God Is The Majority

…all of them were leaders of the Israelites (Numbers 13:3). 

Caleb and Joshua were two of the ten leaders who were sent out to explore the land of Canaan in advance of the Israelites’ crossing the Jordan River.

One of their areas of exploration was Hebron, the city where God first promised this land to Abraham and his descendants. It was here that the explorers saw the giants of Anak. Next, they went to the Valley of Eschol and took a sample of the gigantic-sized fruit. The explorers all experienced the same journey, but they did not all come to the same conclusion.

Ten of the explorer said, “The food is gigantic but so are the people. We cannot defeat them!” (13:26-29)

“Then Caleb silenced” those naysayers and said, “We can do it!” And Joshua joined Caleb in declaring, “Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (13:30; 14:6-9).

The majority rules, right?

No! God did not send them in as a committee to vote on His plan. God had already said, “Take possession of the land”—that wasn’t up for debate or vote!

The naysayers said, “It looks like a good land, but….” 

Caleb and Joshua said, “They look like giants, but….” 

The majority saw the negatives and made excuses. They saw their situation as bigger than God.

The minority saw God as bigger than the giants. God by Himself is always the Majority. Always. My vote doesn’t change a thing. In fact, I don’t even get a vote! My only decision is whether or not to trust God and obey Him. Obedience—faithful, trusting obedience in God’s word—puts me on God’s side.

A mark of a godly leader is one who makes sure he is always on God’s side. 

This is part 48 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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.

In > On

When it comes to the Holy Spirit’s involvement in a Christian’s life: In > On.

Sometimes, instead of referring to the two major divisions of the Bible as Old Testament and New Testament, I prefer to use First Testament and Second Testament. This helps me remember that “Old” doesn’t mean outdated, and “New” doesn’t mean forgetting what came before it.

B.B. Warfield had a great analogy. He imagined the First Testament to be a perfectly-constructed mansion. Only the finest materials had been used, and the mansion had been constructed by the best craftsmen being overseen by the world’s premier Architect. The only problem was this mansion had no lights. With the appearing of Jesus in the Second Testament, finally the lights are turned on. Jesus reveals the beauty that was already there! 

In the First Testament, we frequently read that the Holy Spirit comes ON people, usually for leadership functions. We see this phrase with Moses and his co-leaders, several of the judges, Israel’s first two kings, and many of the prophets (see Numbers 11:25; Judges 3:10, 6:34, 11:29, 15:14; 1 Samuel 11:6, 16:13; 2 Kings 2:15). 

However, there is one leader in the First Testament about which we notice the Spirit came IN him. Twice Ezekiel says this (2:2, 3:24). This was hinting at a to-be-fulfilled promise in the Second Testament (36:25-27). 

The Holy Spirit being IN God’s people—which makes them God’s leaders—is described by Jesus in Acts 1:5. Many translations render this verse, “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” But the NIV footnote and The Message both say “in the Holy Spirit.” Indeed, the Greek word means “by, with, or in.” But in context to being baptized (which means immersed, submerged, cleansed, overwhelmed), I think the best word is: baptized IN the Holy Spirit.  

Let me say it again: When it comes to the Holy Spirit’s involvement in a Christian’s life: In > On. 

“You hardly need to pray to have the Spirit poured out, for that has been done. What you need is a baptism of the Holy Spirit; to go down personally into that glorious flood that has been poured forth. Oh, to be immersed in the Holy Spirit and into fire—covered with His holy influence—plunged into the Godhead’s deepest sea and lost in His immensity! Here is our life and power.” —Charles Spurgeon 

Jesus wants all of His followers to be baptized IN the Holy Spirit. So He told us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking, keep on waiting for God’s promised infilling (Luke 11:9-13; Acts 1:4-8). 

Don’t stop at salvation—with just the Holy Spirit deposited in you—press on to be submerged deep into the Holy Spirit. 

If you missed the first couple of posts in this series, check out Where’s God Today? and The Holy Spirit Keeps Christians “Oscar Mike.” 

God Sees Individuals

After the plague the Lord said to Moses and Eleazer son of Aaron, the priest, “Take a census…” (Numbers 26:1-2).

  • The book of Numbers starts with a census.
  • In the middle of the book, the Israelites sin by distrusting God. 
  • Every one of those adults recorded in the first census—who distrusted God—died.
  • The book of Numbers ends with a census.

“The total number of the men of Israel was 601,730. … Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai [in the first census]…EXCEPT Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun” (vv. 51, 64-65).

God doesn’t see crowds or masses of people; He sees individuals. He knows each individual by name. He knows me and you too. I cannot hide my sin, I cannot use “the crowd“ to justify my disobedience. He sees my heart. He sees my obedience and my disobedience.

God said, “Because they have not followed Me wholeheartedly, not one of those who were twenty years old or more when they came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—not one EXCEPT Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly” (Numbers 32:11-12).

God had a plan for each and every person recorded in that first census. They all could have entered the Promised Land. But all of them sinned and forfeited their opportunity—EXCEPT Caleb and Joshua. 

God has a plan for my life and for your life. Each of us has to choose obedience for ourselves. Despite the sin everyone else around you may be committing, let God say of you, “There is an EXCEPTion!”

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.

Acceptable And Pleasing

…acceptable to the Lord … an aroma pleasing to the Lord… (Leviticus 1:3, 9). 

Whether it’s a sacrifice or a lifestyle, these two phrases sum up the goal of obeying all of God’s directives: acceptable and pleasing. 

“But,” you might say, “there is a lot of law to obey—a lot! 

And I would agree with you. Beginning with the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and going all the way through Numbers 9, there are 56(!) chapters of regulations.

“And I’m supposed to follow all of those?!” 

Yes! Every single one of them. And not just those, but also the innumerable man-made rules that were added on top of all of those laws. 

In the opening words of Leviticus, two key words emerge:

  • Acceptable to the Lord 
  • An aroma pleasing to the Lord

“How can I ever get there?” 

YOU can’t! 

For EVERYONE has sinned; we ALL fall short of God’s righteous standard (Romans 3:23 NLT). 

For NO PERSON will be justified—made righteous, acquitted, and judged acceptable—in God’s sight by observing the works prescribed by the Law… (Romans 3:20 AMP). 

But here is our hope—Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing the heavenly places in Christ…to the praise and of the glory of His grace, by which HE MADE US ACCEPTABLE in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3, 6 NKJV). 

And when we are in Christ, we also become an aroma pleasing to God—Our lives are a Christ-like FRAGRANCE rising up to God (2 Corinthians 2:14-17 NLT). 

On our own, we cannot accomplish any of this. But in Christ we are both ACCEPTABLE to the Lord … and an aroma PLEASING to the Lord…. 

Ingratitude Can Mess Us Up

Fading gratitude can negatively impact our past, present, and future. Because when our gratitude to God begins to fade, so does our understanding of what God has already done for us, our appreciation of what He is still doing for us today, and our hope for what He will provide for us tomorrow. But we can flip the script—Our continual gratitude can begin to positively impact our past, present, and future! 

“Gratitude is from the same root word as ‘grace,’ which signifies the free and boundless mercy of God. Thanksgiving is from the same root word as ‘think,’ so that to think is to thank.” —Willis P. King 

The more we THINK about God’s grace in our lives, the more we can give THANKS for all He has done. Or said another way…

The best way to be THANKFUL is to be THINKFUL!

In Psalm 78, Asaph gives us a two-word reason for the up-and-down history of the Israelites: they forgot. The Israelites’ forgetfulness led to their lack of gratitude, which then caused yet another downward turn away from God. One of the examples he gives us is very informative: the daily provision of manna while the Israelites were in the wilderness (see Psalm 78:11-25; Exodus 16:4, 14-18). 

Every day God’s people had their food needs miraculously supplied for them, yet they begin to take this gift of God for granted. They stopped thinking about His provision, and then they began to ungratefully grumble (Numbers 11:4-6). Their grumbling actually caused them to want to return to slavery in Egypt! 

With fading gratitude, we can get stuck in the past. We even end up looking back at slavery and scarcity and call it “the good old days”! With fading gratitude for the past, sometimes we beat ourselves up. We say things like, “If I would have known then what I know now….” But you couldn’t know then what you know now. You only know now because of what you went through then, which makes another reason to be grateful. After all, God is using everything we have gone through to work out His plan (see Isaiah 46:9-10; Romans 8:28). 

We need to be thinkful about our past so that we can be thankful for what God is doing with it today.

Manna provided food every single day the whole time the Israelites were in the wilderness. It stopped immediately after they entered the Promised Land. For that daily provision, they should have been thankful but it was when they forgot to be thankful that they longed for the past and tried to do things on their own. 

The manna is a picture of Jesus. Not only is He our daily bread for today, but He is also our hope for eternity with God in Heaven. And for that, we should be daily thinkful AND thankful. 

If you’d like a fun idea of how to stay thinkful AND thankful, check this out.

Join us this Sunday as we learn more about the dangers of our fading gratitude. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Blessing Of A Promise-Keeping God

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Blessing Of A Promise-Keeping God

     I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; or unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; or unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah. … 

     All the purposes of man have been defeated, but not the purposes of God. The promises of man may be broken. Many of them are made to be broken. But the promises of God shall all be fulfilled. He is a promise-maker, but He never was a promise-breaker; He is a promise-keeping God, and every one of His people shall prove it to be so.  

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon

God is not a man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He ever promised and not carried it through? (Number 23:19)

For the word of God will never fail. (Luke 1:37)

Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. (Joshua 23:14)

But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. (Psalm 146:5-6) 

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for His glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Our God is a promise-making, promise-keeping God!

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.

What Is Shalom?

Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace. Some of the best definitions of shalom include ideas of completeness, soundness, and wholeness. One Jewish rabbi commented that when you say “Shalom” to someone, you’re really saying, “may you be full of well-being.” Or another way of thinking of shalom is—nothing missing, nothing broken. 

Some have tried to describe shalom as the absence of conflict, but that’s not quite accurate. On the verge of going into the Promised Land to fight their enemies, God commanded Aaron to speak a blessing of peace of the people (Numbers 6:24-26). And just before Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,” He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9-10). 

Shalom is not controlled by outward circumstances. Shalom is a deep-seated, rock-solid, unshakable assurance that I am in God’s hand. 

Isaiah describes how we live in shalom like this—

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind—both its inclination and its character—is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. (Isaiah 26:3)

How do we do keep our mind stayed on God? The Apostle Paul says, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Psychologists call this process metacognition: when we think about what we’re thinking about. It’s being aware of our anxious thoughts that are robbing us of shalom and then talking back to them. 

What often robs us of peace is listening to ourselves instead of talking to ourselves! 

Someone once asked evangelist Smith Wigglesworth, “Smith, how do you feel?” He replied, “I never ask Smith how I feel. I tell him how he feels!” Exactly right! 

Why do we make our thoughts obedient to Jesus? Because one of the titles given to Jesus before He was born was Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and Jesus assures us that His peace is unlike anything we can ever find in earthly things (John 14:27, 16:33). 

God’s peace is always there, but our divided minds keep us from experiencing His peace. So Isaiah tells us to keep our mind steadfast on God’s goodness, and Paul says the same thing—Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7)

I want to encourage you to practice what the Bible calls capturing your thoughts—or what psychologists call metacognition. Ask yourself, “Why am I thinking that?” Capture those thoughts and make them obedient to Christ. Don’t let your worrisome thoughts rob you of God’s shalom.

Join me this Sunday as we take a closer look at the “shalom cycle,” including the things that can derail it. 

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