Did You See What He Did There?
† I.H.S †
May the Grace and Peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ teach you that He will always provide for you, even when you can’t see that He is, and has planned to do so!
Did you see what Israel did?
Have you ever met people like the ones Moses tried to lead in the Old Testament reading this morning? A little of what went before.
In chapter 13, after more miracles than we can remember, Pharaoh lets the people of God go.
In chapter 14, a sea splits apart long enough to let 2.4 million people cross through it, and then swallows a half-million-man army chasing them with the intent to kill them all
In Chapter 16, the Lord provides them with the makings of quail tacos, as every morning he provides with the Manna and quail that would sustain them for 40 years.
After all that, after all God did, they doubt He knows what He’s doing?
Just because they don’t have enough water, and are so thirsty they can’t thing straight, Just because they are struggling with the thirst, they forgot the most important thing we need to know in life, they go crazy and become demanding and complain and whine to Moses, their pastor. Led by a pillar of fire and a cloud, they forget all that…tormented by thirst, unaware that the answer is so close….
Did you see what they did there? Do you know people so overwhelmed by their place in life that they forget what makes life, life?
Did you see what they did there? Yeah – that isn’t important.
Did you see what Moses did?
What about Moses? Did you see what he did there?
He’s just as much of a whiner! Even as God leads them, Moses vents to God! Why me Lord? Why do they want me to suffer? Why are they going to kill me? He too is overwhelmed by fear and anxiety!
He didn’t see that they were tormented by their thirst, he wants them to just stop their whining and be quiet. He takes their reaction to their stress personally, their cries to God as if they are personal attacks.
God go get them….. they don’t like us. Who cares what they are going through! Did you ever know anyone like that?
Did you see what he did there?
That isn’t important either, There is only one Person whose actions we need to see in this story
Did you see what God did there?
God’s actions are really what everyone is concerned about, or is
Do we see what God is doing?
First He’s the One guiding them, He’s the one who brings these wandering people to the place where they are at, the place where He’s going to make eternal promises to them, and bring them into Abraham’s covenant in ways they will not understand until the resurrection of Jesus.
Then, God doesn’t bat an eye at the complaints. He deals with Moses first – directing him to get back to caring for the people God gathered around him. Walk out in front, gather them around. Get your staff, the thing you’ve always had at hand when I worked through you, gather around the elders and all the people to see what happens.
Oh yeah – I will be there, standing before the cliff face..
And then for those miserable, tormented, thirsty, complaining people, God does something wonderful. He provides what they need, as He planned.
He hadn’t forgotten them, He hadn’t forgotten to provide for them, He didn’t want them to die, but live, in peace, in relationship with Him. So he tells Moses to take the staff and hit the rock face and water comes out, enough for them, and all their animals.
To give you and idea of how much water, quick calculations gave me the number of at a minimum. 500 backyard pools worth comes spilling out of rock face…or if we walled in the church property and made it one big pool, the water would be 7 feet deep. (and that’s not counting evaporation!)
Did you see what He did there?
People that whined and complained, led by a shepherd who didn’t care for the problems they were in, who forgot He was there. People just like you and I, people that were overwhelmed, who couldn’t function, who despite the miracles, who despite the things testifying to God’s presence, doubted. People who scripture says tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord here with us or not?
For those people, God again provided what they needed.
Even though they struggled to realize it, He was there, He heard their cries, and had already provided for them.
Did you see what He did there?
The reason I want you to see what God did there, is often we forget.
It’s time to see what God is doing, no longer concentrating on our failures, or on the weakness of our leaders.
We need to see what He’s doing here, which isn’t much different. Indeed, His faithfulness, His loving care, His giving life, is always there. He is faithful.
I could focus on Christ being the rock that the Holy Spirit shepherds us to, or that He is the living water that cleanses us and gives us life. That He does so, because He is faithful to His promise, to His plan, even if we struggle. I would focus that he does work through weak and tired leaders, even when we think no one is listening.
But I would like us to focus the most on this, the answer to Israel’s question. He is with us! The Lord is with you!
Yeah – He is here! He promised to never leave us, to never stop providing for us.
That He is here is we need to know, with more than our mind; to experience deep in our souls the comfort and peace that God gives us, and letting that comfort and peace work its way from our hearts into our minds, overcoming the doubts, the fears, the pain, the hunger and thirst for life, that seems unquenched.
That is what the cross and the grave, the resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost are about. He went through it all to show us His presence, giving us evidence that backs up His promise of love, His promise to care.
Lent does, for this is the time when we realize our thirst is not for water, not for manna, but for Him. And He hears our cries… and reminds us, “I am standing right before you..”
He is our LORD – the one who stands before us, calling us home, welcoming us home, welcoming us to His feast…. Where we remember His presence and rejoice and rest.
He Will Do All the Good Things He Promised!
He Will Lead
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May God’s mercy sustain you throughout your life, as you realize that He is the Prince of Peace! Your Prince of Peace!
Looking for Leadership
It doesn’t take a prophet to predict that the next year will be full of conflict, full of verbal abuse, full of people trying to manipulate most of the people of the United States, and often using fear and greed to do so.
As a relatively cynical man, I dread election years. I fear them because I fear that the result will be division, conflict, fear, and in my case apathy, occasionally mixed with sarcasm.
You all know that sarcasm is a major temptation of mine, right?
Apathy is even a worse temptation.
But I do fear the relationships that will be damaged, as people’s fear will dominate the reason they vote, fears that find some basis in self-centeredness. What this means is that we won’t have discussions with each other. We will attack each other’s candidates, and more than an argument will occur. A great division will occur because our fears cause us to invest in our candidates as much with our hearts as our minds, we will see someone supporting an opponent as a threat. They in turn, will get defensive. We will not comprehend how someone in their right mind could support candidate Q, because we see them as a threat. We will forget that we are family, neighbors, a community.
The reaction may take years to heal.
That is why I dread such years, and why I become so apathetic.
For it is hard to see good come from such times.
Why Do We Want to Trust in Princes
I wonder why we struggle to understand the wisdom of God when it comes to leadership, whether that is in national leadership, or local leadership. Hear God’s wisdom again,
3 Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. Psalm 146:3 (ESV)
We might even quote that about the opposition, see- they’ve put their trust in those people, how could they! While we do the same – hoping that our candidate will save us. Without thinking, we begin to believe, to have hope, in the work of men.
How about these two
8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people. 9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9 (NLT)
22 Don’t put your trust in mere humans. They are as frail as breath. What good are they? Isaiah 2:22 (NLT)
and this cry for mercy,
11 Oh, please help us against our enemies, for all human help is useless. Psalm 60:11 (NLT)
Finally, there is this one… which is terrifying,
5 This is what the LORD says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD. Jeremiah 17:5 (NLT)
That might be the nicer of the translations, others use the word condemned.
Like I said, this isn’t just about politics. It can be that this job will save us, or that if we can only make it to retirement, then everything will be okay. Or meeting the right star, or seeing out children or grandchildren succeed, as the world measures success. We create many idols, convinced that life will be alright, if only they…
It is clear, there is no one we should put our trust in, no one we must depend on, except for God. No one else we should count on or hope in, even those who claim to be good Christians.
Otherwise, we have created an idol.
And those idols will be out in force.
And they can lead us into lives that are cursed.
The Good He Has promised
Advent reminds us of the failure of idols in the past, and that we need some One more solid to place our hope, our expectations in.
We need a God, not an idol. We need a leader who restores us, who heals us, who makes us whole. Hear Micah’s prophecy again,
4 And he will stand to lead his flock with the LORD’s strength, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. Then his people will live there undisturbed, for he will be highly honored around the world. 5 And he will be the source of peace
If we want a leader, we have but to look at the cross. We see there a leader whose life isn’t centered in himself, or an agenda that promotes his party’s preferences. We see a leader who wants the best for us, a leader who brings us into a place of peace, a leader who is willing to die to comfort us and heal us in our brokenness. We see a leader that gathers his people, who helps them grow by refining them, we need a leader who will keep the Good He has promised.
This is Jesus, our Lord. Immanuel, the proof that God is with us.
And yes He leads us. The world will say they cannot see Him, but neither have I seen a president, premier, or king personally. They are somewhere out there, whereas God is here, His Spirit within every believer in this place. So I see him when I look into Chris’s eyes, or Esther’s, or Manny’s, or Cyndee’s.
Even more I see God when we see the body and blood of Christ, which He gives us, shed for the forgiveness of our sin. When I see His people kneel at the altar, ready for Christ to come to them. We hear Him as we hear our sins being forgiven, for it is by His authority and it is His desire to show mercy and bring us to the Father. We hear it when He claims His people, when He claims us as His own.
This is a leader who will bring us into peace, both then, and now. For that is His called, to guard our hearts and minds in the peace of God our father, a peace we dwell in, right now, because of Jesus, the Lord who leads us and helps us see all the good God has promised, He has delivered.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:11-16 (NLT)
It was one of the worst games that I have seen Tom Brady play in 14 years.
Two of his rookie wide receivers drop 17 passes between them Besides one veteran returning from injury, only six passes of 26 were caught in the game. It was frustrating, obviously so. Even the fact that they beat a nemesis didn’t take away the sting that this game was just…. ugly.
An espn article quotes Brady after the game…
“It’s unrealistic for them to feel like they can do it like 10-year veterans. That’s not what they are,” Brady said. “But they’re trying hard and they work real hard and they have a lot of skill.”
As I thought about the game that night, and yesterday, I saw some great applciation to ministry. Especially to the very unique combinaiton of pastoral care and how that makes Christian Leadership somewhat different than Leadership in the world.
Yousee, in the real world – you play that badly, and you will get cut, or you will lose your starting position, until you can demonstrate some level of trustworshiness. Until you can prove you can get the job done. In business, you might just get fired. Some coaches and bosses can be quite callous about that. They would just get rid of you.. no questions to be asked. Here’s your last check, and don’t let the door hit you on the…
Some would even argue that the Patriots owe it to their fans – and especially to Tom Brady, one of the best qb’s in history, if not the best, to get rid of these guys and get him some real football players.
But Christian leaders have another level of responsibility. They aren’t just called to develop the good people, they are called to equip all the people of God. Including those that, how can we say it, mmove at a different pace than the rest?
It’s unrealistic to expect people not to fail in their walk with God. It is unrealistic to expect them to grow at the same rate; to comprehend to the same depth, that all would awlays trust God, as completely, as deeply…
Yet i think that’s what we sometimes do, I know that is how most Bible Studies are written, as if every congregation, and every Bible study, and every confirmation class developed in the same way. And we are trained to use them, right out of the box from the publisher – hand out the individual books – and get the study down in 13 weeks.
If people drop the pass, if they miss a week – wel, that’s their fault, and that one or two truths.. they aren’t that important. Are they? That odd question from the back right of the “classroom” – the one that opens a very special can of tangental worms… requiring a half-hour deviation? Just skip it – deal with it privately. Right?
No – we can’t expect everyone to get everything, to know it all, to not have a bad week, a bad game. We are called to be patient, and to let our desire that no one perish determination our actions and thoughts, rather than just our frustration We – pastors, ministers, priests, vicars, deacons, elders, and every other leader in church, are called to lead by serving. To lead sacrificially, to lead like Christ did… bearing our cross. To love them, knowing what it will take to get them to grow in faith, and in their being set apart to walk with God.
Leadership in the church, and among Christian leaders is more like the USMC – we don’t leave anyone behind…. even if that requires the impossible.
Why? Because we got the win, its assured, Christ is victorious, and therefore those with Him are as well. so let’s take our time – and work with everyone whom God brings ( or sends us out to go get) If it means things gets dirty and ugly and frustrating, there is a win at the end of the game. So we do what we do, fixing our eyes on Christ – the one who generated and perfected our faith in God.
The announcers both expressed a confidence during the game that was longer reaching than just the game. They said, that by the end of the season, Brady will have transformed these two young receivers into a weapon that couldn’t be stopped. If a mere man, playing a game can do that…. what can God do with and through us?
Let’s find out!
7 He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, 9 and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. 10 Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.“Luke 14:7-11 (NAB)
949 To aspire to positions of responsibility in any apostolic undertaking is a useless thing in this life and a danger for the next. If it’s what God wants, you’ll be called. And then you ought to accept. But don’t forget that wherever you are, you can and you must sanctify yourself, for that is why you are there. (1)
One of my favorite apologetic works, The Hitchhilker’s Guide to the Galaxy, talks about the leadership in a rather unique way. Simply put, the one who is best to lead is the one who desires it the least, and even abhors it, but takes it on because of necessity.
It’s one thing to want to be the leader in elementary school or even the class president in high school, or the captain of a team. It is far different to lead a company, or for that matter, to lead a congregation or a church body. It is a task that no one should want, for the pains, and experiences can shatter a man’s faith. And they often do.
But there is something else that can grow in such a crucible, a level of faith and dependence upon God that goes beyond the security we seek. An assurance of the presence of God’s comfort, of God’s love, and of His presence. An accepting of the task, a determination to go the distance. Not confident of our own abilities or strengths, but simply confident of the fact that we aren’t leading, He is. THat is what holiness, sanctification is truly about. Not about pious appearance,,, but about walking with Christ.
It is then we are ready to undertake such a role….
Thanks to all who lead…. in Christ. ANd may those who lead btw own strength, find the courage and strength to let the Paraclete lift them, turn them and guide and support them as they follow God.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2201-2204). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
19 If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. 20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. 22 But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. Philippians 2:19-22 (NLT)
Now may I who am myself an elder say a word to you my fellow-elders? I speak as one who actually saw Christ suffer, and as one who will share with you the glories that are to be unfolded to us. I urge you then to see that your “flock of God” is properly fed and cared for. Accept the responsibility of looking after them willingly and not because you feel you can’t get out of it, doing your work not for what you can make, but because you are really concerned for their well-being. You should aim not at being “little tin gods” but as examples of Christian living in the eyes of the flock committed to your charge. And then, when the chief shepherd reveals himself, you will receive that crown of glory which cannot fade. 1 Peter 5:1 (Phillips NT)
1. In his manner of life and his priestly ministry, does this man manifest a deep personal conversion to friendship with Jesus Christ? Has he made a deliberate, conscious, and irrevocable choice to follow Christ? Has he responded to Jesus’s question to the disciples, who were shocked by his command to eat of him, the Bread of Life—“ Do you also wish to go away?”— with Peter’s answer: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” [John 6.67– 69]?
2. Does this priest take preaching and teaching as among his primary responsibilities? Does he preach clearly, biblically, and with conviction? Can he make the Church’s evangelical proposal to unbelievers? Can he, with charity and understanding, teach, and if necessary correct, Catholics who have embraced notions contrary to Scripture and apostolic tradition? How many converts has this man made? How many Christians of other communities has he brought into full communion with the Catholic Church? How many baptized pagans has he brought back into a fuller communion with the Church? (1)
I have been primarily dealing so far this month with the issue of leadership in the church.
We just elected those who will work beside me as the leaders of this congregation, for the next two years.
- I am in prayer about, and met with other district delegates last saturday, the national convention of our Synod next month
- I just finished a two day seminar, the third of four, of a program in pastoral leadership
- Above you see the passages for the two Bible Studies last night. The first one is our midweek Bible Study, the second for the Bible Study of my elders.
So, it is little surprise when I took up Wiegel’s book this morning, that the topic was his understanding of the new standards for the leaders (bishops) of his church, the Roman Catholic Church.
But what find admirable, and indeed would love to see in my own denomination, is these first two standards Weigel sets, as our own concerns. (replacing of course – Catholic Church, with LC-MS)
What would happen if the leaders of our churches were first men whose lives were formed by a deep friendship with Christ. Whose character displayed such Christ-likeness and the servants heart we see in both Paul’s description of Timothy, and in Peter’s encouragement to the elders. This is the nature of the men we should have leading us. Men whose devotion and adoration of God, their treasuring of the first commandment, is the hallmark of their life. If they were less guided by their own intelligence, their own wisdom, their own inner compass, than by the very kind of love that showed they experienced and reveled in the love of Christ?
What would happen, if the second dominant characteristic was that they could communicate this love of God that they were so sure of, this friendship with God that so defined them, to others with great compassion, great skill, and could do it equally well with those in the Body of Christ, (both those that depended on God and those who rebelled against God) What would happen if he had a track record of bringing all into a deeper communion with God and God’s people – no matter whether they were mature, sacrificial believers, new believers, those who tried to “cafeteria plan” their faith, or those who were apathetic or antagonistic towards God. What if they were truly apostolic/missional in this way?
What if we had such men to pastor our church body, what if we had such a man to imitate, even as they stripped themselves of all perks and privileges of being “the leaders”.
What if our priorities were discipling leaders like this, with these two characteristics being more a priority than academics, or linguistic expertise, or knowledge or political savvy?
Lord Have mercy! Help us to be leaders like Timothy, like Peter… like Paul… as they cared like Christ cared… AMEN
(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 122). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
Today’s Devotional/Discussion thought…
A quote for leaders… (of every kind)
11:1 And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NLT)
This verse ends a chapter which requires great humility, as we hear Paul talk about not giving offense which would inhibit another’s walk with Christ. As a pastor, and one who works with broken churches, ( every church is broken, some brokenness is simply more visible) I hear these stories all the time. A former pastor who may or may not have cared, a phrase uttered in the midst of a longer conversation, but that stuck with those who heard it. Pains that are decades old, but still as tender, and then something rips the scabs off, releasing a flow of blood that may cleanse the wound, or may allow for infection, given the way it was treated.
That is where imitating Christ needs to become a focal point for leadership – where we put aside what we desire, and sometimes, yeah – what we need. We set aside ourselves that we can be there to nurse the wounded to strength, to encourage their trust in Jesus, to bring them to the altar – not drive them out of the church because we were irritated by them.
That is Christian leadership. I like how I came across Christ’s leadership in this manner in my devotions this morning.
Our Lord is on the Cross saying, I am suffering so that men, who are my brothers, may be happy, not only in Heaven, but also—as far as possible—on earth, if they really embrace the most Holy Will of my heavenly Father. (1)
To my friends in leadership, whether in the church, in government or business, to those who lead from an office, or simply have influence which people follow – please lead sacrificially, lead in such a way that people can embrace God’s embrace of them, in such a way that God’s will is made manifest, and they can rejoice. Serve, not command. Be willing to suffer, in small and large ways. As one who tries to live this, and is occasionally successful …. the rewards of seeing people embraced by God is more than worth whatever inconvenience, or pain.
Imitate Christ, that others may imitate you…..
and when you struggle to make that sacrifice…cry out to Him, and He will have mercy.. AMEN!
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1123-1126). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought of the Day:
St. Paul wrote:
God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. 7 Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! 8 The variety is wonderful: wise counsel clear understanding 1 Corinthians 12:6-8 (MSG)
He then goes on to describe a small list of the gifts the Holy Spirit uses in us, to be a blessing to our congregations, our communities and each other – and indeed the gifts are wonderful, and practical, even the ones that… hmmm… take a while to appreciate.
There are books out there, that advise church leaders on how to deal with “well-intentioned alligators”. The people that eat up our time, and often – our patience. They can cause a church to struggle as well – not just the leadership – and the age old question is, how do we handle them?
Some advise getting rid of them, for the sake of the others, for the peace of the church.
Some advise doing exorcisms, (just joking.. well.. sorta) Some would protect their pastors from them, much as a executive secretary deals with those who would bother a CEO. There are a myriad of options, including tolerating the behavior, or at least no confronting them There may be another option, consider these words…
“Never say of anyboy under you he is no good, for it s you are are no good as you cannot find a place where he will be of use…” (Escriva, The Furrow)
Here is a challenge for all who are pastors, or who assist pastors with pastoral leadership (elders, deacons, deaconesses, etc). Those alligators have a purpose (even if it is to be thorns in the flesh!) and it is a challenge to find the right place. Rarely, as frustrations set in, that might mean bringing them to some other shepherd for pastoral care – that they can serve and be served. But there is a place for everyone in God’s church, and yes, it is the responsibility of leadership – not the individual, to help guide them into that ministry.
In other words – alligators are assets. They can be blessings, they can be an integral part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church (note no caps there). They are, like us, people who God has worked on, and is working on, just as He is us. See them from that perspective first…
and know you walk with God, even as you strive with Him, and with men.
Lord Have mercy, and may that mercy include empowering us to show mercy as well!