So You Need a Theophany?

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. Exodus 13:21

In the time of Moses, God led his people in a very visible way. There was the burning bush, the storm on Mt. Sinai, and the pillars of cloud and fire. The big theological word for this is theophany.  Sometimes we wish God would act in the same way today.  Wouldn’t it be easier if we could actually see God?  If we could all just get in our cars and drive off in a convoy with God leading the way?  Wouldn’t we be less likely to go astray?  Surely we’d get things right if God would just make himself plain.

The thing is, He has.  For one thing, we have His word, the Bible.  It has plenty of instructions the ancient Israelites had to do without.  We also have the example of Jesus.  Jesus was the ultimate theophany, God made man.  The Israelites didn’t have Him either;  they had Moses, a prophet, but just a man who spoke with God, not God Himself.  So what is our excuse?

Well, it’s true that we’re only human, filled with original sin.  The best of us can misunderstand, be tempted, or lose our way.  However, in the long run, we don’t have an excuse.  Most of the time we know we’re not following our leader, because we simply chose to go our own way. We’re no different than Adam and Eve who decided it would be okay to eat that fruit because it looked desirable.  We’re no different than the people in the days of the Judges who “did what was right in their own eyes.”

So what should we do if we’re really intent on following God?  Read His word — He gave it to us for a reason.  Take it as it stands.  Don’t try to weasel out of what God has made clear.  Imitate Christ.  The Bible says He was tempted, just as we are, but did not sin.  Pray.  Lay your decisions at God’s feet.  Communicate your fears, frustrations and hopes.  God is the leader who won’t let you down;  but you have to follow.

 

 

Good Leaders Accept Help

“O, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and tongue….please send someone else.”  Exodus 4:10 & 13

Moses, probably the greatest leader in the Old Testament recognized his limitations.  He admitted that he was not good at everything.  He asked God to remove the burden of leadership from him.  Instead, God directs him to a helper, someone with the gift he lacks.

“Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite?  I know that he can speak well. … He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth …” Exodus 4:14-15

Later on, Moses encounters a different problem — time management.  As leader, he is dealing with so many small problems, he can’t get to the bigger ones.  This time, it is his father-in-law, Jethro who gives the advice to delegate.

“Look for able men from all he people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe;  and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.  And let them judge the people at all times.  Every great matter they shall decide themselves.  So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.”  Exodus 18:21-22

Likewise, in the book of Acts, the twelve apostles found they could not meet all the needs of the growing church.  Some widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.

“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

We can’t expect our leaders to go it alone.  Good leaders recognize the spiritual gifts of others and they learn to delegate and train.  Maybe the greatest talent of good leaders is to recognize and cultivate the skills of the people around them.

I can see this in my own life.  Leadership is not my strongest spiritual gift, but I have found myself in situations when I am called to lead.  When this happens I know that I need someone with the gift of administration as a strong #2 — I see the goal, but not always the steps that need to be taken to get there.  I also need people with the gift of service — the ones who can just see a task that needs doing, and jump it to take care of it.  For me, leadership is all about assembling the right team–a group who can work together and accomplish great things.

What about you?  What can you do well, and what do you need to delegate?  I’ll be writing more about this in an upcoming post on spiritual gifts.

 

“O my Lord, I am not eloquent,”

Moses said that. The one and only legendary Moses of ancient times. Descendant of even more legendary, angel-wrestling Jacob. Son of Isaac, who was of course the son of Abraham. But here Moses having just witnessed an amazing thing, and presumably having just heard an intimidating thunderous voice; resists obeying God. Why after witnessing all that, did he for the third or fourth time proceed to tell the Lord, God Almighty, that he was not the guy for the job? I mean, don’t we give lesser authoritative figures more respect by simply doing as they say, because they said so? Would a soldier tell his commanding officer ‘No.’? Not likely.

Moses even protested yet once more after that and angered God. Still in God’s ever so patient way He had mercy on Moses and suggested that his brother Aaron be the mouth piece he thought he needed. Now there are a lot of things I don’t like doing. Public Speaking chief among them, (Sorry Becky) but I’d do it if asked. Just like I do a hundred other things I don’t like to do because they need done. I wonder though, would I be so compliant if the Holy Spirit did not reside in me? A gift from God himself, made possible by the blood of his precious Son.

I ask why did Moses do that, forgetting that Moses was not afforded the luxury I know I have. Without the faith that has grown from the hearing of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit’s washing and Christ’s Blood paying for my imperfection; I would not be the person I am today.

Even now, with all that knowledge of head and heart, I am worse than Moses. Not only am I telling God that I’m not eloquent; I’m hiding in a corner and staying silent. I have no right. I should be shouting from the roof top whether I want to or not. It’s the least I could do. Woe to me, and to my sinfully quiet soul. Undeserving of a pursuant Spirit. Here in lies the beauty of it all . . . even with my whinny, lippy attitude God still loves me, and encourages me, and affords me His patience and time. He whispers ever so gently when He could thunder ever so piercingly.

Therefore, in the moments when I recall His amazing grace, I try to at least show a tiny glimpse of my Savior with a smile, with a kind word, a patient sigh, and an obedient act. When I forget that I’ve been given much, it serves as a reminder to be merciful to others who have also forgotten how much they’ve got. And it’s enough because God said “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness,” my weakness. Am I a good witness? Probably a better one in the literal sense. I see plenty. Verbally, let’s just say thank the good Lord for a more eloquent written form of words.  In the evangelistic sense . . .  yikes.

The miracle is that God can use even me.

Wisdom vs. Knowledge

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

“Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this thy people, that is so great?” 2 Chronicles 1:10

The first verse above is attributed to Moses, and the second to Solomon:  two of the most revered leaders in the Bible.  Isn’t it interesting that they ask God, not just for knowledge, but wisdom.  Yes, there is a difference!  Knowledge is book learning.  We can get it by reading and studying the Bible.  If you can memorize verses, list the books in order, recite the history of the Israelites, then you have knowledge.  Wisdom is different.  Wisdom is knowing how to apply the word of God to life circumstances.  It comes from the heart rather than the head.

Here is a definition:

Wisdom means always acting according to the spirit of the Commandments and not looking for an ambiguity or omission which we can use to evade their true intent. Wisdom means understanding the consequences of our actions and words before we act or speak. Wisdom means having the knowledge and understanding to recognize the right course of action and having the will and courage to follow it.

Jesus criticized the Scribes and Pharisees severely.  They had the knowledge they needed to do what was right, but they didn’t use that knowledge wisely.  Instead of complying with the spirit of God’s law, and allowing it to change their lives, they sought to minimize it’s scope and effect.

I’ve been doing some reading about IQ vs. EQ.  This is a similar dichotomy.  Having a high IQ means we can acquire knowledge quickly and easily.  EQ (Emotional Quotient) means we can understand and control our emotions (and those of others) and adjust our actions accordingly.  Unsurprisingly, those with high EQ make the best leaders.  You need heart knowledge as well as head knowledge to become a good leader.

So, as you study the Bible this week (and I hope you do) pray along with Moses and Solomon for wisdom to apply the learning.  And remember, God loves you and so do I!

 

 

Switched On Mentors

If you would like to study some examples on people who were spiritually reborn or “switched on.”  their stories are in the Bible, and many of them are listed in the 11th chapter of Hebrews.  (which is, by the way, my favorite book of the Bible).

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  …By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things that do not appear.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than did Cain….

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death….

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events yet unseen, took heed and constructed an ark for the saving of his household …

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance;  and he went out, not knowing where he was to go.

By faith Sarah herself received the power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised…

By faith, Abraham when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises to offer up his only son …

By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau …

By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites…

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid for three months by his parents because they saw he was beautiful and were not afraid of the king’s edict ….

By faith, when he was grown up,Moses refused to be called the son of the Pharoah’s daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God ….

The author of Hebrews goes on to say that there was not enough time to tell of all those who had seen the things which were to come through the spiritual understanding received in their faith. Will you be one of the “great cloud of witnesses”(Hebrews 12:1)? Whose spiritual insight has inspired you?