Tag Archives: Moses

Are you sure that’s what you really want?

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I don’t think any of us really understand what we are asking for when we say we want more of God in our lives.

Photo credit: kevin dooley / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: kevin dooley / Foter / CC BY

Does that mean you want more miracles?  Then you will find your back against the wall more often.  You will be desperate for help more frequently.  You will face your own inadequacies over and over again.  You will face brick walls and impossible, impassable, unsolvable problems.  You will be drained of your resources over and over again until you have absolutely nothing to brag about in your own strength.  Is that what you meant?

Does it mean that you want God to speak to you more?  Then you will be forced to listen more intently.  And once you hear, you will be compelled to obey like never before.  So really, how MUCH more do you want to hear?  Is once a day enough?  Or once an hour, a month, a year?  What do you really want?  The Children of Israel saw the holy fire and cloud descending on Mount Sinai as it shook with divine power.  They heard the thundering voice of God and pleaded with Moses to ask God to stop speaking to them because they couldn’t handle it.  It was terrifying.  So what if God DID speak to you in an audible voice, would you be able to handle it?

Does it mean you want God to take control of your life?  Do you mean take control of every day decisions or just something vague like your destiny?  If you give up control, well… then you give up control.  Is that what you really want or do you expect to keep little corners of your life well within your grasp?  What if God does something with your life that you don’t like.  Will you want to take back the keys and drive yourself again?  What if God drives your life into an unhappy place.  Will you determine that you must be “out of God’s will” because you are uncomfortable and no longer FEEL what you expected to feel?

Photo credit: VinothChandar / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: VinothChandar / Foter / CC BY

Does it mean that you expect prosperity and happiness?  Because if you read about the prophets of the Old Testament who clearly had a direct line to God’s voice, they were some of the most miserable people of their day. No one ASKED to become a prophet.  Not many people even LIKED the prophets.  Think about Jeremiah, the weeping prophet who was stuck in the mud in the bottom of an old well when his beloved Jerusalem was sacked.  Have you read about crazy Ezekiel who was made into a human object lesson when God told him to lay on his left side for 390 days and on his right side for 40 days, and to cook his food over human excrement in order to demonstrate the siege of Jerusalem?  I’m sure he wasn’t happy about that.  Then there’s Elijah, the manic-depressive enemy of an evil King and Queen who was fed by ravens.  Or perhaps consider John the Baptist, clothed in scratchy hair shirts dipping his locusts in wild honey.  Is that what you had in mind when you asked for more of God in your life?  Yet these men had more of God than anyone I know now days.

More of God means less and less of you.  Less of your dreams being fulfilled.  Less of your money being at your own personal disposal.  Less of your decisions revolving around your own happiness.  More of God is a fearful thing to ask.  Yet here we are, asking and not knowing what to expect.  Perhaps God is being merciful in not granting our undefined requests, knowing that we, like those stiff necked Children of Israel, wouldn’t be able to handle the Truth.  Who is brave enough to ask for more of God?

Pause, Young Wannabe-Leader, Pause

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“I had coffee with a guy this week who just graduated college and wanted to know how he could prepare himself for being in ministry and becoming a better leader. He could feel the tension between the raw gifts and ambitions God had given him to lead and how he should refine them. The derailment of many young leaders is impatience, a premature demand to take the reins before the character or gifts are ready.”

I read this opening paragraph in an article “What’s Your Next Move, Young Leader?” on line last week.  The article continues with 5-6 points of advice that I myself have given young people who are eager to find what God has planned for their lives.  However, I would like to revise my advice from all those years ago.

Today if this young person who just graduated from college were sitting across from me, sipping coffee and asking for advice; I would say something quite different.  I would say “Pause.”  How can you prepare yourself for ministry and becoming a leader?  Pause.  How about 40 days in the wilderness fasting.  How about 40 YEARS in the wilderness leading stupid sheep.  How about loads of silence, and how about a crushing sense of being forgotten in a prison cell.  How about being a servant when God has given you the vision of being a great leader.

“Pause your life.”  You aren’t ready to begin yet.

Young people are always eager for their purpose to appear and for their life to start having meaning.  I remember I was eager at that age too.  “Just tell me what I’m going to do and I’ll be happy to get on with it!”  was how I thought back then.  But over and over in the Bible we see God preparing men for greatness by isolating them and breaking them down FIRST.  Those are steps that NO college graduate wants to take.

Think about it.  David didn’t become King over night.  He spent years running for his life from a jealous King Saul.  Moses was super eager to begin leading the Israelites.  So eager, in fact, that he jumped the gun and killed a guy.  Then he spent the next 40 years hiding on the back side of the desert with a bunch of sheep.  Joseph had dreams and visions of his future greatness at a very early age.  But when his brothers sold him into slavery and his slave master threw him in jail, I’m sure Joseph wondered if his dreams would ever come true.  Jesus himself fasted in the wilderness for 40 days before beginning his public ministry.  But there were 30 years behind those 40 days!

God plants the seeds of greatness in Isolation.  Young Wannabe-Leader, get alone with God.  Let God isolate you and break you open before he impregnates your heart with vision.  In the quiet, in the dark, all alone a seed dies in the dirt before it grows up into the sunshine.

My advice for young leaders is to Pause before you rush out into the spotlight with your ears full of your own voice, and your eyes full of your own visions, and your mind full of your own ideas.  Pause.  Wait on God.  Wait a long, long time if you have to.  Great men of God are made in isolation.

“Frienemies”

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“My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant.  His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.” Psalm 55:20-21

We tend to think that Frienemies- Enemies disguised as friends- are a new thing come with the arrival of Facebook and text messaging.  But the problem of friends who stab you in the back is as old as dust!  Jesus had his Judas.  David had his Saul.  Moses had his Aaron and Miriam… family.

We expect attacks to come from our known enemies.  But when an attack comes from the person at your side, it’s bitter.  When someone who is supposed to be your ally, your family, your team member attacks you, it’s shocking.  You just don’t expect a blind-side.

The betrayal is even harder to accept when it comes from someone whom you have loved, someone who has been the recipient of the kindness of your heart.  When someone accepts your kindness with a smile and then spits in your face, it’s awful.   It makes you heart-sick.

Rather than jumping right up to defend yourself, pause for a moment.  Remind yourself that when a person complains or accuses another it is usually a smoke screen to hid that they are struggling with that very same thing in their own heart.  If they accuse you of rejecting them, it’s because they fear being rejected.  If they accuse you of hypocrisy, it’s usually they who are the hypocrites.  If they complain that you are intolerant, it is their own rigid beliefs they are trying to conceal.  It’s not you.  It’s them.  You are just the easiest target or the nearest warm body to take a stab at.

Once you realize that you probably are not the real target of this attack, it’s easier to let go of your right to defend yourself.  As a Christian, we are not supposed to seek our own revenge.  We are supposed to let God fight our battles.  Sometimes we see God vindicating us, and sometimes we don’t actually get to see it.  But if we give our hurt heart to God, He will be our hero.  He will fight for us.  And in time, that stab wound in your back will begin to heal.  Rise above the pain and walk on the high road.

And God hardened Pharaoh’s heart

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lump of clay

 

“The same sun which melts wax hardens clay.  And the same gospel which melts some persons to repentance hardens others in their sin.”  ~Spurgeon

Problems reveal what you’re made of.  When the pressure comes, do you crumble or turn into a diamond?  The same problem that causes one person to draw closer to God can cause another to shut God out of their lives forever.  The same crisis that causes one person to become aware of and appreciative of God can cause another to curse God and grow bitter and hard.

The Bible says that when God was preparing to deliver the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt,  God had a plan to show his mighty hand to the polytheistic, idol worshiping nation.  He planned to use the man Moses and to use the apocalyptic powers of nature to reveal his mighty powers.  Every time Pharaoh would come close to letting the Hebrew slaves go, he would change his mind at the last minute, his heart getting harder and harder each time.  The Bible says “And God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” because he still had more lessons to teach the Hebrews and the Egyptians alike.  Is it fair for God to harden a man’s heart and then condemn him for it?

Yes, it is fair.  Because your reaction to pain is evidence of what you are made of.  Hurricanes of pain and suffering happen to both the good and the bad.  But only a certain kind of person comes through with resilience.  Your reaction to God will reflect what you are made of in your heart.  Will the pressure turn your life into a clump of dirt or a diamond?  Only going through pressure can reveal that to you.

My roommate from college lost a child when he was just over 1 years old.  As I read her emails from wherever I was in the world, I saw her growing stronger and stronger in her faith.  If you had asked me back in college whether I thought her faith could survive such a storm, I would have said No Way!  And yet, here she was maturing and growing right in front of my eyes and it was the pain and pressure that was promoting that kind of rapid growth.  The astonishingly high divorce rate among couples who have lost a child is evidence that this kind of pressure causes many to crumble.  But not my roommate, she was pressed into her true form through this tragedy.  She is a diamond.

When God shows you his back

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“Trust is the bridge from yesterday to tomorrow, built with planks of thanks…”

But…

“What of all the memories where Christ seems absent?  When the bridge shakes and heaves… when we look back and see God’s back.

Wasn’t that too his way with Moses?  ‘When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.  Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back.’  (Exodus 33:22-23)

Is that it?  When it gets dark, it’s only because God has tucked me in a cleft of the rock and covered me, protected, with His hand?  In the pitch, I feel like I’m falling, sense the bridge giving way, God long absent.  In the dark, the bridge and my world shakes, crackling dreams.  But maybe this is true reality:  It is in the dark that God is passing by.  The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite:  God is passing by.  God is in the tremors.  Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by.  In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will.  Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us, I-beam supporting in earthquake.  The He will remove His hand.  Then we will look. Then we will look back and see His back.”

Once again Ann Voskamp blew my mind!  “One Thousand Gifts”.  Can I say anything more?  This is so simple and yet so profound.  This is going to take a while to process and apply.

Shy Missionary: An Oxymoron?

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It always kind of surprises people when I confess that I really am an introvert.  For years and years I have worked hard at learning how to talk to people, so I think I have everyone pretty much snowed.  But at my core, I am a shy girl.  People wear me out.  Conversations are work for me.  And I recharge my batteries by being alone and quiet for a few hours every night.

But it never occurred to me that this personality trait might be viewed as a liability in my profession until about a year before we left for our first term overseas.  Someone who knows me well and was sad to see me leaving expressed her hurt feelings with a harsh remark.  She said, “Why would God call YOU to be a missionary?  You don’t even LIKE people!”  I knew where she was coming from, so it didn’t hurt me.  But it  made me think.

Up until that point, I don’t think I had ever thought about what qualities might make a good missionary.  And it never occurred to me that I might struggle with what the Lord had called me to do.  I just assumed that I would be totally equipped with whatever skills would be required to be a successful missionary.  In my mind, this job didn’t really depend on what I was bringing to the table.  I just believed that God would fill in my gaps some how some way.

After all, I knew the Gospel.  I had experience leading people to the Lord and discipling them.  I was willing to go and was excited to go.  What more did I need… besides the language?  So we went to language school and that is where my shy personality experienced the worst trial by fire imaginable.  Interaction class.  Each week we met individually with a teacher and she helped us write a “texto”, a paragraph about any topic we were interested in.  Then during the week, we took our texto out onto the streets and used it to start a conversation with a total stranger, actually 10 strangers.  Then we were graded on how many minutes we conversed.  I cried every week.

Talking to strangers never got any easier for me.  As a matter of fact, once you added Spanish to the mix, it just got that much harder.  It became something I absolutely dreaded.  But I reasoned, this is what missionaries do, this is how we meet people and make friends.  So I forced myself to do it.

In the back of my mind the question still rings, “Why would God call a shy person like me to be a missionary?”  It’s like Moses in the book of Exodus telling the Lord, “I’m not so good with the putting-words-together-thingy.  Maybe you should send someone else to talk to Pharaoh.”  

In the conversation between Moses and God, through the burning bush, God promised Moses that he would go with him.  God said he would use whatever little thing Moses had in his hand.  God promised to teach Moses what to say and put the right words in his mouth.  And finally, God sent Aaron to help Moses.

What missionary could want more?  God will go with me, will use my ordinary for the extraordinary, will teach me, will put words in my mouth, and will send someone to help me with the work.  These are all promises that a Shy Missionary can cling to.  I don’t know why God chooses people like me or like Moses, but he does.  And when he gives them success, he gets all the glory.