Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rebellion or Trust

As Moses retells the story of God's promise and judgement to the Israelites, we see the struggle with faithful obedience and trust. God leads them from bondage and servitude through the wilderness to the land He desires them to live, only to have them rebel against Him, to refuse to enter the land. Of the twelve scouts that explored the new area, only two, Joshua and Caleb, believe they should proceed. Moses pleads with the Israelites to remember God's presence with them. God is angry and tells them to return to the wilderness. (See Numbers 13:25-14:25 for another account of this time)

Read Deuteronomy 1:26-45

"But you rebelled . . . 'Don't be afraid! The LORD your God is going before you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt. And you saw how the LORD your God cared for you again and again here in the wilderness. . .Now He has brought you to this place.' But even after all He did, you refused to trust the LORD your God, who goes before you looking for the best places to camp, guiding you by a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of cloud by day. . .
The LORD [said] . . . turn around now and go back through the wilderness
(Deuteronomy 1:26-40 NLT)

There is much in this passage and reading it in Numbers (referenced above is helpful). Basically, only two scouts want to go forward while the other ten remain fearful and refuse. God is angry. After all the supernatural help the Israelites have received, they still do not trust God's promise. God's Judgement is for them to return to the wilderness until not one from this wicked generation is left to enter the land promised to Abraham's descendants - except Caleb, who has followed the LORD completely and Joshua, who will lead the people into the land.

Apparently, God's constant, unfailing presence is not enough. His abundant provision for their journey through the wilderness is not enough. The Promised Land, a land explored and found to be magnificent and flowing with milk and honey, is not enough. So, this journey from Mount Sinai to Kadesh Barnea changes course, from the boundary of promise back to years of wilderness. We find ourselves standing next to the Israelites, forgetting and questioning and doubting God's presence, provision and promise. Trusting requires stepping out in faith ~ with God.

Consider this!
  • What resources did God deny the Israelites?
  • If God's promise and provision and presence are not enough for you, what would be enough?

God of Promise ~ You give me everything I need and more. Forgive me when I turn around at the edge of more and say 'no thank you' to enough. You are more than enough! Amen. ~dho

Monday, November 24, 2008

Faithless Doubt

Continuing the study of Deuteronomy, we hear Moses retelling the story of the Israelites standing at the edge of their promised land, Canaan, but full of uncertainty. Despite God's Provisions through the great and terrifying wilderness, the Israelites are unsure how this land would become their own. Forgetting the Protection of Yahweh in their rescue from the Egyptians after 430 years of slavery, their faith waivers.

Read Deuteronomy 1: 19-26

"Then, just as the LORD our God directed us, we left Mount Sinai and traveled through the great and terrifying wilderness . . . we arrived at Kadesh Barnea, [Moses] said to you, 'You have now reached the land that the LORD our God is giving us. Look! He had placed it in front of you. Go and occupy it as the Lord, the God or your ancestors, has promised you. Don't be afraid! Don't be discouraged!' (Deuteronomy 1:19-21 NLT)

They arrive! Generations after the promise is given Abraham, Moses leads God's chosen people to the border of Canaan. Moses reminds them of God's Provision, Protection and Promise! BUT, they hesitate. Deciding to sent scouts to explore the area, one man is chosen from each of the twelve tribes. In verse 25, the scouts report that the land the LORD our God [has] given us [is] indeed a good land, but immediately verse 26 reveals Moses recollecting, "But you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God and refused to go in."

A faithful response to God's promises can be compromised by doubt. The scouts report to Moses the land is a magnificent country - a land flowing with milk and honey . . . But the people living there are powerful, and their cities and towns are fortified and very large. . . (Numbers 13:27-28). Despite God's numerous miracles and manifest promise, they doubt Him; they refuse to enter Canaan. Standing at Kadesh Barnea the opportunity to step into the long awaited Promised Land is there for the taking, but fear and doubt create hesitation.

Consider this!
  • Contrast God's Promise to the Israelites with their response.
  • Do you trust God to provide all you need? If not, will you?

Lord, You are Yahweh ~ the God of Promise! When uncertainty clouds my thoughts, You remain. When doubt disturbs my hope, You remain. When fear threatens my heart, You remain. I can trust You because You always remain faithful to Your Promise. It is in Your unfailing promise ~to love me, to redeem me, to be with me ~ that I place my faith. Amen! ~dho

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Good Leaders Delegate

Strong leadership is crucial to good management. The larger the group, the more team leaders are needed. Micro-management, with one leader making all the decisions, diminishes effectiveness. Moses leads an estimated 2 million people from Egypt (Exodus 12:37). Because all the Israelites look to Moses as their leader, Moses realizes this enormous burden; he needs help and cannot make all the decisions alone. Moses must delegate some of the responsibilities to remain an effective leader.

Read Deuteronomy 1:9-18

. . . And may the LORD, the God of your ancestors, multiply you a thousand times more and bless you as He promised! But how can I settle all your quarrels and problems by myself? Choose some men from each tribe who have wisdom, understanding, and a good reputation, and I will appoint them as your leaders. . .
So I took the wise and respected men you had selected from your tribes and appointed them to serve as judges and officials over you. Some were responsible for a thousand people, some for a hundred, some for fifty, and some for ten. . . You [judges] must be perfectly fair at all times . . . When you make decisions, never favor those who are rich; be fair to lowly and great alike. . . (Deuteronomy 1:11-17 NLT)

These verses recognize the need for leaders, describe the qualities of a leader and explain how the leaders are chosen. Characteristics of good leaders require wisdom, understanding, and a good reputation. Leaders must listen to the concerns of the people and render fair judgements, not favoring wealth or status.

Henri Nouwen writes this about Christian Leadership today:
Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-informed opinions about the burning issues of our time. Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and . . . find there the source for their words, advice, and guidance.

Nouwen directs the Christian leader to learn to listen again and again to the voice of love, saying this is where to find the wisdom and courage to lead.

Consider this!
  • What characteristics of leadership did Moses demonstrate?
  • Is God calling you to take a leadership role?
  • What is your weakest area of leadership?

LORD, You are all Wisdom! Teach me to listen again and again to the voice of love, to listen You, the Love Most High. When called to lead, let me be rooted in Jesus. Amen. ~dho

[Henri Nouwen; In the Name of Jesus, Reflections on Christian Leadership, p.45]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Deuteronomy Reminds

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses recounts the journey of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, from 430 years of slavery to the land of milk and honey God promised to Abraham and his descendants. It is presented as a series of sermons given by Moses to remind Israel of their difficult, 40-year journey through the wilderness, to recall the lessons of preparation as they stand on the edge of God's Promise, just before they enter their Promised Land. In the next few entries, I want to study Chapters 1 and 2 which concentrate on Israel's initial opportunity to enter their Promised Land and their lack of faith despite God's multiple miracles to rescue them.

Read Deuteronomy 1:1-8

. . . When we were at Mount Sinai, The LORD our God said to us, 'You have stayed at this mountain long enough. It is time to break camp and move on. . . Go to the land of the Canaanites . . . I am giving all this land to you! Go in and occupy it, for it is the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to all their descendants. (Deuteronomy 1:5-8 NLT)

The first 4 verses comprise the prologue to the entire book, but it reveals an interesting timeline. After the Israelites cross the Red Sea, one of God's miracles in their rescue from the Egyptians, their journey takes them to Mount Sinai, where God gives them The Law (Ten Commandments). In this introduction summary we learn that it takes only eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai to the edge of the Promised Land, but it would be 40 years before they would enter. In verses 5-8 we find God's directions to His favored people, hear His instructions to go in and occupy the land He promised.

These are the lessons Deuteronomy teaches:
  • When reminded of God's Actions ~ we find hope in following Him
  • When reminded of God's Expectations ~ we should listen and obey
  • When reminded of God's Character ~ we can love Him completely

Consider this!

  • What promise did God make to Israel?
  • What promise does God make to you?

LORD, remind me how You provide for all my needs. Remind me why I can trust Your promise for me. Remind me of the land chosen for me, of the place You choose for me to serve. Amen. ~dho

[Additional reading ~ Exodus: the life of Moses and how he lead the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land]

Monday, November 03, 2008

Glorious Grace

Gracious Lord,
Grace falls like gentle rain, steady and sure. Grace pours over us like rivers of light, faithful and full. Grace floods our hearts, spilling over and rushing free. We cannot capture or explain or contain Your generous offering. Yet, every day, we simply find more Grace lavished upon our souls. Gentle Shepherd, Faithful Father, Holy Spirit - You come to us with unmeasured love that is undeserved, and You show us unmerited favor.

Our praise comes with Thank You, sincere and simple. Our praise shouts with Hallelujah! and Amen!, grateful and rich. Our praise overflows with To God be the Glory, great things He has Done!. We cannot adequately celebrate or applaud or adore your Magnificent Power. Yet, every day, You graciously accept meager gratitude scattered within our words. Everlasting Light, Holy Father, Spirit of the Living God - we come to You with imperfect words that are unworthy, and, still, we find more offerings of Extravagant Grace.

Gracious Lord, how do we offer thanks for such a Gift? ~dho

Psalm 84:11 (NKJV):
For the LORD God is a splendid shield;
The LORD will give glorious grace;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.

God's glorious grace and our inferior, imperfect offerings merge in stark contrast; our temporal, finite human mind is perplexed. This gracious, generous God accepts our frail, feeble attempts to praise and worship Magnificence, Majesty and Mystery. In return, He gives Extravagant Grace!

For me to seek the answers that only Mystery knows, to choose the gift that only Majesty offers, to know the grace that only Magnificence gives, implores Yahweh's splendid shield and glorious grace. The world is full of contradictions. That Perfect Love would pay the ransom for my perfected iniquity remains the greatest one. Gracious Lord, how do I offer thanks for such a gift? ~dho

Sunday, November 02, 2008

God's Ways

God's glory is on tour in the skies, . . .
Their words aren't heard,
their voices aren't recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere. . .
That's how God's Word vaults across the skies
from sunrise to sunset,
Melting ice, scorching deserts,
warming hearts to faith.
The revelation of GOD is whole
and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of GOD are clear
and point out the right road.
The life-maps of GOD are right,
showing the way to joy.
The directions of GOD are plain
and easy on the eyes. . .
The decisions of GOD are accurate
down to the nth degree.
There's more: GOD's Word warns us of danger
and directs us to hidden treasure.
Otherwise how will we find our way?
Or know when we play the fool"
Clean the slate God, so we can start the day fresh!
Keep me from stupid sins,
from thinking I can take over Your work; . . .
These are the words in my mouth . . .
Accept them when I place them on the morning altar. . .
Psalm 19 The Message
Spirit of the Living God,
I long to discover the inner workings of the
Father's Plan for me. In these times of waiting,
grant my soul peace, my mind discernment, my
heart patience. How I can feel Your presence
and sense the power of Your Ways! Yet,
sometimes I can only watch You work. In
these times, I must trust You.
Prepare my heart with Your Desires. Prepare
my mind with the wisdom I will need. Prepare
my soul for the path You choose. Holy Spirit,
whisper the mysterious and wonderful things the
Father has for me. Praises for His Endless Love
and Unmeasured Goodness - it overwhelms me day
and night! The applause of ten thousand angels is
not enough! Jesus, hear this prayer! Amen.

~ dho