweetest nectar of life. Jeremiah 9:23-24 says,

This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise man gloat in his wisdom, or the mighty man in his might, or the rich man in his riches. Let them boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD who is just and righteous, whose love is unfailing, and that I delight in these things. I, the LORD, have spoken!

Knowing God is the best thing in life. In fact, it is eternal life. Jesus said in John 17:3, “This is eternal life: That they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

God has offered to let you know him—really know him. It’s the best offer you’ll ever get! I would take him up on it if I were you.

Going Deeper With God: Not only does God want to be known, God has made himself available. He doesn’t want you just to know about him, he wants you to intimately know his person. God is knowable and personable. Exodus 33:11 tells us that Moses knew God as a friend, and that he “would speak to Moses face-to-face.” Exodus 33:14 God tells Moses, “My presence will go with you…” Exodus 33:19 says that God “caused his goodness to pass in front of him and proclaimed his name in Moses’ presence.” God said he would let Moses see the after-effects of his glory in Exodus 33:22. What is God saying? “I want you to know me, and I will make myself available to you. And now you will not only know about me, you will see and experience my very nature and personhood.” That’s quite an invitation! Have you taken God up on his offer?

Not “How Could They?” but “How Could We?”

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

If even in the subtlest of ways we replace our devotion to and dependence upon God with doubts about God’s love, with dependencies on the arm of flesh and with doctrines about God that are not squared with the loving, generous, sovereign God of the Bible, we are flirting with worship of the golden calf.

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 32:1-4

When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.” So Aaron said, “Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.” All the people took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

A golden calf! Really! After all that God had just done for them! Are you kidding me? How could they?

After 400 years of slavery, God delivered His people from the thoroughly idolatrous nation of Egypt. The Egyptians had hundreds of gods, and as slaves, the Israelites had been forced to build temples for many of those idols.

The influence of Egyptian for idolatry surfaced when the Israelites insisted that Aaron build a golden calf as an object of worship while Moses was on the mountain receiving God’s commandments. Keep in mind that God had just delivered them with miracle after miracle that no other god could come close to replicating, not by thousands of miles. The God of Israel had shown himself to be the one, true, covenantly faithful God. Yet Israel abandoned him in a flash.

God was so angry with their abrupt, blatant backsliding that He wanted to wipe out the whole nation and start over with Moses. But in one of the outstanding acts of priestly intercession, Moses stood between God’s judgment and the people’s guilt to save the day. Yet Moses ordered the slaughter of those who had led the way and for those who openly participated in this gross spiritual fornication.

That is when the tribe of Levi rose up and executed 3,000 idolaters that day with the sword. God’s subsequent choice of the Levites to serve as priests may have been rooted in their response to help Moses destroy idolatry among the people. And that became one of the priest’s duties in perpetuity—then and now in the pastoral priesthood: to keep the people out of idolatry while keeping them locked into the exclusive worship of Yahweh.

Tragically, over time, after Israel became a strong nation, they again became infested with idolatry, and at times, even the Levitical priests joined the people in the worship of idols. There came the day when idolatry was even practiced in the very Temple of God.

And the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who strayed away from Me after their idols, shall bear their iniquity. Because they ministered to them before their idols and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, therefore I have raised My hand in an oath against them that they shall bear their iniquity. (Ezekiel 44:10, 12)

Now if you are like me, the question I have, in light of all that God had just orchestrated on behalf of his people—miracle after miracle—is “how could they?” Yet don’t we, too, quickly desert the worship of God to rely on other sources for our safety, provision and happiness? Think of false god after false god Israel fell for—and in a less obvious way, we fall for as well. Here are some of the gods back then, and how we subtly worship them today:

There was Dagon, who was viewed as the god of vegetation. The Philistines worshiped him as a god of provision. His help was sought to ensure a bountiful harvest. We must realize that we do not worship God primarily for the purpose of receiving his blessings. If our loyalty to him is mostly so that we can get something from him, then we are in real danger of trading our revelation of God for a concept of Dagon.

Then there was Baal, who was considered to be the son of Dagon. Baal was a chief god of the Philistines and he was considered to be unpredictable and unreliable. Most famously, Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest to see who was the true God;, and the sign of the true God would be the one who answered by fire. Elijah taunted the prophets of Baal as they beseeched their reluctant god to answer and prove himself. The prophet mocked Baal’s unpredictability and unreliability for doing only what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it—which was never. Sometimes we drift into that opinion of God, too, when he doesn’t’ answer when we want and in the way we want. That is flirting with idolatry. God is sovereign and he does as he pleases, but he also mercifully invites us to petition him through expectant, persistent prayer in trust that he is reliable and always acts on the promise of his Word in response to our asking.

There was Ashtoreth, the lone goddess of the four Philistine gods who was considered to be the spouse of Baal. She was the goddess of sex and fertility. She was identified with the Egyptian deity Isis and also with the Greco- Roman sex-deities of Aphrodite and Venus. Need I make application to our cultures infatuation with the goddess of elicit sex. Unlike Israel, we must be careful as believers not to allow our minds to become polluted with a preoccupation with sexual lust and salacious behavior.

Finally, Beelzebub was known, interestingly, as the god who creates and sustains wounds. Jesus called him the prince of demons, clearly identifying him with Satan. Beelzebub means, “the lord of the flies,” an appropriate title for the work of demons. This is a disturbing picture in the natural realm of what the disgusting devil likes to do in the spiritual realm. Just as flies are drawn to open wounds and cuts, so demons are drawn to the open wounds in our hearts. When we allow the hurts of our hearts to fester and go unhealed, we are prime targets for the demonic to work through the idolatrous attitudes of bitterness, un-forgiveness and victimization.

Maybe you think I am stretching the application of Old Testament idolatry a little too far here, but just think about it. Whenever we replace our devotion to and dependence on God, even in the most subtle or self-justifiable ways, with doubts about God’s love, with dependencies on the arm of flesh, with doctrines about God that are not squared with the loving, faithful, sovereign God of the Bible, we are flirting with worship of the golden calf. As Becky Manley Pippert said,

Whatever controls us is our lord. The person who seeks power is controlled by power. The person who seeks acceptance is controlled by acceptance. We do not control ourselves. We are controlled by the lord of our lives.

Who or what is god of your life? Make sure it is the only one and true God!

Going Deeper With God: Whenever you find yourself in response to your Bible reading saying, “how could they?”, that is a sure sign that you also need to say, “how do I?” The New Testament says, “these things happened to them as warnings to us upon who the ends of the age have fallen.” (1 Corinthians 10:6-11) In what ways might you be flirting with idolatry?

Whatever Became of the Fear of the Lord?

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Whatever became of the fear of the Lord? We have become so comfortable with sin that our fear of judgment has been lost. Punishment and consequences seem to have no governing effect. Cheap grace has made holy living a squishy concept, not the normal way of life for far too many believers. It is time we rediscover a holy fear of the Lord.

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 20:18-20

When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear. And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!” Moses answered them, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!”

I sometimes wish that God would show up like he did on Mount Sinai—peels of thunder, flashes of lightning, the whole nine yards—and just scare the bejeebers out of us. We have become so comfortable with sin that our fear of judgment have been lost. Punishment and consequences seem to have no governing effect. Cheap grace has made holy living a squishy concept, not the normal way of life for far too many believers. We have virtually no fear of the Lord and no fear of sin.

God showed up on Mount Sinai as he gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, and from the camp around the base of the mountain, the Israelites watched the fireworks with fear and dread. So great and awesome was the divine display that when Moses returned, the people pleaded with him to be their go-between with the Almighty. They had witnessed God’s unsurpassed holiness from a distance and knew they could never stand before him because, at their best, they were fundamentally unholy.

In reply, Moses said something quite interesting: “Don’t be afraid, for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!” What? Don’t fear, God is just showing you how to fear. And that fear will keep you safe.

To understand Moses’ confusing statement we need to distinguish between two types of fear:

  1. The first fear is that which comes from our sense of guilt, and the punishment it deserves. This type of fear may be a conscious awareness of unworthiness, but even if the fear is subconscious, it still has a tormenting result in our lives. This type of fear leads to all kinds of bondage, insecurity and harmful behavior to assuage it.
  2. The second kind of fear comes in the form of respect. It recognizes the complete authority of God over our lives, and his complete justification for holding people to account who violate his right to rule. This fear of the Lord is healthy, whether conscious or subconscious, and promotes an attitude of belief in, love for and complete trust of God.

Both fears can motivate righteous behavior: the first fear for a time; the second for a lifetime. The first type of fear is what the Israelites had, even though Moses had called them to the second type. Their fear at this point was short lived, for after Moses returned to the mountain for further instruction in the law, and lingered there for several days, the people’s fear abated and they did the very thing the law commanded them to eschew: they built an idol, a golden calf, and worshiped it, indulging in all kinds of wanton behavior as they did. (Exodus 32)

And as a result, the punishment they feared when Moses first came down came upon them. Their fears were justified.

So I guess wishing God would show up with peels of thunder and flashes of lightening wouldn’t be that effective after all. Apparently scaring the bejeebers out of us is short-lived, because it scares us into the wrong kind of fear.

God wants us to live in holy fear—the one that comes from a mature knowledge of his holiness and a respect for his right to lovingly rule our lives. It is that kind of fear that is the best motive for holy living—and the surest way to the blessings God longs to shower us with. That kind of fear comes not from peels of thunder and flashes of lightening, but from a surrendered heart.

Holy Spirit, lead us into a holy fear of the Lord.

Going Deeper With God: Ask the Spirit of God to reveal to you what holy fear is, and ask him to lead you into a mature, authentic experience of the fear of the Lord.

Yaweh Nissi: Our Divine Force Field

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan, as C.S. Lewis noted. That means if you’re doing God’s will, you will be attacked. But it also means that if you’re doing God’s will, you will be victorious!

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 17:8-9, 13

The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” … So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

One of the things that I quickly had to come to grips with when I entered the pastoral ministry was that there were people who didn’t like me. Yeah, I know, hard to believe! Not because I was unlikeable (not in every case, anyway), but simply because I represented something at an invisible, subconscious spiritual level within them that rubbed against the grain of their fallenness.

It was likewise helpful for me to learn that I was not alone in this experience. All pastors deal with unhappy people.  And furthermore, anyone who steps out to do God’s will get attacked. Let me say it another way:

THEY WON’T LIKE YOU!

Jesus predicted as much, didn’t he? Now we don’t need to go out of our way to tick the people of the world off, but the truth is, the world will hate us because we represent the Savior, whom they crucified. And the sooner we get over our neurotic need to be liked, we can get on with being the distinct witness God has called us to be and the world desperately needs us to be.

In the case of the Israelites, escaping Egypt by the mighty miracles of God and being led to the Promised Land by the mighty hand of God didn’t preclude enemies who would attack them early and often in their journey of faith.

In this case, the Amalekites, who lived on the northern edge of the wilderness through which Israel travelled, stood between the promise and the fulfillment for the people of God. They didn’t like Israel, for no other reason than the reason you and I will get attacked: we belong to God, and since Satan hates God, and everything of God, he attacks what is most precious to God—you and me.

As the story goes, Moses sends out a young general named Joshua to fight the enemy while Moses, aided by Aaron and Hur, stand on an overlooking hillside to lift his hands in supplication for the battle. And of course, God grants his people a stunning and overwhelming victory.

End of story. Yet there are important lessons to take away from this account. Here are a few:

  1. You will be attacked when you do God’s will. Just mark it down and don’t be surprised when it happens. If we naively assume that doing what God asks will be unimpeded, you are on the road to disheartenment. To be forewarned is to be forearmed—an important principle in the spiritual warfare you will face.
  2. You will be attacked by the people you would least expect to attack you. The Amalekites were actually distant cousins of Israel—Amalek was the grandson of Esau. They should have acted favorably toward the Israelites. They didn’t. Psalm 83:4, 7 reveals the Amalekites motives: “Come, let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.” There is some belief that these very Amalekites lived on clear down to Esther’s day when their offspring Haman was still plotting to do away with the people of God hundreds of years later. In the case of Joshua, the record of this battle was written so that he would know that the Amalekites were to be completely annihilated. (Exodus 17:14) Sounds harsh, but the point being, the kingdoms of this world will never think kindly toward the kingdom of God. Again, doing God’s will sometimes stirs unresolved issues of godship even in the lives of people who should know better.
  3. You need support in the battle. Joshua had Moses. Moses had Aaron and Hur. You need somebody, too. So do I. I cannot tell you how many times in facing attack in the ministry that God gave me an Aaron and a Hur to hold up my hands. They were life to me in that moment of attack. You were not meant to do this alone, so ask God to give you spiritual partners who will hold up your hands in those critical times.
  4. You need to record God’s faithfulness in giving you victory against attack as a testimony. Moses instructed Joshua to literally write the account down. (Exodus 17:14). Why? For among other reasons, because it will give you confidence and courage when the next attack comes. The “next” attack? Yes, there will be others. But do not be disheartened (but I am getting ahead of myself).
  5. You need to remember that God is your banner. Moses’ outstretched hands represented his appeal to God: Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, “Because hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.” (Exodus 17:15-16) When you are in God’s will and you are getting hammered for it—whether by Satanic forces from the invisible realm or Satanic inspired forces coming from real people—your appeal is to God Almighty. And he will give you victory!

Here is the deal: when you are doing God’s will, you will be attacked. When you are doing God’s will, you will be victorious!

Going Deeper With God: Are you in a battle, being attacked by someone you would least expect? Are you facing down a hostile enemy—invisible or visible? Seek our a prayer partner to hold up your hands. Believe me, if you ask, there will be people who will come to your aid.

If I Were God (And Thank God I’m Not)

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Reflect on God’s patience toward you. Think of specific ways the Almighty has endured your immaturity and griping by showing you his kindness and giving you his grace. Now, in light of that, who in your world needs the extension of your mercy and grace?

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 16:6-8

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”

If I were God, it is likely that one of two extremes would happen: I’d either wipe out the human race and create a species of robots who never questioned my authority but only obeyed quickly, unquestioningly and joyfully. Or I become a pushover, unable to muster the moral fortitude to do what was required, never get around to punishing sin, and earth would be overrun with wrongdoers doing wrong things.

Anyway, aren’t you glad that I’m not God? I sure am!

That aside, do you not find this chapter, and the many like it in Scripture, so amazing, given the patience and mercy of God? In this case, after delivering Israel by his mighty hand from Egypt with one miracle after another, and after giving them water by healing the poisoned waters at the Marah oasis (Exodus 15:22-27), the Israelites have turned right around and griped yet again about God’s lack of care for their needs.

Now actually, they are complaining about Moses, but he rightly ascribes their griping as, in reality, grumbling against God: “the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him” (the line is repeated twice, in Exodus 16:7 and 16:8) and again in Exodus 16:8, “You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.” Yet God graciously, patiently, mercifully responds to their grumbling with grace—he gives them what they don’t deserve: manna in the morning and meat at night.

If I were God, would I have been so gracious? From my perspective sitting on my loft moral perch thousands of years after the fact, no. But when I think about my own children and grandchildren, it is very likely that I would have endured the Israelites’ immaturity and offered grace in order to bring them to growth in their character. Paul talks of this kind of radical patience with a redemptive purpose in Romans 2:4,

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

Again, I am glad I am not God, and that God is God. Neither you nor I would be around if the equation were changed and I were put in charge. But thank God for his grace, mercy, patience and loving-kindness to us. As King David wrote in Psalm 103:13-14,

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

In light of that, I think there are a least three critical takeaways that we should consider:

  1. We must remember that grumbling ultimately is grumbling against God. So, let’s not—ever!
  2. We should be grateful that God overlooks our immature for a while. So let’s grow up—fast!
  3. Given God’s undeserved patience and unmerited grace toward ingrates like us, how much more tolerant should we be in enduring those who test our patience. So, let’s chill—with everyone!

There is a Hebrew tradition that Abraham was sitting by his tent when he saw a weary, old man walking his way. Abraham rushed out to greet him and invited him into his tent. He washed his feet and gave him food and drink. The old man immediately began eating without saying a blessing, so Abraham asked him, “Don’t you worship God?”

He replied, “I worship fire only and reverence no other god.” Abraham was indignant, and grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out his tent into the cold night. After the old man was gone, God called out to Abraham and asked where the stranger was. Abraham replied, “I forced him out because he did not worship you.”

God answered, “Abraham, I have suffered him these eighty-three years, although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night?”

We who have been the recipients of the patience of God, how can we do no less than to allow the patience of God to liberally be extended to others through our lives?

Thank God for his extreme patience. And yes, thank God I am not in his place!

Going Deeper With God: Reflect on God’s patience toward you. Think of specific ways the Almighty has endured your immaturity and griping. Now, in your world, who is it that needs the extension of your mercy and grace?

So You Want A Testimony?

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

So you want a testimony, do you? I do too! But are you willing to go through the circumstances that precede the testimony? Are you willing to have your back against the wall, to know that unless God comes through you’ll go down in flames, to despair even of life? Those are the conditions out of which great testimonies are born.

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 14:10-11

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?”

So you want a testimony, do you? I do too! But are you willing to go through the circumstances that precede the testimony? Are you willing to have your back against the wall, to know that unless God comes through you’ll go down in flames, to despair even of life? Those are the conditions out of which great testimonies are born.

Joseph had to spend some time in the pit before God lifted him up as the “prince” of Egypt—next to Pharaoh, second most powerful figure in all of Egypt. David had to actually go out onto the battlefield and stand before Goliath before he became a giant-slayer. Daniel had to literally get tossed into a den full of protein-loving lions for the angel of the Lord to come and clamp their canines. Paul had to cruise into the midst of a deadly storm in order to survive an otherwise deadly shipwreck. Jesus had to go through the ordeal of the cross in order to overcome the grave.

You get the point, don’t you? Sadly, too many Christians don’t! They want the testimony without the trial. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. You cannot separate the crown from the cross. In the Christian faith, the road to glory is along the path of suffering. Now I realize that is not the greatest slogan for a recruitment campaign, but it’s true. Not because God is some kind of celestial masochist, but the reality is this present world is under the dominion of sin. And the Bible clearly warns that it takes warfare to bring it back and put it under the dominion of its rightful Ruler—and along the way, soldiers will get wounded.

No, it’s not a great campaign pitch, but there is no testimony without a trial. The Bible clearly promises that the path to the crown is by way of the cross. However, it also promises that whatever discomfort, discouragement and pain Christians experience for the sake of their faith will pale in comparison to the story they receive and the glory God receives.

The children of Israel desperately wanted God to deliver them from their bondage in Egypt, but they complained bitterly when it caused them discomfort. On more than one occasion they whined at Moses and complained about God because they weren’t consulted about the Divine deliverance plan.

Now God graciously put up with their moaning, but he came really close to losing his cool on occasion. Ultimately God delivered them, in spite of their bellyaching, and they ended up with a terrific testimony, but they were forever tagged with the whiner label.

Here’s the deal: Don’t be that way! If you want a testimony—and I think you do—trust God to bring it to you in anyway he sees fit. Just trust, don’t complain—even with the not-so-pleasant stuff that precedes the testimony. Later on, whatever discomfort, discouragement and pain you experienced will pale in comparison to the story you end up with—and the glory that goes to God.

Going Deeper With God: Offer thanks to God for every difficult, disappointment and delay you can think of that he has allowed in your life. Why? Because in his love for you, his grace and wisdom has morphed those very trials to shape you for greater things and eternal usefulness.