The Core Curriculum Of The Spirit

“The Law of God teaches us how to love Him and our neighbors (Matthew 22:34-40). The Law of God is critical for seeking the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:17-19). The Law of God liberates us from the blinding and binding power of sin (James 2:8-13). The Law of God marks the path of love that Jesus walked, and that all must walk who would follow Him (1 John 2:1-6; 5:1-3). The Law of God provided the framework within which the apostles ordered their churches (cf. 1 Corinthians 5, 9; James 2:5; 1 John 5). The Law of God is the core curriculum of the Spirit, as He brings us into the presence of God’s glory and transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ (Ezekiel 36:26-27; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18). Neglecting the Law of God is a major cause for the decline of true and selfless love in the world; it licenses the progress of evil; and it threatens to render the prayers of Law-neglecting believers an ‘abomination’ or, we might say, ‘a dead and a useless thing’ (Matthew 24:12; Proverbs 28:4, 9). 

[all Scriptures from the above paragraph are here]

“It’s no wonder the psalmist, echoing Moses, insisted that the righteous person, the one who embodies the goodness of God in all his ways, meditates on the Law of God day and night, hides it in his heart and embodies it in all his ways (Psalm 119:9-11; Deuteronomy 6:1-9), keeps it diligently, delights in and loves it, and hastens to make sure his feet follow in its path (cf. Psalm 1; Psalm 119:4, 5, 35, 59, 60, 97). 

[all Scriptures from the above paragraph are here]

“If you are missing the Law of God in your relationship with Jesus, you are depriving yourself of a most important resource for bringing the goodness of God to light in the land of the living. The good works outlined in the Law of God are those ‘ordained of old’ which God intends us to do in all our ways (Ephesians 2:10). Yes, understanding the Law can be difficult. But we can learn from the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles how to read, study, and meditate in this most important corpus of Biblical literature, and thus we can discover the true freedom for goodness and love that God has prepared for us.” —T.M. Moore 

The Servant Of God

…Joshua, son of Nun, the servant of the Lord… (Joshua 24:29). 

There are not many people in the Bible called “the servant of the Lord”:

  1. Moses
  2. Joshua
  3. David (in the introduction to Psalms 18 and 36)
  4. Jesus (in Isaiah 42 and 49)

In Joshua’s final address to the Israelites, I believe he shares some common themes for anyone who wants to be called a servant of the Lord:

  • A firsthand, personal encounter of God’s miracles (Joshua 23:3; 24:7)
  • Constant recall of God’s provision (23:4; 24:7)
  • Awareness that my doing is only possible because of God’s doing (23:5, 10; 24:12)
  • Obedience to God’s Word (23:6; 24:21)
  • Wholehearted love for God (23:11; 24:23)
  • Reverent fear of God (23:12-13; 24:14, 19-20)
  • Based on what God has already done, trust in His future grace (23:14; 24:24)
  • Choosing to do all of the above every single day (24:15, 18)

All of these principles were fulfilled in the Ultimate Servant of the Lord: Jesus of Nazareth. And that Servant told us that His Spirit would empower us to live like He lived. It’s not impossible to live like this, but the Holy Spirit wants to empower us to live this out. The question is: will we let Him?

Sadly, the were no other leaders that came immediately after Joshua who were called “servant of the Lord.” Israel failed primarily because they violated the the very first principle—they had no first-hand, personal experience of God’s miracles. They lived off the miracles of their parents’ age: it was for them “the Lord your God” and never “the Lord my God” (see Joshua 24:31; Judges 21:25).

May our prayer today be: Heavenly Father, I want to be a legacy leader. Jesus, I want to be a servant of God just like You were. Holy Spirit, I invite you into my life to empower me to live this servant lifestyle every single day. 

Zero Casualties

The whole army then returned safely to Joshua… (Joshua 10:21).

The only time any deaths in battle are mentioned in the whole military campaign of Israel conquering Canaan is at Ai when 36 men died (7:1-5). Other than that, zero casualties.

A massive Israelite army, waging war against huge armies “as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (11:4), many of them entrenched in fortified cities, several of the warriors are giants, fighting on terrain that is unfamiliar to them—zero casualties! 

But why should this surprise us?

God doesn’t see masses of people; He sees individuals. He knows how many hairs are on each soldier’s head! He is able to keep alive all His children despite the rigors of warfare.

Total victory. Zero casualties!

The casualties at Ai were due to Israel’s disobedience. The ongoing victories were due to Israel’s total obedience: “As the Lord commanded His servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses” (11:15).

“All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fights for Israel” (10:42), with zero casualties!

We wage a spiritual warfare today that is no less rigorous or dangerous than the military campaign the Israelite army fought. God is still able to keep those who are His until He calls them home. 

Missionary John Paton, while surrounded by hostile cannibals, said, “I realized that my life was immortal till my Master’s work with me was done.” 

The same is true for you. Don’t fear the enemy. Don’t shrink from the battle. Obey God, and trust Him to bring you safely home to Heaven. Then you can say with the apostle Paul, as he neared the end of his campaign—

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

Jesus is able to keep you from falling until He brings you into His Father’s presence—zero casualties!

Our God Is A Specific God

At the Lord’s command, Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages. (Numbers 33:2)

Numbers 33:3-49 goes on to list 43 specific places. 

The next chapter gives specific boundaries for Israel’s borders, listing 21 specific places. 

After that, we read a list of 12 specific names of leaders who are to assign portions of land to all the Israelite tribes. 

Our God is a specific God. No detail escapes His notice. Nothing happens by chance, nor is God ever scrambling to fix something I’ve messed up or to address something that I think is “unexpected.” God knows the end from before the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), including my specific role in His plan.

Let me say it again—Our God is a specific God. 

Heavenly Father, you have a specific plan for my life. You have given me specific talents to use at specific “stages” along the journey of my life. Holy Spirit, help me not to lean to my own understanding, for it is far too finite and skewed. In all my ways—in all the stages of my life—I want to use my specific talents specifically to glorify Jesus.

Where’s God Today?

Transitions are always hard things. We are leaving the known for the unknown. Even if the known is unhealthy or painful, it’s still hard to go to the unknown. 

Why are these transitions so difficult? Perhaps it’s because I’ve learned how to cope with the known, or I’ve gotten used to this “normal” life, or even I’ve simply learned to navigate any dysfunctional areas.

But is that really living? Am I managing my life or is God? When I’m against transitions, aren’t I really saying that I’ve put God’s plan for my life in my box?

Those questions trigger even more questions in my mind: Where’s God in all of this? Why can’t He just make my known better? Why is He leading me (or maybe even pushing me) into this unknown? 

Jesus didn’t endure the unimaginable horrors of the Cross just so you could cope with life. Jesus came to bring us abundant life—not a barely-getting-by life or just a coping life!

How does He bring us into this abundant life? By leading us through transitions. And where is He in all our transitions? Closer than you think! 

Moses sang a song to conclude his sermon in Deuteronomy. In that song, he mentions God taking care of His people the way an eagle cares for its eaglets.

Adults eagles build their extremely large nests in the highest point they can find. Their nests are made of massive branches. In fact, they build some of the largest nests of all birds, and build them in the most inaccessible of places. Before their eggs are laid, the adult eagles will soften their nest with feathers pulled from their own body. From the time the eggs are laid until the eaglets leave the nest, they are never without a parent present—while one parent hunts, the other watches. 

Eaglets first test their stumpy wings by jumping around in the nest, mimicking their parents. Eventually they will start “branching”—jumping to nearby branches—and then “fledging”—taking their first short flights from the nest. All under the watchful eye of the parents. Finally, the adult eagles will “stir up” their nest by blowing away all of the comforts of their plucked feathers, encouraging the eaglets to soar. 

Moses said that this is how God cares for His children. First by shielding and guarding us, and then by stirring up our nest and encouraging us to soar! 

Much like when Jesus ascended back to Heaven. He was going to physically leave His disciples, but He knew He had adequately trained his “eaglets” to soar without Him with them in bodily form. 

But Jesus never leaves us spiritually. He said that His ascension back to heaven would allow for the Holy Spirit to be resident in each of His followers (see John 16:7-15). It is the Holy Spirit that continues to guide us, teach us, empower us, correct us, and lead us to SOAR into abundant, God-honoring, Christlike living. 

There are many, many times of transition as we soar, but He never leaves us. The Holy Spirit is our constant Counselor. God shows His love for us by caring for us. God also shows His love for us by making us uncomfortable with the status quo. 

May the times of transition cause us to rely even more on the very present help of the Holy Spirit.

Continue to follow along with me in a new series of posts looking at how the Holy Spirit helps us to soar!

Handling Personal Attacks

So the people grumbled against Moses … The people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron (Exodus 15:24; Numbers 20:2). 

People with limited vision have limited faith too. As a result, they frequently grumble when things don’t go their way. Ironically, their grumbling is almost always directed at the leader who does have far-reaching vision and God-honoring faith! 

For most of his tenure as leader, Moses handled the grumbling of the people well. Sometimes, though, the complaints seemed more personal:

  • …in opposition to Moses and Aaron
  • …they quarreled with Moses
  • …“Why did you…?” 

These complaints may seem like a personal attack, but in the end, we find out that these attacks weren’t really against Moses at all—“the Israelites quarreled with the Lord” (Numbers 20:13). 

God tried to help Moses and Aaron see that this was not a personal attack on them. He instructed them to “speak to that rock” so that water would be provided for the grumbling people. But sadly, Moses and Aaron missed this point. They said to the Israelites, “must we bring you water out of this rock?” And then in total frustration with the quarrelsome Israelites, Moses “struck the rock” instead of speaking to it.

Moses made himself the focal point, not God. God responded: “you did not trust in Me enough to honor Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites” (v. 12).

A mark of a godly leader is one who doesn’t take personal attacks personally.

Previously, Moses responded to the grumblers better—

  • He “cried out to the Lord” and received directions
  • He obeyed God’s directions to the letter
  • He reminded the people that their grumbling was really “against the Lord” (Exodus 16:6-8)
  • He humbled himself before the people and pleaded with them not to rebel against God
  • He humbled himself before God and interceded for the people

If God has called you to lead, people will bring their quarrels and complaints to you. It will feel like a personal attack, but it’s not. When attacked or when people grumble, you need to humble yourself before the Holy Spirit and ask, “Did I do something wrong?” and then listen attentively for His answer.

If the answer is yes: repent, ask forgiveness, make things right.

If the answer is no: don’t take it personally, stay humble before God and the people, and obey the specific directions God will give you. Don’t get frustrated and cut short your tenure as a leader.

This is part 44 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

9 Quotes From “Surprised By Paradox”

Jen Pollock Michel has given us a thought-provoking look into her thoughts of some of the and solutions to the either-or challenges many Christians face. Please be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Allowing for paradox does not represent a weakened approach to theological understanding. On the contrary, it allows for a robust theology, one that is filled with the sort of awe that not only regards God as unimaginably wondrous but also awakens in us the same desire Moses had to see Him as He is.” 

“As psychologists have described it, awe is ‘the experience of encountering something so vast—in size, skill, beauty, intensity, etc.—that we struggle to comprehend it and may even adjust our world to accommodate it.’ Awe is our slack-jawed response to natural phenomena like waterfalls and childbirth. To feel awe is to confirm a beautiful, wild universe, a world we neither made nor control. … For those of us inclined to religious belief, awe nurtures our certainty about God.”

“Modernity gave us more certainty than uncertainty—or at the very least certainty in certainty. We’ve come to an unassailable confidence that mystery, by dint of inquiry and scientific effort, can be wrestled and pinned down and made to cry uncle. We are no longer victims of the unknowable: we are masters of our own understanding. The great modern lie is one of infinite human autonomy and control.” 

“It is an old sin seduced by an old lie that we can be like God, perfectly knowing as He knows.… As soon as we think we have God figured out, we will have ceased to worship Him as He is.” 

“I also get tricked into thinking that the world must quiet around me if I mean to meet God. I forget the paradox of the burning bush: that Moses met God at Horeb on an unspectacular day, that his encounter with God was less planned and more happenstance. God did not speak to Moses as the prophet sat cross-legged and silent, his hands folded in reverent to prayer. God blazed up in the landscape of an ordinary Wednesday afternoon. This seems to be how it goes with God: a spiritual life is a material one.” 

“The paradox of God’s story is that He’s chosen to write its timelessness in the ticking heart of His Son and that He’s choosing to write it in our ticking hearts too.” 

“If the kingdom is good news, it surely isn’t safe. Because there is no square inch of our lives Jesus doesn’t intend to rule.” 

“To define grace apart from the Cross would be to say that God is simply given to leniency. It would be to essentially say that there are rules which we break and break badly, but God reassures us kindly that ‘it’s no big deal.’… The Cross speaks a thundering word about the cosmic big deal that is sin.” 

“To receive grace, we need humility. The only prerequisite for grace is empty hands. We have done nothing to make God notice us, and He is not impressed by us.” 

11 Quotes On The Gospel Of John

Alongside my daily Bible study time in the Gospels of the New Testament, I have been reading J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts On The Gospels. You can check out my review of this book by clicking here. 

These are a few of the quotes I especially appreciated from Ryle’s comments on the Gospel of John.

“Ignorance of Scripture is the root of every error in religion and the source of every heresy. To be allowed to remove a few grains of ignorance, and to throw a few rays of light on God’s precious Word is, in my opinion, the greatest honor that can be put on a Christian.” 

“It is a real misfortune to Christianity when a Christian cannot smile. A merry heart and a readiness to take part in all innocent mirth are gifts of inestimable value. They go far to soften the prejudices, to take up stumbling blocks out of the way, and to make way for Christ and the Gospel.” 

“We must maintain firmly that God hates wickedness, and that the end of all who persist in wickedness will be destruction. It is not true that God’s love is lower than hell. It is not true that God so loved the world that all mankind will be finally saved, but that He so loved the world that He gave His Son to be the Savior of all who believe. His love is offered to all men freely, fully, honestly, and unreservedly, but it is only through the one channel of Christ’s redemption.” 

“Nothing so defiles Christianity and gives the enemies of truth such occasion to blaspheme as jealousy and party-spirit among Christians. Wherever there is real grace, we should be ready and willing to acknowledge it, even though it may be outside our own pale. We should strive to say with the apostle, ‘If Christ be preached, I rejoice, yes! and will rejoice’ (Philippians 1:18). If good is done, we are to be thankful, though it even may not be done in what we think the best way. If souls are saved, we ought to be glad, whatever be the means that God may think fit to employ.” 

“Well may we be told to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom! Well may we be told to long for the Second Advent of Jesus Christ! Then, and not until then, shall there be no more curse on the earth, no more suffering, no more sorrow, and no more sin. Tears shall be wiped from the faces of all who love Christ’s appearing, when their Master returns. Weakness and infirmity shall all pass away. Hope deferred shall no longer make hearts sick. There will be no chronic invalids and incurable cases when Christ has renewed this earth.” 

“The ‘Scriptures’ of which our Lord speaks are of course the Old Testament. And His words show the important truth which too many are apt to overlook, that every part of our Bibles is meant to teach us about Christ. Christ is not merely in the Gospels and Epistles. Christ is to be found directly and indirectly in the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets. In the promises to Adam, Abraham, Moses, and David; in the types and emblems of the ceremonial law; in the predictions of Isaiah and the other prophets—Jesus, the Messiah, is everywhere to be found in the Old Testament. How is it that men see these things so little? The answer is plain: they do not ‘search the Scriptures.’ They do not dig into that wondrous mine of wisdom and knowledge, and seek to become acquainted with its contents. Simple, regular reading of our Bibles is the grand secret of establishment in the faith. Ignorance of the Scriptures is the root of all error.” 

“Trial, we must distinctly understand, is part of the diet which all true Christians must expect. It is one of the means by which their grace is proved and by which they find out what there is in themselves. Winter as well as summer—cold as well as heat—clouds as well as sunshine—are all necessary to bring the fruit of the Spirit to ripeness and maturity.” 

“Well would it be for men if they would act upon the truth they know. Instead of saying, as some do, ‘I must first know everything clearly and then I will act,’ we should say, ‘I will diligently use such knowledge as I possess and believe that in the using fresh knowledge will be given to me.’ How many mysteries this simple plan would solve! How many hard things would soon become plain if men would honestly live up to their light and ‘follow on to know the Lord’ (Hosea 6:3). … The plain things in religion are undeniably very many. Let a man honestly attend to them and he shall be taught the deep things of God.” 

“Happy is he who never stifles his conscience, but strives to keep it tender! Still happier is he who prays to have it enlightened by the Holy Spirit and sprinkled with Christ’s blood.” 

“Let us resist procrastination as we would resist the devil. Whatever our hand finds to do, let us do it with our might. ‘The night comes when no man can work.’” 

“It is noteworthy that the resurrection of our Lord in some places is attributed to His Father’s act (Acts 2:24-32), once, at least, to the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 3:18), and here [John 10:18] and in John 2:19 to Christ Himself. All leads to the same great conclusion—that the resurrection of our Lord, as well as every part of His mediatorial work, was an act in which all three Persons of the Trinity concurred and cooperated.” 

You can read Ryle’s quote on The Gospel of Matthew here, on the Gospel of Mark here, and on the Gospel of Luke here.

Poetry Saturday—Exhortation To Prayer

William CowperWhat various hindrances we meet
In coming to a mercy-seat!
Yet who that knows the worth of prayer,
But wishes to be often there?

Prayer makes the darken’d cloud withdraw,
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw,
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings every blessing from above.

Restraining prayer, we cease to fight,
Prayer makes the Christian’s armor bright;
And satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.

While Moses stood with arms spread wide,
Success was found on Israel’s side;
But when through weariness they fail’d,
That moment Amalek prevail’d.

Have you no words? Ah! think again,
Words flow apace when you complain,
And fill your fellow-creature’s ear
With the sad tale of all your care.

Were half the breath thus vainly spent
To Heaven in supplication sent,
Your cheerful song would oftener be,
“Hear what the Lord has done for me.” —William Cowper

 

A Leader’s Intercession

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you (1 Samuel 12:23).

Leaders teach, and encourage, and train, and correct, and sometimes even warn. But despite all of this effort sometimes people still do wrong—and even sinful—things. And sometimes there are consequences for these poor choices that even a leader cannot deflect away from them. 

  • Position-conscious leaders say, “It’s not my fault, and I hope this doesn’t reflect poorly on me!” 
  • Selfish leaders say, “I’m glad I’m not in trouble!” 
  • Vindictive leaders say, “It serves you right!” 

Godly leaders say, “How can I serve you?” 

The Israelites grumbled against God, and God was angry. It would have been understandable if Moses would have said, “You complained so you’re going to have to bear the consequences.” But instead, Moses interceded before God on their behalf (Numbers 11:1-2). 

The people rejected God as their King and chose instead a man named Saul to lead them. Samuel could have said, “You’re in big trouble now!” But instead, he said, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23). 

What about you? Have you ever grumbled against God or chosen a path that wasn’t best for you? Jesus could say, “Well, you should have known better!” But instead, we read that He intercedes before God’s throne on our behalf (Job 9:33-34; Hebrews 4:15-16; 7:25). 

The mark of a godly leader is one who intercedes for his people.

If you are a Christ-follower and you are a leader of people, then follow Christ’s example. Yes, continue to teach, encourage, train, correct, and warn. But if people mess up, don’t write them off; instead, intercede before God on their behalf! 

This is part 32 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: