Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 12 Feb 18:
1. Exodus 35:1-3 — In the last nine chapters, the requirement to honor the Sabbath has been repeated at least 14 times.
2. Exodus 35:5 – “Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord’s contribution.” God is always looking for generous hearts to serve Him. Generosity is a demonstration of genuine faith. It takes faith to give abundantly, trusting in God’s provision.
3. Exodus 35:10 — “Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the Lord has commanded.” God wants people of all talents and skills to put their abilities towards His work rather than just using their God-given talents for themselves.
4. Exodus 35:10, 21, 22, 29 — “Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the Lord has commanded…. And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart…. All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.” God’s commands are obeyed only by willing hearts. What we choose to do reflects what we truly feel about God. God’s commands are not difficult to understand or difficult to follow; the struggle is with the heart. As the old pastor says, “The heart of man’s problem is the problem with man’s heart.
5. Exodus 35:30-35 — “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel… and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he Has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.” God calls His servants, assigns them, inspires them, empowers them, and equips them with all that is required to fulfill the mission which is given by Him. God also calls His servants to teach others. Bezalel and Oholiab were Old Testament disciple-makers who not only used their talents, first and foremost to serve God, they also ensured that the work of the temple would expand beyond themselves through others in the congregation. There are levels of leadership we should all aspire to achieve:
1) Lead Self – this is actually learning more and more to be led by the Spirit, obtaining the last mentioned “fruit of the Spirit” which is self-control (or self-discipline); this is growing in unity with Jesus and following Jesus more and more in loving obedience; this is the foundation of all the other levels of leadership and is something that remains a life-long endeavor. Leadership is taking people where they need to go. True leadership points exclusively to Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The person who has learned to “lead self” is the true “walking dead,” having been crucified with Christ and no longer living, being controlled by the love of Christ. The moral authority to lead is found only in the authority of Jesus. We are only as much of a leader as we are a follower of Jesus. Confidence, personality, talent, skills, and abilities are no substitutes for faith, hope, love, and obedience to Jesus.
2) Prepare to Lead Others – This is developing the skills required of a disciple-maker; it is learning how to not only share your faith but also how to teach others how to walk in faith, to obey all that Jesus has commanded.
3) Leading Others – This is disciple-making; it is far more than just teaching: it is coaching and mentoring; walking with the person and practicing discipleship, evangelism, ministry, worship, and fellowship together. How much time did Jesus spend in the classroom with His disciples? How much time do football coaches spend reading books about football with their players? You don’t really understand something until you live it. Leading others involves “getting dirty” together and sharing experiences together. Like a good Marine squad leader, the disciple-maker is on the front-lines with his team employing the steps of instruction: “Educate, demonstrate, replicate, evaluate, remediate,” – “Here is why and how…. Now, watch me…. Now you try…. Let’s examine what went well and what could have been better…. Let’s try again, and again….” As Jethro taught Moses, as Jesus modelled, and as the military has practiced for thousands of years, a disciple-maker must focus their energies on no more than three to twelve people to be effective (usually focusing on one, then three, then 10-12).
4) Leading Subordinate Leaders – this is developing disciples into disciple-makers, taking them beyond merely leading self to preparing to lead others, leading others, and onward. This creates a powerful pyramid structure of leadership that employs the principle of multiplication.
5) Develop a Leadership Climate and Culture – this is about creating an iron-sharpens-iron environment among large groups of mutually supportive, interdependent disciple-makers. It is about influencing a shared expectation of growth and helping to facilitate that growth.
6) Leading Communal Change – this is about creating, equipping, supporting, and sustaining unity of effort and unity of action among many to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, to lead a growing movement of reconciliation with Jesus. Change implies a degree of permanence. We say that a person has changed when they are consistently different over time. Likewise, a community has changed when the difference is defining. Leading communal change is generational.
6. Ezekiel 36:1 — “Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the Lord has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded.” Even artists have to constrain their creativity to the commandments of God. God tells us how we are to worship Him, what is acceptable to Him.
7. Exodus 36:4 – “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.” Have you ever been to a church where the Pastor, Reverend, or Priest said, “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary”? I suspect not. However, today we read in both the Old and New Testaments where the people of God, of their own free will and without any pressure, gave in abundance. In both cases, the Israelites in the desert and in Rome had plenty of logical reasons not to give as, in both cases, their futures were (in the eyes of men) very uncertain. While we worry about a bad economy, they were right (from an earthly perspective) to be concerned for their very lives. Yet, they gave freely. Today, less than 4% of church members tithe (give 10% as commanded in the Bible), while most spend about 20-25% of their incoming paying off debt (much of which is owned by China and the nation of Islam), around 29% of their income on taxes, and about 20% of their income on transportation costs. Can you imagine the impact if Christians followed the Biblical principles of living debt free, sharing with one another, and tithing? What would happen if, tomorrow, 100% of the church tithed?
– Two experiences in my Christian walk significantly changed my perspective on church finances. One occurred in the early 90’s when my Pastor stood before the church to explain why, despite supporting over 10,000 attendees, we still met in a giant tent instead of a building. He said that the church in America was spending more on building debt then to support missionaries, and he refused to go into debt to build a church. Today, he pastors in a huge, beautiful building, debt free. My second profound experience was in 2009-2011 when we attended a congregation that all worked together to construct their own church building (with the support of some builder missionaries – I did not know such people even existed). They took what was once a horse arena, moved it across the city, and transformed it into an amazingly beautiful church (quite large too). They did the vast majority of the work on their own. Mostly on Tuesdays and Thursdays the congregation would meet after normal working hours to build together, eat together and fellowship. This experience completely changed my perspective on, not only church finances but also on church fellowship. It is an incredibly powerful thing when the body works together to build the church. You can imagine the intense emotion that was felt during the first service conducted in the new building that everyone had built together through much blood, sweat, and tears. This was the most cohesive and committed church body of which I have ever been a part, and the culture of mutual support extended to all areas of life – they helped build each other’s homes, shared necessities of life, and gave to each other generously; interestingly, most were barely middle class. That experience reminds me of what we read today in Exodus when everyone freely gave, not only of their resources, but also of their time and talents to construct the sanctuary. How does this relate to your church experiences?
8. Proverbs 12:18 – “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Your words will either hurt or heal. Today, only speak healing words. (Proverbs 12:18)
9. Proverbs 12:22 – “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” God takes lying very, very seriously.
10. Proverbs 12:25 – “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Anxiety comes from a lack of trust and a lack of faith and hope in God — a deep-seated belief that your consequences and your future depend solely upon you, along with the recognition that you really have no control over either your consequences or your future. The Sabbath rest, the tithe, forgiveness, and giving are rebellious acts against a self-centered perspective that teach you to trust in God and that end anxiety promote a heart of peace and rest.
11. Proverbs 12:26 – “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” The measure of leadership is to what degree the leader leads others towards righteousness, and we know that righteousness is only found in Jesus Christ.
12. Acts 3:2 – “And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple.” The Bible talks about tithes, offerings, and alms. Tithing is required giving and is public (10%); offerings are above the tithe to the church and are generally anonymous (as described in Exodus today). Alms are acts of charity as described in Acts. God calls us to all forms of giving. All that we have is the Lords, but God wants us to consistently give 10% to the church, offerings above the tithe as led by the Spirit, and acts of charity where we see the opportunity to share the love of Christ. Among these, the tithe is probably most debated today by many who see this a part of the Old Covenant Law, made obsolete by Jesus. However, tithe is pre-covenant as observed by Abraham, the tithe was commended by Jesus, and the tithe has been used throughout church history as a storehouse for believers. The tithe is an act of faith and a public testimony. The tithe is revolutionary much like the Sabbath.
13. Acts 3:6 – “But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’” Christians should always do their charity in the name of Jesus Christ. God wants people to be more than more comfortable on this earth. He wants them to have the eternal life and peace of knowing Jesus. Don’t let charity be a substitute for the Gospel.
14. Acts 3:12 – “Why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?” Christians NEVER take credit our point to themselves but always point to Jesus.
15. Acts 3:12, 13 — “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.” The Israelites saw miraculous things occur in and the through the lives of the Apostles because they were witnessing, not what a handful of very talented, skilled, and committed men could do, but rather the power of God working through surrendered servants. God works through us to do what is impossible for us to do of our own abilities that He may be glorified, not so that we can receive success, good fortune, or the praise of men. It always takes great faith to do what God calls us to do because what He calls us to do is impossible for us to do unless His power enables the achievement. However, when we do step off in faith (into the Ark, into the Red Sea, into the rushing waters of the Jordan River, into the fiery furnace, into the lion’s den, etc), not only is God glorified, but our faith and appreciation for God grows too. However, if we don’t first start crawling in faith, start toddling in faith, we will not be able to walk like adults with God along the Way.
– The Apostles wanted absolutely no credit for the miracle that had occurred through them – “Don’t look at us, look at Jesus!” When they saw the crippled man with a need they said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” This is not charity work as we so often see it today, this was ministry – service in the name of the Lord. While they compassionately desired to heal the man’s infirmities, their ultimate concern was for his spiritual welfare. Never did they separate the healing from the Healer. Our mission on earth is to glorify God on earth, not governments, organizations, churches, or ourselves. How many times have you seen buildings (even church buildings) named after a person? How many times have you seen philanthropic organizations (even religiously based organizations) named after a person? How many times have you seen charities or charitable events named after a person? How many religious leaders can you think of who project their name far more than the name of Jesus Christ? How much time does the Christian community invest in charities and philanthropic work in the name of something or someone other than Jesus Christ?
– Will you acknowledge Jesus Christ before others today? Will you give all credit and attention to Jesus today? Often people will acknowledge “god” in crowds. Even the most base rock stars will get up at music award ceremonies and thank “god” for their success while simultaneously shocking crowds with their profane behavior. It is quite another thing to humbly, yet boldly, acknowledge “Jesus Christ” as Lord and Savior. That name, Jesus Christ, automatically changes the tone of any conversation. Will you proclaim his name today? Will you direct all attention away from yourself and point it towards Jesus?
– Isaiah 48:11 — I will not yield my glory to another.
– Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
16. Acts 3:14 – “But you denied the Holy and Righteous One.” The disciples did not sugar-coat the sinful condition and condemnation of those outside of Jesus. The Good News is good in contrast to the Bad News that we all deserve the wrath of God and eternal death.
17. Acts 3:19, 20 – “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.” The message was and remains, “Repent… that your sins may be blotted out.” Does your message to others start with “repent” as did the messages of John the Baptist, Jesus, and now the disciples?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 12 Feb: In light of today’s readings, consider your level of giving, the heart behind your giving, and the message of your giving. Do you give tithes, offerings, and alms? Do you point solely to Jesus Christ in your charity? Does your level of giving require great faith because of how much you are giving? It takes faith to please God, and it takes faith to give in a godly way.