Monday, March 29, 2010

What Skills Has God Given You?

Bezalel and Oholiab

 1 "Then the LORD said to Moses, 2 'See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts- 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze,
6 Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you...They are to make them just as I commanded you.' "
to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. (Exodus 31:1-6)

This is one of my favorite passages in the Old Testament and today, I just want to make two very quick and important points based on it...(see also Exodus 35:30-36:1).

1. God is the giver of all gifts, skills and talents (vs. 3-5)
2. God never calls us or asks us (or in this case commands us) to do anything that He has not also given us the ability to do (vs. 6).

I doubt many Christians would disagree with either of those points, so why, do you ask, do I love this passage so much?  Because it highlights those things we often overlook as "God-breathed" and "God-given" gifts.  For example, take my wife; she is an amazing woman (which is why I married her), and one of her greatest gifts is her ability to organize things.  Finances, a house, a family, me, she has a gift and can meticulously bring peace and organization to things that can often be chaotic.  This is not just something she's good at, it's a gift given to her from God.

Another example is a man in our church, Randy, who has an amazing gift with his hands; everything he touches is golden.  He makes everything from cakes to kayaks and is one of those people who has this ability to creatively create things with excellence (you can see some of his work here).

In fact, there are a whole host of people who have great gifts that are ABSOLUTELY God-given; artists, painters, musicians, financial counselors, carpenters, hospitality gifts, those who can sew and hem, those who are craftsmen, cooks and bakers, wine-makers, construction workers, cabinet makers, writers, gardeners, and the list is endless.  Do we stop to look at ourselves and others long enough to recognize these gifts?  All of us have a gift from God.

What's the point?  I think my point is this; I want you, whoever are reading this blog to see and do two things;
1) I want you to be and feel empowered that whatever you're "good" at, you're good at because God has specially designed you and gifted you in that area.  Don't ever feel diminished that your gift is different than someone else's.
2) I want you to always look for the gifts in others and seek to encourage and empower them.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

1 day outta 7

8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 1011 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11) but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.

12 "Then the LORD said to Moses, 13 "Say to the Israelites, 'You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. [a]  14 " 'Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. 15 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD." (Exodus 31:12-15)

23One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?"
 25He answered, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions."
 27Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:23-28)

I have written many posts on the Sabbath...however, I just can't seem to escape it.  It is a topic that I'm passionate about; especially because as a pastor I have both witnessed first hand and experienced myself varying degrees of burnout.  I believe that if got back to observing Sabbath rests in our lives, then much of this burnout could be avoided.

Right now I'm reading through a 2-year Bible plan and as such, I've spent much of my time lately in Exodus.  Of course, in Exodus we have the giving of the law to the Israelites and part of that law is commandment number 4; "Remembering the Sabbath by keeping it holy."  I just want to make a few more observations...and of course, if you're picking this up for the first time, you should go back read my other posts on Sabbath rest (click here).

- When you read through the commandments in Exodus 20, notice that there are more words used in this fourth commandment than any other.  Not only does God give the command, but He also gives an explanation for it.
- As you go on reading in Exodus, this seems to be the one command that God brings up more often; (see Exodus 31:12-18 for example).
- The giving of the commandments was a terrifying, and awe-inspiring event.  That is the context for the commands being given.
- Of the ten commandments, 8 are "do not's" and 2 are "do's" - DO keep the Sabbath, and DO honor your Mother & Father.
- The Sabbath is for rest.
- The Sabbath is "holy" (literally meaning, "set apart").
- God rested on the seventh day.
- God DID do work for 6 days...and then He rested.
- Jesus gives us even further insight in Mark when He comments that the Sabbath was for man.

That last one there is least for me.  It's all to easy to look at the commandments as some list of tasks and things we're supposed to do...and in one sense, it is.  However, these commands are for OUR good...much like a Father who "commands" his son not to cross the street, or to buckle his seat-belt.  Yes, they're commands and if you break them there are consequences...but the heart and motive behind the command is for our own good.

Too often we want to place God in a box and define Him in a way that makes sense to us.  Rather, we must always read Scripture in context of how God defines Himself.  First and foremost, God defines Himself as a God of love, and that is the context we must have when we read through His desires for us (see Exodus 20:6, John 3:16-17 and 1 Jn 4:7-21 as examples).

Bottom line: The Sabbath needs to be a priority for us.  Yes, under Christ we live under the new covenant, and yes, that brings us freedom, but let us dare not think that we can ignore the 4th commandment and not suffer for it.  The Sabbath is FOR us, for our god, for our health, for our well-being - it is a day set apart and holy.

Finally, I leave you with this, which sums things up pretty well.


Monday, March 15, 2010


14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening... (17) What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone...
21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you."

 In one of the books I'm reading, Leading on Empty, author Wayne Cordeiro makes this observation;
"Eighty-five percent of what we do, anyone can do: checking email, answering messages, attending meetings, reading the newspaper or trade journals, and making simple decisions.  These tasks don't require an elite expertise or specialized skill...  Ten percent of what we do, someone with a modicum of training should be able to accomplish...  But 5 percent of what I do, only I can do!  This is the most important 5 percent for me.  I can't hire someone else to take my place in any of these activities because they require that I be there.  This 5 percent will determine the validity of the other 95 percent."

I believe that Moses, in the above passage, has fallen into a familiar trap...especially for leaders - and make no mistake, we're all leaders.  The trap is something I refer to as the Superman Complex - "I alone can save the world.  If I don't ____ than ____ won't happen."  Moses knows he's God's appointed leader and he has already led God's people out of Egypt.  What happens though?  Quite simply, he forgets that God didn't call him to do EVERYTHING.  Moses lost sight that the 95 percent was keeping him from the 5 percent.

Then Jethro steps in.  Jethro is Moses' father-in-law and he is a God-fearing man, who is both proud to see his son-in-law succeed as a leader, and humbled at the greatness of God.  However, he sees "all that Moses was doing..." and raises the alarm.  He says it pretty bluntly; "What you are doing is not good."  Put another way, Jethro may have been saying, "Moses, you've spread yourself too thin and you're doing too fact, you're on the fast track to burn-out and you've forgotten the most important calling on your life."  His solution?  DELEGATE.

Delegating seems easy, but it is not.  It is very hard to trust someone else to do something and "hand it over to them."  It means it might not be done the way you'd do it, or as "perfectly" as you'd do it, or as fast as you'd do it.  It means believing that just maybe, God might have given someone else the gift/ability to do that same thing.  Maybe they'd even do it better than you (gulp).

Still, if it's part of the 95 percent and is taking you away from your calling, it must be shed.  Wisely, Moses takes Jethro's advice and is a much better person and stronger leader for it.  It allowed Moses to get back to the 5 percent that only he could do.

What about you?  What is your 5%?  What are those things that only you can do, that you alone must be present for?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Are You Afraid?

Fear is a natural feeling...but it is what we call "a secondary emotion."  It is not a primary emotion.  Something always starts first, that leads to fear.  A thought takes root in our minds, which leads us to the secondary feeling of fear.  Sometimes this thought takes root in less than a second; such as when someone or something startles you, or a strange noise in the night.  Other times, the thought is built over a life-time of improper thinking or "lie-believing."

Regardless, often times our fears lead us to the "fight or flight" response...that urge to either run away as fast as we can, or stand and fight.  When we get to this point, sometimes we end up hurting those who are most trying to help us...such as the lifeguard who tries to save a drowning person, only to encounter someone who doesn't seem capable of receiving such help.  But there is a third option to fighting or fleeing; waiting.

13 Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." (Exodus 14)

Pause for a moment and answer this question;
- Is there something in your life that causes you anxiety, something from which you're trying to fight or flee, and is it possible God is calling you to wait on Him?

More often than not, I find that my efforts to help myself are often not the remedy.  Usually, the remedy involves me stopping, being still, praying, and listening...and yet these are things that don't come naturally to me.  I am impatient, and don't like "waiting" on God.  And yet when I move ahead of Him I only dig the hole deeper.

What is something in your life that you're facing, where God might be saying to you, "Relax.  It's not your fight, it's mine.  Remain in me, and wait for my deliverance."

Sometimes God does call us to action and in those moments may we not hesitate, but act courageously.  Other times though, He calls us to wait on Him, and to take courage knowing the battle is His.

Monday, March 8, 2010

He Never Sleeps...

20 After leaving Succoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13)

He is Sovereign = always in control
He never sleeps = always watching
He always guides = never steering us astray.

I love this picture in Exodus 13.  God has just led the Isrealites out of Egypt, but they haven't really been tested yet.  In fact, the Egyptians are about to change their minds and pursue them.  And what do we see here?  We see God leading His people.  In the day time as a cloud, and at night as a pillar of fire.

I love that imagery; night can be a scary time.  It's dark, you can't see, and your other senses are heightened.  Things that normally wouldn't scare in in daylight become a little more scary at night.  And yet, there He is, as a pillar of fire, right in front of them leading them.

I read this portion of Scripture a couple of days ago and it caused me to stop and be reminded that Christ IN me = the same thing the Israelites had; full time 24/7 access to God, through Jesus.  His power, His strength, His guiding...He never sleeps, and he is both my leader and my rear-guard.

The questions for me are, do I trust Him?  Do I follow Him?  When He says "go," do I go?  When He says "don't be afraid, but 'cross the Red Sea' " to I hesitate, or do I trust?  You see it's easy for me to judge the Israelites and their fickleness...and yet I look at my own life and how often I hesitate and wonder if I'm any different?

"Oh Lord, today, let us take courage to follow your leading, in everything."

Friday, March 5, 2010

What I'm Reading

If you notice, on the side of this blog I have a section called "What I'm Reading."  Allow me to highlight this section for a moment, and share with you a bit of the journey I'm on.

The Journey I'm On: It's been one of lots of ups and downs and I have had to learn to manage my time in new ways in order to maintain my health.  All of these books have played/are playing a role in helping me to stay healthy, and to make sure I'm living a life on purpose with balance.  I simply wanted to highlight these for you, just in case you need a good book...

Leading on Empty: This is a book by Wayne Cordeiro.  Wayne is a pastor of a very large, successful church in Hawaii, and he went through a crisis in his life and experienced a major melt-down in his physical and spiritual health, and in his ministry.  The first I learned of his journey was a session at The Leadership Summit 3+ years ago...his session was titled "Dead Leader Running."  More than any other session, this one has stuck with me.  I bought the dvd and have watched it with my wife several times.  I have also bought copies for many other leaders I know who seem to be nearing burnout.  The book is his follow up to that session.  If you are nearing burnout, or want to help prevent it, this book and dvd are must-read/must-see.  While I never had burnout to the extent Wayne has, his principles that he learned have helped me immensely in monitoring my health and keeping me from that crisis.

Pure Pleasure: This book, by local author Gary Thomas, seemed to dovetail perfectly with where I was/am in life.  The subtitle tells you the heart of this book; "Why Christians Feel so Bad about Feeling Good."  If you seem to fight legalism, a hard-core work ethic, or seem to have lost the joy of being a Christian, this book might be just what you need to "come back to your first love."

Lord of the Rings: I don't need to tell you what it's about.  However, I put it here so that you know that I don't always/only read stuff on leadership or spiritual health.  Sometimes, I just need to get lost in a good story and I can think of no better place to get lost in than Middle-Earth.  The books are far better than the movies, which were splendid.  And don't get me started on all the changes or "errors" that the movies contained.  :-)

The New Age of Adventure: I love adventure stories and this book is a wonderful collection of short stories that were just what I needed.  It's put out by National Geographic and is a very fun read...(our local library has a copy of it).

The Hole in our Gospel: Author is Richard Stearns, the President of World Vision.  Don't read this book if you're content in your life.  It will "rock your world" and has rocked mine.  In fact, I had to stop reading it about halfway through as I was needing to focus on my spiritual health.  It takes a hard look at what our role is as American Christians in helping "the least of these." 

Well there you go!  That's what I'm reading right now.  Well actually, I've finished Pure Pleasure and The New Age of Adventure...but I'm reading the other three.

Monday, March 1, 2010

An Olympic Lesson - Amazing

"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."

Maybe you missed it during these Olympics?  It was a Slovenian Cross-Country skier, Petra Majdic, a gold-medal favorite in the sprint-classic.  Part of the way through a warm-up run prior to her races, she slipped and fell 10' backwards into a gully, landing on a pile of rocks.  She broke two poles and a ski, but after a quick on-site exam, she was told "nothing was broken" (which actually, wasn't true).  That was all she needed to hear and going against her coaches advice, (who wanted her to get to the ER), insisted on continuing with her Olympics.  She proceeded to ski 3 preliminary races in the same day and although in immense pain, managed to qualify for the medal round, again in the same day.  Amazingly, she finished with a hard-earned bronze medal...the first-ever medal for Slovenia in cross-country skiing.  It was at that moment, after the racing was done, that doctors found she had 4 broken ribs and 1 collapsed lung.  Read the full story here.

Did you catch that?  I have never broken a rib, but I have bruised a rib, and that alone was painful enough.  1 collapsed lung?  She had "half" the "lung-power" of those she was racing against, not to mention the incredible pain.  And yet, she persevered and finished her race in strength.

Perseverance; it's one of the marks of a Christian, and it really drives us to answer the question, "what are my core beliefs?"  There are many things that many of us "claim" to believe but until that belief is challenged, we will never know what we truly believe.  Someone once said, "What you do is what you believe."  When you're in the cauldron of the test, our true character will be proved.  I want to be one who was found to have run the race, hard, and run in a way to win.