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January 17, 2004

Face Up

Genesis 35:1
Then God said to Jacob, "Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother."

Jacob remembers this location well. It's the place where he encountered God - "I have seen God face to face." (32:30) He found himself in that situation to begin with because he was avoiding "facing" his brother Esau. We use a term to describe the process of confronting things in our lives. It's called "facing" - your fears, your issues, etc. No matter how long we try to avoid it, at some point we will find ourselves in a "face off" with the very things we have been running from. The issue God used to bring Jacob to that moment was his fear of Esau's revenge. God knew the issue that Jacob needed to face was his identity. Really, that's what he was wrestling with that night - guilt, manipulation, all the things that had motivated his life. That night, the issue changed. It was evident in his encounter with Esau the next day. I love his words to his brother - "I have seen your face as thought I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me." (33:10)

It seems that after we face our issues, grappling with them until they cannot prevail against you (see 32:25), we see those issues differenly. In hindsight, we no longer see our fears, insecurities, our failures. Instead we see them as the face of God.

And it doesn't rest there. The point of struggle becomes a place of worship. Even more, it becomes your home, your place of residence. God will bring us back to those encounters to remember what we have faced, what we have persevered, and it becomes the place of blessing.

Lord, wherever I have to be to face what you need me to face, take me there. So that I too can see Your face.

November 15, 2006

What Causes Me To Stumble

James 3:1-2 (ESV)
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.

Reading this passage this morning, the events of two weeks ago immediately came to mind. These events prove was James syas earlier in his letter about about the process of sin ... "But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." (1:14-15). My point is not to discect this tragic event. Instead it really is to examine my own life - what is it that trips me up?

Today's passage notes that there are many ways we stumble. It's like an infant learning how to walk. And even after learning how to walk, who hasn't tripped over something they haven't seen, or lost thier balance for some inexplecibale reason (both of which are useually harmless and is cause for laughter and a little humility). But it is our words, especially that of a pastor/teacher that if we're not careful, really set us up for a fall.

How many times have I expressed my "intentions" that others have heard as a commitment. When it doesn't come to pass (which is most often the case with my intentions,much to my regret) I've dissaponted the listener and left them with unmet expectations. As a husband, a dad, and a pastor, the most important thing I can do is to be a man of my word. In order to do this, I must consider carefully what I say. I'm not talking about less transpanrency for my own protection. I am talking about the appropriate judgement of my character by those I'm responsible for if I don't follow through on the words that I speak. For mew this has less to do with what I teach in the pulpit, and more with the conversations I have in my day to day life. I want my "yes" to be "yes." Lord, help me to set a watch over my words. I desire for Your Word to perfect me,and my words to reflect what You are doing in me.

May 2, 2007

Getting Unstuck

Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV)
1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.

"God give me patience, and give it to me NOW!" That seems to be how I want things to go. In this world of instant gratification, everything is now. This Psalm describes how patience is often developed in my life. Rarely is patience cultivated through self-discipline. It's the result of being "stuck" and having no other options. Somehow (usually because of my impatience) I found myself in a messy, or uncomfortable, or deep pit I can't get out of. Like quicksand, the harder I try to get out, the quicker I sink. Like a deep hole, the more I claw the sides of the hole, the bigger it becomes. In the meantime, I screaming for help and it can seem like God's turned a deaf ear - but I know that's not the case.

God uses the circumstances of my life to transform my character. He doesn't create these "learning opportunities;" I'm good enough at getting myself into those situations. He does use them to change me. And as I'm changed, those around me, who have seen the messes I can get myself into, will credit God with not only delivering me, but will testify to the changes that are happening in my life.

February 11, 2010

Prohibition

Leviticus 10:8-10 (NKJV)
Then the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying: 9 “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, 10 that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean,

Observation:
This directive is given after Aaron's sons died while fulfilling their priestly duties, presumably while intoxicated. Thier actions followed thier dedication unto the Lord for their assignment as priests.

Application:
My Mom grew up at a time when Christians avoided alcohol, makeup, and movies. My dad got saved as an adult while in the army and experience a pretty significant change in his lifestyle. This means that while I was growing up we never has any alcohol in our house. Then I grew up. The culture of the church had become much more permissive. The external demonstrations of "holiness" didn't have the same requirements of the past. Certain actions (in my circle of believers) such as cigar smoking, wine tasting, and lager not only became acceptable, but "trendy" as an exercise in christian liberty.

I do believe that we have freedom in Christ. We are not required to live restricted by man-made legalism. Yet there are God-ordained restriction imposed on the life of a believer. And there are old permissions and actions that I can let go of the more I take hold of Christ. As a Christ-follower, I am (we are) a part of a "royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9). And the most important skill that any disciple must have is the ability to distinguish between what is holy and what is not. That skill must be continually applied internally, in evaluating one's self; my motives, choices, and actions. If I take my role as "priest" seriously, there are prohibitions will I choose to live. I cannot afford to be impaired in my ability to make distinctions between what is "clean and unclean, holy or unholy." Whatever impacts my ability to make those moment by moment, life-changing evaluations needs to be not just restricted, but removed from my life. If they are not, it could cost me my life.

Prayer:
Lord, I don't want any part of my life to be impaired. Help me see the things in my life that I am "intoxicated" with, so that I can really walk in freedom and fulfillment.

February 25, 2010

Antidote to Default Living

Leviticus 24:12 (NKJV)
Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the LORD might be shown to them.

Deuteronomy 12:8 (NKJV)
“You shall not at all do as we are doing here today— every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes—

Observation:
These verses in context really have nothing to do with each other. They just caught my attention. The passage in Leviticus is telling the story of how Moses deals with a man who has blasphemed God and decides the appropriate punishment. In Deuteronomy, Moses is describing the how the Israelites will worship when they possess the Promised Land. Although there isn’t anything that would connect these two situations to each other, but there is important insight for me that link these two verses together.

Application:
In the scene presented in Leviticus, a man had blasphemed God. Instead of rashly reacting, Moses resists the pressure to something immediately and creates an opportunity to hear from God. In the end, Moses’ ruling on the violation ends up being the result I had anticipated – the man was put to death. The issue for me is how Moses came to the decision. Instead of allowing the emotion of the moment to force the issue, he created space – space to clear his head and heart, so he could hear from God. Even though we could have anticipated the outcome, Moses did not presume. He stepped back and let God judge, and then obediently moved towards the right resolution. This reinforces to me the idea that the right process always produces the right outcome.

In the other story, God’s people are in the awkward “not yet” stage; they are not yet set up for the way it will be. This forces them to have to make adaptations. And in this context, God allows them some leeway to work things out the best way they know how. That “way” (of worship) in this passage is described as “every man doing right in their own eyes.” My paraphrase of this is “everybody did the best that they could in the circumstances they were in according to the understanding that they had.” But the thing Moses was pointing out was that although this was permissible for now, it was not to become the pattern or process that was going to be acceptable in the next season. In my life there are times that God allows me some leeway in the way I do things – as long as it works, He allows it. But just because He allows it now, doesn’t mean it’s the acceptable or even preferred way of doing things. What I do is allow the exception God allows to become the default behavior. Just because it works for today, doesn’t mean I have permission to do it this way all the time.

The overall thing I get from today’s reading I that I need to continue to push back my reactionary or default lifestyle. I need to not assume that what I’m doing is acceptable or right, even if I have justification for it. There is a way that God has for me to live. He wants me to know His mind on things. It’s my responsibility to understand the season and situation I’m in, so that I can know His mind and instructions for me.

Prayer:
Lord, let me know your mind and instructions. Let me not live by default. I want to live intentionally obedient in every situation.

January 24, 2011

I Am Pharaoh

Exodus 8:8-11 (NIV)
8 Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the LORD to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD.”
9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.”
10 “Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said.
Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the LORD our God. 11 The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile.”
...
Exodus 8:24-28 (NIV)
24 And the LORD did this. Dense swarms of flies poured into Pharaoh’s palace and into the houses of his officials; throughout Egypt the land was ruined by the flies.
25 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God here in the land.
26 But Moses said, “That would not be right. The sacrifices we offer the LORD our God would be detestable to the Egyptians. And if we offer sacrifices that are detestable in their eyes, will they not stone us? 27 We must take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God, as he commands us.”
28 Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the LORD your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me.”

OBSERVATION
These plagues could not be replicated by Pharaoh's magicians. Even they acknowledged that this was from God. So, since Pharaoh couldn't control it, he started negotiating with Moses. And each time after reaching an "agreement," Pharaoh reneged.

APPLICATION
Too many times I've negotiated with God about my situation. If I cant put it off, that I'll agree to perform, but under my terms. Just as Pharaoh was considered to be "god-like," I must think of myself the same way if I think I can cut a deal with God. It's in those areas of my life that my own heart becomes hardened (or my "conscious seared" as the NT describes the condition).

In the areas where I'm just looking for an escape or relief, God is looking for change, submission, obedience.

PRAYER
Father, there is none as powerful or gracious as You. Forgive me for the areas in my life where I've become my own Pharaoh. Soften my heart.

January 26, 2011

"Fair" Wages

Matthew 20:1 (NKJV)
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard..."

OBSERVATION
This is the uncomfortable, "unfair" passage where the landowner hire people to work throughout the day. Then at the end of the day, he pays them all the same wage whether they worked all day or only an hour.

APPLICATION
The most important thing to keep in mind when reading this through is the fact that Jesus is describing what the Kingdom of God is like. This parable is painful at so many levels. It goes against my sense of fairness. But in the story, Jesus reminds me that its about the agreement - "‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?" (v13-15). God's goodness is not demonstrated in His parity. It is demonstrated in the way He keeps His word.

What this really confronts is my need to find my worth in comparison with others. I know I would have preferred to be the last person hired and received the full wage instead of having to labor all day. Is my effort, commitment, skill, time not as valuable as "Johnny Come-Lately"? I know this is especially true when I look at certain areas in my life: my housing situation, the size of my church, the amount of money I make...all of these things are frustrating because I compare my situation with other people who have something different; what is in my opinion, a "better deal."

What this exposes in my life is my desire to do as little as possible while expecting maximum return. It reminds me that I still base my personal value or significance in a comparison with others. I need to simply keep focused on giving my best effort for my work in God's field. I desire to find satisfaction in the quality of the work I do, instead of looking over my shoulder at what other are or aren't doing. And at the end of the day, God will keep His end of the agreement He's made with me...because He is good.

PRAYER
God, thank you that your goodness is demonstrated by the way you keep your agreements. Thank you for the privilege of working the Kingdom's field.

March 10, 2011

Along the way to the promise

Numbers 21:31-35 (NKJV)
So Israel settled in the land of the Amorites.
32 After Moses had sent spies to Jazer, the Israelites captured its surrounding settlements and drove out the Amorites who were there. 33 Then they turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan and his whole army marched out to meet them in battle at Edrei.
34 The LORD said to Moses, “Do not be afraid of him, for I have delivered him into your hands, along with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.”
35 So they struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army, leaving them no survivors. And they took possession of his land.

OBSERVATION
The journey to the promised land was a long one, and one not without discouragement or confrontation. Beginning in Ch20, Moses first asked for passage through Edom and was "refused" (20:21). They were then attacked by Canaanites, whom God helped them to "destroy" (21:4). Bur since they had to go around Edom, it says that "the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way." But eventually they came to the land of the Amorites. After asking for permission to pass through as Moses did with the king of Edom, they again were denied. And like with the the Canaanites, the Amorites attacked. Not only did they win the battle, but established their first settlements as they took possession of the land. By the time they confronted the king of Bashan, they were no longer asking for permission to pass. Instead they went to the Lord for His instruction and promise and initiated a victory.

APPLICATION
Anytime we have to continually battle, it is wearisome. Whenever God's journey takes us the long way around it is discouraging. But it is during these seasons we are being prepared to possess. There are times we have to know the frustration with the change in plans, when things don't go as we think they should. There are times that circumstances are thrust upon us that require extra effort and focus, just to be able to survive. But God's promise is not just to "pass through." His desire is that we possess and occupy. Sometimes, you have to get a little hungry for a win. Diversions and confrontations can discourage and frustrate. Yet they can be something God uses to develop our dependence upon His promise and a determination in our souls.

PRAYER
Lord, there are so many things right now in my life that seem to take longer than they should, are harder than they should be, require more effort and focus...But if its what it takes for me to get hungry for a win, then lets go. Because I want the season of possessing to begin.

About Development

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to JustJeff | Life Journal in the Development category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Contentment is the previous category.

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