Three Lessons In Leadership- Part II of II

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Yesterday we left off in Numbers 14, recounting Caleb’s leadership methods, join me as we continue today…

See, what Caleb remembered and what the 10 others selectively chose to forget was what God had promised, “I am giving you a land flowing with milk and honey.”

So, not only did these men contradict Caleb, they continued their frightful, “We can’t do this.” talk into that evening, they raised their voices, they wept aloud, they grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and count it, THREE times, they said they should have stayed in Egypt.

People, I’m not judging. I’ve done it myself, I’ve looked back, I’ve been Lot’s wife, I’ve been these Israelites, that rich young ruler…and Moses and Aaron did the only thing they had left to do, they fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there, Joshua and Caleb also tore their clothes and said to the whole Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.” He goes on to rally the people, reassuring them that THEY will devour these strangers and not the other way around, saying, “Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

The Lord’s anger burned against them and he wanted to strike them down, and yet again, Moses pleads on their behalf, saying that if the Egyptians see that Israel’s God has abandoned them, they will assume that their God was not able to bring them into the land he had promised. He asks, (14:19) “In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”

In response, the Lord relents, but there is a consequence and that is this: not one of those who saw the Lord’s glory and the signs he performed in Egypt, but who disobeyed and tested him ten times–not one of them will see the land that God had promised to their ancestors. I’m sure, upon hearing, this took a while to sink in for Moses. But God makes an exception for Caleb in verse 24, “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” Belief yields promise, unbelief yields wandering, confusion and unfulfillment, it is sickening to say the least. They are the most sobering verses I can think of in the Bible, Num. 14:34-35 “For forty years–one year for each of the forty days you explored the land–you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you. I the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.”

God tolerated their complaining, their sin, idolatry, shortsightedness. Over and over again, He proved that he was gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in great love for his people. Over and over, he gave them tangible signs of his faithfulness: manna, water from a rock, quail, his presence in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, but still, their unbelief ruled their hearts and God would not relent in this case. They would suffer the consequences.

Maybe you’re in the position of leadership right now, you can hear the complaints, the discontent, sense the duplicity of your follower’s hearts. Know that this is a season and it is the Lord who is the ultimate lawgiver and judge. If you know that you are following God’s lead, that’s all that you can do, just yesterday, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to do something, the results weren’t what I expected, and as I walked away, I could hear in my head, “You obeyed me, that’s the important part.” That’s all I had to fall back on.

Or maybe you are one of the followers who has found yourself complaining and as a result has become more a part of the problem instead of a solution. Take this time to repent before a holy God, who loves you and wants to fulfill His promises to you. Pick out at least 2-3 promises in the Word that have always been particularly significant to you, write them down and tape them to your bathroom mirror. Claim them because you can.

Three Lessons In Leadership-Part I of II

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This past week’s Bible study opened up on a scene of dissention. Here, in the beginning of Numbers 12, we find Miriam and Aaron complaining their little hearts out against Moses (seems like a recurring theme in the Israelite’s time in the desert, doesn’t it?) They start off scrutinizing Moses’ life choices: “Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. Then they question his authority: “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” The Lord heard this, and was angry against the two of them. Verse 3 says, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” My commentary later explained that “humble” here meant “meek.” God came to Moses’ defense, because he does not hesitate to call all three of them out to the tent of meeting to have a talk, He tells them that typically, when there is a prophet among them, God would speak to them in dreams and visions, but this simply was not so in Moses’ case, Moses was an exception, “With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord.” He goes on to ask Miriam and Aaron, “Why weren’t you more ashamed to speak against my servant?” Leading me to my first point:

Lesson 1: Leaders Beware: People will complain, and when they do, watch the motivations of their hearts.

God calls whom He calls for a reason, for a time and a season and this is a GOD appointment, who were Miriam and Aaron–who are WE for that matter to question that authority? Yes, I realize that we need to hold everything, including people, against the light of scripture–just as the Bereans did with Paul (Acts 17:11). But we must also be very important to examine the motivations of our hearts when we do this, are we questioning authority because they have gone directly against the word of God, or are we questioning them because of jealousy, arrogance, selfish pride? My study shares this verse, Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Without a doubt, these leaders understand the weight of their leadership, even as a teacher and assistant in my church’s preschool for years, I understood the gravity with which I needed to undertake my role, as it says in James, “Don’t you know that we as teachers will be judged more strictly?”(James 3:1)

Lesson 2: The best leaders rise above the complaints and on top of all that show compassion to the naysayers.

After God had a talk with Miriam, Aaron and Moses, it says in verse 9, “The anger of the Lord burned against them and he left them. When the cloud lifted above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous…” It goes on to say that Aaron was horrified at this sight (probably fearing that he, too, would suffer the same fate) and turned to Moses to ask him for help–please?

This was his Moses’ chance.

He had Miriam and Aaron’s fate the palm of his hand, so to speak. Oh, there’s so many ways that this story could have gone, but what did Moses do? As the humble, meek man of God, he PRAYED. He pleaded to God to heal her. Ack, my heart dies a little here, because how many times have I been this same situation and chosen the wrong answer, “This is what they deserve, they are simply reaping what they’ve sown.” I reason to myself. But Moses, this God-appointed leader, puts aside any potential hurt and prays for his enemy before the throne of Almighty God. God does answer and he does heal, but not without consequence–verses 14-16.

Lesson 3: Leaders: Note that going against the tide will require you to dig your heals in and claim God’s promises. Here, I’d like to shift my focus from Moses to Caleb. As we move on to Chapter 13 of Numbers, we see that God asked Moses to appoint leaders from the 12 tribes of Israel to go explore the Land of Canaan, Moses instructed them exactly where to go and asked them to answer the following questions: What is the land like? Are the people there strong or weak? Few or many? What kind of cities do they live in–are they fortified? How is the soil–is it fertile? Are there trees there? Bring back some of the fruit from the land.

The report was a mixed bag: 10 said, no way, no how, these people are giants, and the cities are fortified and very large.

BUT, Verse 30, “Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

Come back tomorrow to see how Caleb’s faith transformed his fate…including some tips for both leader and follower…

 

Why It Helps to Talk About Stuff

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Leviticus 18:1-3: “The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.  You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees.”

Little A and I have had a few preliminary birds and bees talks, we’ve gone through 2 books together, there have been a few questions and some giggles, I’ve learned a 3rd grader’s terms for certain, ahem, parts, and, and being new to this education thing, I’m not quite sure if we’ve got to the right level of information for this stage, but at least we’re trying…This was a little more than I got as a kid.  Somewhere around junior high, I was handed Preparing for Adolescence and given the instructions, “Let me know if you have any questions!”

<Record scratches somewhere in the distance, music stops abruptly.>

Awkward with a capital A.

Contrast this to my mid-20’s niece who got married a few months ago. I can remember saying to her before she was engaged that she knew a gazillion more things than I ever did at her age about relationships–even after I got married.  Not shocking, tell-all stuff, just wise, discerning things that are helpful for every woman to know going in to a life-long relationship.  She surrounded herself with godly women, she learned, I know that she and my sister-in-law must have had discussions. She went into things wide-open, and she’s told me that she is learning even now.

I like to assume that my daughter has always known stuff like saying “thank you” when someone gives her something, or holds the door for her, but, no, she didn’t know it instinctively. She had to learn by instruction and she had to learn by yielding her heart to the process. Sometimes, more than other times, this is immensely hard. I don’t need instruction, I’ve got this. Easy as pie.  No worries.  <Splat> That’s the sound of me falling flat on my face in mud.

Saying “thank you” is a bigger piece of the pie, really.  It’s about manners, about doing the right thing at the right time and it’s about treating others how you would want to be treated.  Little steps.  And in the beginning of Leviticus, God started off with the “little” instructions, like how the Israelites were to assemble their camp in the dessert (centrally around the tabernacle) or what to do when something became moldy, or what to do when someone had a wasting skin disease, all seemingly tedious details, but they were all important.  God wanted them to live orderly, healthy lives.  And so, as we graduate from how we plant our crops in chapter 19, we move on to how we use our bodies.

Just as we see in the verses above, the Israelites needed an all-‘round rewiring. They needed someone to say, “What you grew up watching, witnessing all around you, that was wrong.  It was hurtful and will bring you nothing but trouble.”  If God was calling his people apart to be holy, just as he was holy (Lev. 20:7), well, then he had to show them how.  Laws like:

1) not having sexual relations with a relative: not your mother, stepmother, aunt, niece, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, or your neighbor’s wife…

2) no homosexuality

3) no bestiality (Lev. 20:10-21)

God uses strong language here: “Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out.” Lev. 20:22

These are all rules that God continues to want us live by. Over and over again, we see that God is a jealous God.  Why shouldn’t he be? He is our Maker, our Husband.  He wants all of our affections and attentions, and living in a fallen world, these affections are usually right in our face.  Even the things don’t look bright and happy and appealing and attractive, they are there too, Little A and I had a discussion about bad words in school yesterday…sometimes it feels overwhelming.

And so we pray, the Lord’s prayer: “Lead us not into temptation, for THINE is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Be assured, we are not doing this alone, it is God who strengthens us to stand, and so do other believers, by their testimonies and how they live their lives. For we are: “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people, once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. ” I Peter 2:9-12.

Let us carry this with us, as we know little acts of obedience yield big results.