Posts Tagged ‘dependence on God’

1 Samuel 13:1-14 (Part 2 of 3)
War with Philistia, Saul’s Disobedience, and Samuel’s Rebuke

There was a song by the late, great Tom Petty entitled “The Waiting is the Hardest Part”. The title of the song is appropriate for today’s lesson. Saul could not stand the waiting so he decided to take it upon himself to offer a sacrifice to God. He was impatient on God’s timing.

Sometimes, I get that way too. Ever since God gave me the desire to go into ministry, there has been a lot of waiting. What is it that He wants from me? I have been waiting for six years. Sure, there has been preparation to go through that I thoroughly believe was necessary. Getting my masters degree in Christian ministry was an eye-opening and faith-deepening experience for which I am eternally grateful. My understanding of Scripture and eagerness to be in God’s Word was exponentially increased by that experience. But it was my expectation that as soon as my degree was handed to me by NGU President, at that time, Dr. Epting, that the skies would open up and a church would magically call me to be their pastor or a large church would call me to be their executive pastor or that God would give me a burning desire to start a church in some community somewhere. That was back in May 2014 when I graduated.

Since then there have been lots of applications for executive or administrative pastor positions through Vanderbloemen and There have been four positions for which I have been granted phone interviews. Two of those resulted in follow-up video call interviews. One of those resulted in an over the weekend visit on-site. That one was this time last year, back in January 2017. On that one, my wife and I came oh so close to landing the administrative pastor’s position for a church in north central Ohio. After that, it has been a yearlong dry streak for on-site interviews. We have another one coming up next weekend. The waiting has been the hardest part. The difference between this one upcoming and the rest is that I did not apply for this job. The church’s founding pastor sought me out after doing a search for candidates on So, this one feels different than the other jobs I have pursued.

When we went through the extended interview process last November 2016-January 2017 for the position at the church in Ohio, I felt like I needed to press. I felt like I needed to do and say the right things in the process. It seemed to me that I was pressing. I was like a quarterback whose team is down by two touchdowns with a quarter left to play in the game and who thinks he has to make plays and he presses and overdoes it and throws an interception. Instead of letting the game come to him, he presses and makes a mistake. That was how I felt. Nervous. Pressing. Trying to do things under my own power.

However, this time around, a year later, it is almost as if I don’t care if I get the job or not. This job is farther away than the one in Ohio last year (sometimes I argue with God – why can’t you put me in position for a job around here, why do you grant me interviews for jobs 8-12 hours away from South Carolina?). This time around, I am not putting any pressure on the process myself. I am going into this next weekend with the attitude of “if God wants this, He will make it happen!” Maybe, it’s because the job is far away from home in a much colder climate. The low temperatures next weekend are projected to a raw temperature of 6 and 7 degrees the two nights we will spend there. The wind chills for overnight lows those two nights will be subzero. Maybe, I have just resigned myself to always just being on the edge of ministry and never really in it. Maybe, it was the severe disappointment of what happened this time last year. Maybe, though, this time, I am just letting the Holy Spirit take hold of the process. Last January, I was going in looking for reasons to take the job. This January, I am going in looking for reasons not to take the position and only one reason to take it. That reason being that the Holy Spirit will make it abundantly clear, I mean really and abundantly clear, to both Elena and me that this church is the place where we are supposed to go. I am going in with no expectations and no desires other than that. There will be a million reasons for us not to pack up and go and only one reason why we should – that God has made it abundantly and expressly clear that this assignment is what is next for us, no other reason.

That’s the lesson from last January to this January. Let God lead and not try to make this happen in your own power. I mean I am not going up there trying to flub it up and not get the job, but I am going up there with no pressure in my heart. I have simply decided to wait on God. That is the thing that I thought of this morning as I read through this passage, 1 Samuel 13:1-14, this morning for the second of three readings of it – that idea of trying to push God along because we are impatient. That idea of how Saul was pressing and was not patient. That idea of how Saul simply did not wait on God to reveal. Let’s read the passage now:

Chapter 13
1 Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty-two years. 2 Saul selected 3,000 special troops from the army of Israel and sent the rest of the men home. He took 2,000 of the chosen men with him to Micmash and the hill country of Bethel. The other 1,000 went with Saul’s son Jonathan to Gibeah in the land of Benjamin.

3 Soon after this, Jonathan attacked and defeated the garrison of Philistines at Geba. The news spread quickly among the Philistines. So Saul blew the ram’s horn throughout the land, saying, “Hebrews, hear this! Rise up in revolt!” 4 All Israel heard the news that Saul had destroyed the Philistine garrison at Geba and that the Philistines now hated the Israelites more than ever. So the entire Israelite army was summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.

5 The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3,000[c] chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore! They camped at Micmash east of Beth-aven. 6 The men of Israel saw what a tight spot they were in; and because they were hard pressed by the enemy, they tried to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and cisterns. 7 Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped into the land of Gad and Gilead.

Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and his men were trembling with fear. 8 Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away. 9 So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.

10 Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, 11 but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. 12 So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”

13 “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

In this passage, we see that, rather than waiting for a priest, Saul offered a sacrifice himself. This act by a non-priest was against God’s law (Deuteronomy 12:5-14) and against the specific instructions of Samuel (see 1 Samuel 10:8). Under pressure from the approaching Philistines, he took matters into his own hands and disobeyed God. He was doing a good thing (offering a sacrifice to God before a crucial battle), but he did it in the wrong way. Like Saul, our true spiritual character is revealed under pressure. The methods we use to accomplish our goals are as important as the attainment of those goals.

A lot of times, we want to do God’s job for Him. We want to get out ahead of God. Things aren’t happening as quickly as we want them to happen. Sometimes, it is in the waiting that we learn to be dependent on God. Man, what a relief it is when we let go and let God. Learning to trust the Lord completely with our lives is one of the toughest things we have to learn as we mature in Christ. That’s the difference between me last January and me this January – I am just at the point that I am trusting God with whatever comes our way in the ministry field. I have no more preconceived notions as to what God will do with our calling. Maybe that’s the point. Complete dependence. Completely open ears. When we quit trying to control everything, the white noise stops and we can hear God’s voice. That’s the approach I am going to take next weekend – quietness and calmness, listening for God to make it clear to us if this IS the place. If it is, He will make it clear. He will make a way.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 4:1-24 (Part 2 of 3)
Deborah Becomes Israel’s Judge

Today, in this passage, we see a woman taking over the leadership role over Israel. It was a time when no male leader wanted to take the mantle of leadership. Deborah saw what had to be done and she did it. It makes me think over several single moms, like little sisters to me, that I am so very proud of for how they have taken the role of being both dad and mom at the same time. These ladies all were forced into these roles when they did not want single parenthood. But in this day and age where some women dump their kids off on whomever they can so that they can live the party-going, manhunting lifestyle, these ladies that I know are examples to us all of putting our personal desires aside for the benefit of their children – not too unlike Deborah in our passage for today who put her personal desires aside because her nation needed someone to step up.

These ladies that I know are each single mom and have been for a while – Karen, Kelly, Desiree, and Shelley. Each one is human and certainly not perfect but they are doing what is right by their kids. Each one is a beautiful lady so it’s not like they have a lack of options. However, the kids are the priority with these ladies. Karen has been a single mom for 20 years or so. Even though her kids are grown, she has always placed their needs over her own and it stands as an example to us in this “me” lifestyle we have in our nation now. Karen has made innumberable sacrifices for her kids and now her grandkids. So many of us have married, been betrayed, divorced and remarried and some like me married multiple times. But Karen always kept the focus on her kids and being the best parent she could be. The fact that she has been single so long, the world will say that she is a spinster (though only in her late forties) and probably just a hardass. However, I think Karen has just let the focus be raising her kids and if a man comes along that is right she will entertain the idea. She longs to be a Christian wife again and willingly submit to the right man as her husband, but God has seen fit to make her life a ministry of what a single woman can do when her mind is on her kids and not necessarily her own desires.

Kelly is another one. This lady has two adorable boys that she is very proud of and she makes them her priority above all else. She had a difficult beginning to life having to give her first child up for adoption when she was very young. But later in life she married a man that she thought was it. She was ready to have a normal life and she had two little boys with this husband. Next thing you know their life falls apart because of his issues and now she stands alone as a single parent. She is another who sees providing a normal life for her kids the most important thing. She has managed to start her own cleaning business which she has become successful at. She started this business because she wanted flexibility to be able to be with the boys when she needed to and when she wanted to. Although she could have given up on life after the circumstances of her first marriage ending, but she stepped up. She did not freak out and try to relive her lost youth. She stepped up. Those boys of hers are all-American well-rounded boys because of her. Like Karen, Kelly wants to be a wife and would love to submit to his leadership of her family. However, Kelly waits because not just any man she will allow to be around those precious boys. Their environment and their well-being is the most important thing to her.

Desiree is another. She is one of those classic beauties that almost doesn’t seem like she is a real person. But though Dez is stunning, she is a great mom. She may not be perfect but there is no doubt about her love for her one and only child, Ave Claire. Although Desiree is from our GSP area, she moved to Charlotte a couple of years ago for an opportunity to provide for her daughter better. Although her ex-husband is more participatory now, there was a time when it was all on her. She was another one that I feared that would leave the child-rearing to a parent or a grandparent while she sought out the party lifestyle and a new man. Although there are times when she does let off some steam, there is nothing more important to her than Ave Claire. Her default priority in all things is Ave Claire. She recently worked hard to pass her real estate licensing exam so she could become a real estate agent. Why? So, she could have more flexibility to meet Ave Claire’s increasingly more active social life. Desiree stepped up. Desiree is placing the needs of her child above her personal deisres.

Shelley is the final one of this group of my little sisters that I am proud of. She is the youngest of the group. She has a warped sense of humor like mine so that is how we became friends after my wife introduced her to me. Shelley struggles at times being a single mom. She did not want this. She is relatively new at the game compared to Desiree, Kelly and Karen. Shelley is honest about her struggles and I love that about her. And sometimes through her honesty, you wonder if she is going to make it. Elena invests in her. I don’t say much but just watch and observe. For all her struggles, Shelley loves her child. She can’t even think about relationships right now because just the volume of the struggle of being a single mom with a child is about as much as she can handle. She loves Bri and regardless of the struggles of life, Shelley would die for that child and if you mess with Bri, you mess with Shelley. She too like the others did not want to be in this position, but life hands us crap at time and we must make a soufflé from it. Shelley keeps her sense of humor about it all but you know she desires to be a wife again at some point and share the struggles of parenthood. But for now, it’s all about Brianna and waiting for the right one that is right for their family and not just Shelley. She didn’t want to be a single mom, but she has stepped up. She is placing Brianna’s needs above her own.

These four little sisters of mine, Karen, Kelly, Desiree, and Shelley, all demonstrate that sometimes in life, women are forced into positions of leadership because no one else is there and they must lead. That’s the thing I see in these four ladies and it is what I see in Deborah. She becomes a judge for God’s people. It is God’s plan that leadership is the man’s responsibility and his sacrifice for the good of his family and for the good of his nation. Women are made equal in God’s sight but He designed them to be nurturers and caregivers and the passion of life and the beauty of life and they are designed to be home to family. Yes, women can lead as well as men and no doubt there have been great women leaders throughout history. And no doubt that are awesome female leaders right now. Most women though think first of family and home before they think of career. They are designed that way by God. And in the Bible, when you see a woman step up and be a leader, it is because of the lack of or the spinelessness of the men of the era. Deborah stepped up because there was no one else who would. Sometimes, because of the fallen nature of man, God’s order of things gets messed up. Deborah is an example of that. She was a godly woman for sure, but she had to take on a role because no one else was there who would. Let’s read about it now:

4 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. 2 So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.

4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading[a] Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”

8 Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

9 “Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.

11 Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law,[b] and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.

12 When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron.

14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. 15 At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.

16 Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. 17 Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.

18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.

19 “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.

20 “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”

21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.

22 Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.

23 On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. 24 And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him.

Today in this passage, we will ask the question, how did Deborah command such respect? She was responsible for leading the people into battle, but more than that she influenced the to live for God after the battle was over. Her personality drew people together and commanded the respect of even the military general, Barak. She was also a prophet, whose main role was to encourage the people to obey God. The amazing thing about Deborah was that she was true leader in that she was concerned about the people themselves and not success. Success by itself is no driver but having passion for a cause or a people can lead us to do great things. All the while, Deborah was filling a role because no man would do it. Sometimes, in life, women are forced into roles that are typically reserved for men and we must pray for them when they are in those positions such as single parenthood.

What can we do when we are forced into a situation that we don’t want to be in and somehow seems unnatural to us? We pray for God to restore order in the long run but we pray for God to give us the strength to get through situations that we are not well suited for. This is true for all of us not just Deborah and not just for these four single moms of which I have spoken. We all can be in situations that we are not designed by God for because we live in a fallen world. Sometimes, circumstances are forced upon us by others that do not seem fair and we could just throw up our hands and give up. Single dads out there raising daughters and sons on your own. I see you too. You have to be a mom when the situation calls for it even though you are definitely not wired for that. All of us whether single moms or single dads have been in situations that were long-term that we are ill-equipped by our very nature to handle.

We live in a fallen world. We live in a world where people are going to dump on us. We live in a world where life is not fair to us at times. We often have to deal with the consequences of other people’s stupid decisions and there is nothing that we can do about it. I think that is where we learn dependence on God. When we do not have the innate talent to handle a situation because of what sex we are, when we do not have the innate talent to handle a situation because the talents needed are not the ones that God naturally talented us with, that’s when we learn dependence on God. Otherwise, if we could handle it, we are less likely to see God’s power in our lives. I would imagine that there are times as single moms, my friends, my little sisters, Karen, Kelly, Desiree, and Shelley, can attest to God miraculously delivering them through a situation with their kids or with life in general that they thought that they’d never make it through.

Are you in a situation that you don’t want to be in and feel as though you are not going to make it through it, hold on to the mainsail post and the storm rages. God will pull you through it. He will show you that you are strong through Him. One day you will reach the smooth waters, but for now, depend on God. Step up and don’t give up. God will never leave you or forsake you even when you are getting through the valley where you do not have the natural abilities to get through it. Depend on God to light your path. Depend on Him to make you strong through His strength.

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 1:1-9

The Lord’s Charge to Joshua

I have been the leader of the finance group at my company for eight years now. Of course, there have been many challenges over those 8 years. Some small, some large. Something always new on the horizon to keep things interesting. Over those years, I have faced the challenges of getting the department ready to move from California to South Carolina (and hiring all new people). That was a major challenge. There was the challenge of moving the company off its long-time ERP system, eBack Office, to the ERP system that the rest of the US group of Fujikura companies were using, Oracle. That was a huge challenge. That challenge included another challenge within it concerning financial reporting methodology. That was a big challenge that included some missteps along the way. New challenges exist today – training a new temporary employee right now, for the first time in six years; a group of future projects in determining how to better automate our financial reports that involves less manual manipulation of data to get it in the format that we need in our particular business, off-loading some of my more routine tasks to my subordinates so that I can be more visionary and less tied down by details. And there will be challenges after that I am sure. Leadership is all about seeing challenges, preparing for them, and executing plans for them when they get here. Leadership is never static. It is always evolving and moving ahead.


These have been the great challenges after I took over as comptroller. However, none of them was a great as the challenge that initial challenge of taking over as the head finance guy at my company 8 years ago. It was the biggest challenge of my life as a leader to that point. Most of working career I had worked as a staffer or as a senior staffer in internal audit departments. I had been the sole internal auditor before – working alone in my function. I had been an internal audit department head before. However, in that case, I was providing leadership from afar with 4 field auditors spread out over the footprint of a finance company that operated in 17 mostly Southern or Southwestern states. This would be the first time that I would lead people that were right there in the same building with me. They say leadership is leadership no matter what. But leading people on-site vs. remotely is a whole different ballgame.


When I came on board at Fujikura America, Inc. (FAI) as comptroller eight years ago, that was the biggest challenge of all for many reasons. In that, I can identify with Joshua as he stood before the biggest challenge of his life to that point. He had been the guy under the guy for forty years (talk about patiently waiting your turn!). Now, this mass of people all around him day to day was his charge to lead. It was his first time as the leader of a nation. No big deal, huh! It was similar for me eight years ago. I had never led a finance department before. I had never led people that were going to be around me every day before. As a senior internal auditor at Fluor Corp, I had led project audits before but that was an audit by audit thing and not the same. This was the real deal. Leadership of people that you were working with day to day. Add on top of that, the department was in complete disarray. The company had tried to hire the cheapest leadership it could for the finance group for the past six years and had gone through three comptrollers in that time. Each one was over their head in the job and had failed miserably, all three of them. In that six years, the department’s financial reporting was less and less trustworthy and the employees in the department were all marching to their own drummer in the face of incompetent leadership. FAI’s financial data was not trustworthy and the incompetence of the comptrollers before me made FAI the laughing stock of the whole US group of Fujikura companies. Nobody at the US parent company headquarters could trust any reports or data that came out of FAI. When I came on board, I stepped into the biggest mess and biggest challenge of my working career. I had seen messed up financials before as an internal auditor. In those cases, I had written voluminous audit reports of all the things that were wrong that management had to fix and then moved on to the next audit. Now, it was up to me to identify what was wrong but also to fix it. It was a long, hard battle.


That first year on the job involved establishing firm leadership – an expectation of excellence. It involved reviewing everything that my people did and throwing work back to employees that was substandard. It was teaching about basic accounting. It was teaching about learning what your customers, internal though they may be, want and providing it to them in that manner. It was tough creating the discipline of excellence from a “throw anything at the wall and see what sticks” mentality that had existed. It involved extensive research for sometimes up to six years to figure out what was in our balance sheet accounts. When I got there, no balance sheet accounts had been reconciled in six years or more. It was like creating the history of the company from scratch. It was establishing procedures and writing policies and establishing standards. It was the toughest task of my working career. In those first few weeks after I took over, it was like “oh, crap! What have I gotten myself into.” I kind of had an idea that things were in disarray at FAI because I had worked for the corporate office of the US parent company for one year as a compliance auditor for the previous year. I knew FAI was screwed up but I really did not know how bad it was until I took over. The previous comptroller was no help as far as training me on my task ahead. She was a complete idiot when it came to accounting and leading a finance department. So, I was thrown in there to figure it all out on the fly. It was a great big ol’ hairy challenge.


I sometimes wonder why God put me into that position. There are surely more people out there that are smarter. I have known this throughout my career. There are plenty and I mean plenty that are smarter than me when it comes to financial and auditing knowledge. So, why, this little old boy from Travelers Rest that is not the sharpest tool in the shed was able to make an ever upward career in accounting is a miracle from God anyway, much less being put in this challenging situation. I was really scared at first. The problems seemed so big and so many. I hardly knew where to start. It was a challenge that I did not know if I was ready for it or not. I think it was Martin Luther King, Jr. that once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” This was my time of challenge. This was my moment to step up with runners on second and third and either strike out to end the game in a loss or slam a home run into the left field bleachers to win the game. Was I up to the challenge in this pressure-packed moment? Was I going to harness my fears and take on the challenge or was I going to cower in the corner and continue the legacy of not-so-much at FAI’s finance department. It was going to take courage. It was going to involve establishing discipline among employees, defining responsibilities and establishing expectations of excellence, firing incompetent employees – all that fun stuff of leadership and the reasons so few choose to lead.


My experience shows you that we face challenges in whatever we do every day. We do not have to be leaders of major corporations, major organizations, large churches, large anything. Each of us no matter what job we have face challenges in our jobs of all kinds and at all levels. We all come across challenges that we may not think that we are ready for.


That’s the thing that came across my mind this morning as I read through the first passage in Joshua this morning. How must have Joshua really felt inside when it was his turn to lead and it was not like he was going to just maintain. He had a major, major challenge ahead. You are the leader now but hey Joshua just as you are beginning your leadership of the nation…ummm…go conquer the Promised Land. No big deal just conquering a vast expanse of land already occupied by entrenched people groups. No small task as you take over the nation. You can do it! Man, what a situation Joshua was walking into.


We are going to spend a couple of blogs on this first passage but for today we will focus on how Joshua must have felt when taking over after Moses as we read through Joshua 1:1-9 today:


1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.


7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”


In this passage, we see that Joshua has succeeded Moses as Israel’s leader. What qualifications did he have? First, God appointed him to be the next leader (see Numbers 27:18-23). Second, he was one of only two adults who had witnessed the miracles of the plagues in Egypt. Third, he was Moses assistant for 40 years. Finally, only he and Caleb showed complete confidence that God would help them conquer the land.


That’s the thing here. God knew that Joshua was the right man for the job even if Joshua did not think so himself. God saw something in Joshua that was going to be useful to the kingdom. I know that in those early days as comptroller of FAI, I did not know if I was up to the task. However, as time progressed, I realized that God had put my career together as he did even some of the bad stuff that has happened to me in my career as preparation for this moment in time. All of it was preparation to do what I am doing now. This moment in time is where not only have I accomplished the initial task but it has allowed me to guide our team through rough waters after that. That initial challenge was great but once I got through it any challenge after that I know that I can get through it.


At the same time, these past years at the same time I have been at FAI has been a time of great maturation in Christ. That is no coincidence. I have become a leader in my church and all of that was because God felt I was ready for this challenge in my job 8 years ago. All of it works together. God knows stuff about me that I don’t know yet. He has great challenges ahead of me that I don’t know about yet. But if it were not for the confidence that He has given me and showing me that I can lead and I can conquer challenges that I will be ready, not because I am cocky but because I have grown to trust in the Lord – because He has shown me what depending on Him can do for me. He will lead you and me both to great feats that we did not think we could do before. He is preparing you and me right now for the next great challenge. Depend on Him. Through dependence on Him, we can be bold. We can be strong. We can be courageous.


We just have to depend on Him to get us through our challenges. Depend on Him to show you the way -whether it leading a nation, leading a company, leading a church, leading an organization, leading a department, leading your family.


Amen and Amen.

Matthew 5:13-16
Salt & Light
Sometimes, we pray or listen to other pray, we find out about the boldness of their faith. Last night was an example of how sometimes my faith is not what it should be. At the small group at which I am the leader, we had one of the newest members of our group as for prayer for about a CT scan that she was going to have the next day (today, this morning). Two members of our life group, one of which was my wife, prayed for healing boldly. When it was my turn, I simply prayed for God’s will to be done in the situation no matter what that might look like. I prayed that even if the outcome the CT scan was to show a problem, then, let our small group member be an example of how a Christ follower deals with adversity. Although my prayer was theologically appropriate in that we should pray for God’s will when we pray and not our own selfish desires and it was theologically appropriate to pray that a person will demonstrate to the world their dependence on God, it was not a bold prayer. My wife and my friend showed greater faith in their prayers. As we laid hands on this member of our small group, they prayed bold prayers. They prayed prayers of faith in a God who can perform miracles. How big is the God we believe in? Do we believe boldly in our Lord to ask Him bold prayers? Or do we offer up ineffectual prayers that have no confidence in the Lord to be able to change the course of this fallen world that includes now disease and death? Do you believe in a God that can heal? Do we believe in a God that is still in the miracle business? Why do I bring this illustration up when we are talking about salt and light? I think this comes to mind because our prayer life is often an indication of the status of our walk with the Lord. I think it is an indication of how deep is our faith. When our faith is deep it is bold in prayer, but it is also bold in action. In reading through the previous passage called the Beatitudes, we learned that being a Christ follower is not a call to sit still. It is a call to be bold. It is a call to change the world. It is a call to us to examine how much we trust God. It is a call to us to demonstrate our faith. Prayer is a demonstration of the depth of our faith. Our daily lives, our daily walk is a demonstration of the depth our faith. Having said all that, let’s now look at what has become known as the “Salt & Light” passage.

In the Beatitudes in the previous passage, Jesus has stated how a true disciple should fashion his lifestyle and attitudes toward others. He indicates that a professed disciple who does not live according to those standards has a lifestyle that is of the same value as tasteless salt or of a hidden light when he says in Matthew 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

The salt and light sequence is as easy to understand as any of the imagery used by Jesus in his teachings. There is no need some 21 centuries later to have assistance of scholars to understand this. We still use salt today for many of the same purposes as the counterparts of Jesus “back in the day”. We still, of course, understand the properties of light as well. As well as there being two images used here by Jesus, there are two points that he is trying to make.

The first point Jesus is trying to make here is through the imagery of salt. Just as tasteless salt lacks value to the person who uses it, so is a so-called disciple that lacks the genuine commitment to live out the Beatitudes in their daily lives. This, to me, smacks us directly in the face here in 21st Century America. You and I can see the searing indictment to us as Americans coming here. Jesus speaks to us through then centuries as we sit in our pew or seat on Sunday morning and profess to be Christian. However, if we allow not getting out of our comfort zone and allow our excuses for not stepping out and doing what God ask of us, then we are no better than the blind who sat beside the Bethesda pool waiting on his miracle but using every excuse in the world for not getting in the pool as noted in John 5: 1-8. If we do not live the life got wants us to lead, we become like tasteless salt – worthless to the kingdom of God. We must bold dependence on God to be our shield and portion. If we are bold in our belief in God, we will speak when it is easier to blend in and be quiet. We will stand out when it is easier to go along with the crowd. We will stand up for Jesus when it easier to deny Him. We will explain the source of our joy rather than keep it quiet. Just as salt causes reactions and changes the food that it seasons, so should we be bold in our faith. Just as a city on a hill cannot be hidden, so should we be bold lights that illumine the darkness around us. How big is your God? How much faith do you have in Him to step outside your comfort zone? How big is your God? Is He big enough for you to believe that He will provide for you when He calls for you to step out of a life of meaninglessness and boldly be His disciple? We are worthless to the kingdom if we believe in a wimpy God that we think cannot do anything for us. We cannot be light and salt if we do not boldly believe in the power of God.

Also, Jesus uses the image of light to show us what faith without demonstrating means. An unnamed source for a commentary from Bible says, “A disciple whose life reveals none of the Father’s works is like invisible light for vision: useless. Jesus reinforces his point with various images. A disciple should be as obvious as a city set on a hill, and a light in a home should be no easier to hide than a torchlit city at night. Jesus depicts his disciples’ mission in stark biblical terms for the mission of Israel. God called his people to be lights to the nations – that is, the whole world. Christians are light because-contrary to some psychoanalytic theories-their destiny, more than their past must define them.”

Thus, Jesus is telling his direct disciplines some 2,000 years ago and to us today in this age that professing belief in him is only part of the process. Was it not said in James 2: 14-16, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed, but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?’”

Dr. Richard J. Krejcir says, in one of his daily devotionals at that “Real, impacting, effectual faith will have results. It will be lived out! Faith is received alone, but it does not just stand alone; it is to be shown. Faith will be backed up by the proof that it is present in a person. If there is no proof, there is a good chance that the vessel is empty of faith.” He continues later, “…real faith will result in an outcome that backs it up. Faith will be lived out in the believer’s life, thinking, words, and actions. Faith will create initiative from the realization of who we are in Christ, and then we will live out our lives in Him, through His power and because of our convictions.”

Thus, this section of Scripture (and others like such as James 2: 14-16) teaches us that if we have truly accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, the Beatitudes will be the code of conduct that we willingly live by. However, if the process stops there then we have done little more than accept a good moral code of conduct. But, being a true believer of Jesus Christ, should result in much more than that. We should shed ourselves of excuses, be willing to leave our comfort zone and follow where God leads us. We should be willing to get into the pool and immerse ourselves in where God is leading us rather than sit beside the pool and complain and make excuses for why we can’t do what God wants us to do. We should have no excuses for not “being a light to the nations”. Our thinking, our words, our actions should reflect the faith we profess. If we do not have the faith to step out and be the light like a city on a hill that others look to and want what we have, then do we really have faith…do we really believe in Jesus Christ? How big is your God? How deep is your faith? How bold are your prayers? Should we not believe the sky is the limit…no I mean the sky is no limit…when we are a true disciple of the Lord who raised Lazarus from the dead, who raised Himself from the dead? Be bold. Be different. Stand out. We believe in a God who created the entire universe with the words from His mouth! We believe in a mighty and powerful God. Be bold. Live out loud! Live a life of demonstrable faith! Pray big prayers! Depend wholly on the power of God to provide and guide and protect and heal and…there is no limit to what God can do when we are fully in the game. When we are all-in, full of faith in Him, we can be salt that changes the flavor of the world. We can be light that shines brightly in the darkness.