Take It by the Tail 5

Luke 10:17-20

Early in my ministry I was asked to conduct a prayer time one evening a week at our church. That first gathering I felt rather self-important – people were relying on me for spiritual guidance, relying on my prayer and ability to interpret the Bible. Then, as we prayed for a woman facing surgery, an older, unassuming lady came forward and began speaking in tongues as she laid hands on the woman in need.
I could feel the hairs on my arms standing on end as I stood, dumbstruck, in the presence of the Holy Spirit. One far greater than me was there to intercede for the one in need.

In this passage from Luke, Jesus has sent out seventy-two followers to be in ministry in the surrounding areas. He sent them out with the instruction that they take nothing with them. Upon their return they are jubilant.

What information do they share on their return? How does Jesus celebrate with them (verse 18)? Who has given them the power to do what they have done? What should cause rejoicing?

These seventy-two were sent into ministry with nothing. They had to rely entirely on God and His powers. Serving God, and with the authority given by Christ, they were able to help other people, even having the ability to make demons submit to them.

No wonder they were excited when they returned. But Jesus put their success in perspective. Their successes were not meant to make them look good. The work they did was meant to help others and to glorify God.

When we dare to take the snake by the tail and do something risky or challenging for God, we can fall into the false security that we accomplished something under our own power. What we must remember is that when we trust God to help us in these challenging ministries we must also acknowledge God in our celebrations.

We are also to remember why we did what we did. We did not take the snake by the tail to show everyone what great people we are, but we dared to risk so that we might be a benefit and blessing to the kingdom of God.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us not to trust in ourselves, but to rely on God. Then in verse 6 we are reminded that we should acknowledge God in all our ways.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Is there a victory in your life that needs to credited to God?

Take It By the Tail 4

Isaiah 45:1-3

First a history quiz. Who is Cyrus that is mentioned in verse 1?
a. A guy with an achy breaky heart?
b. Hannah Montana's true identity?
c. A great Jewish leader?
d. None of the above?

If he’s so highly esteemed in the Old Testament, he must be a great Jewish leader, right?

Wrong. Cyrus was actually a Persian king (today's Iran) who is considered as the world’s first defender of human rights. The picture at right is something called the Cyrus Cylinder. In the 2500 year old writing, Cyrus promotes religious tolerance and freedoms for all people in his kingdom, even those in conflict with his own religious beliefs. He even worked to restore the temples of foreigners, including the Jews. Therefore, he is revered throughout all history and honored by God.

It makes me think about how we don't get to pick who God is going to use or favor. Based on today's reading, we can see that Cyrus had God going out before him to make his road straight and smooth. God is opening doors and gates and showing Cyrus hidden treasures. We can see that even though he is an infidel in the eyes of the Jews, God has still chosen him for great things. God goes out before him, like a champion in battle.

Now consider for a moment the bush in the story of Moses. Exodus doesn’t mention what kind of bush it was--whether it was beautiful and had magnificent foliage or whether it was a dry, shriveled little thing out in the desert.

The only thing we know was that it was on fire for God. The most important thing was that regardless of whether you or I would have picked it for service, God worked through it. The bush was used to bring a message that started a story that continues today in Israel!

When we allow ourselves to be used by God, no matter how unlikely of a choice we might seem to be, we can do great things. God will be out in front of us breaking down the doors and giving us all the treasures of the earth.

Thankfully, you and I don't get to choose who is blessed. If we did, we'd get it wrong. We'd pick the prettiest bush whether it would burn or not. We might pick the right heritage or looks for a king, but perhaps not the person with the most open heart.

But God knows and sees and summons us by name.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What is God summoning you to do? Can you trust that He will go before you as your champion?

Take It By the Tail 3

Here is some incredible music to listen to while we read about singing!

My daughter and I have this ongoing …um… disagreement between us. No matter how much I beg, bribe, or cajole, she will not sing a note. She won’t even open up her mouth and try!

In church during hymns or praise songs… lips sealed. In the car with the radio blasting… lips sealed. In the shower…. OK, I have no idea because I’m not in there, but I’ll bet it’s lips sealed!

She will admit that she doesn’t know if she can sing or not because she’s never tried it. No one has ever said to her “You are a horrible singer” or “Please don’t ever sing.” She’s just decided that she doesn’t like it and doesn’t want to try it. (Same argument with vegetables, fish, and other things, but hey, she’s twelve, right?)

We can become this way as Christians as well… deciding a ministry is not possible or not for us without any real reason. In today’s reading, look again at verse 4 and think about what we are to make known.

We are to SING to the Lord for he has done glorious things. It is not our abilities, accomplishments or aptitudes that matter, but the power and blessings of God. When we get caught up in worrying about whether we can accomplish a task God has set before us, we’re leaving the most important element out of the equation… What GOD has done.

And today’s passage doesn’t give us the out to sing if we are trained or sing if we can keep a tune, it just says “SING!” (and shout, but we don’t want to scare anyone!) and sing out loud enough for everyone to hear, because God is with us.

Daily Challenge: Sing to the Lord today. Think about doing something that you could never do on your own, but that God might be wanting to do through you.

Take It by the Tail 2

Exodus 14:27-31

When I planned to challenge the church with a new outreach opportunity, a ministry we had never tried before, someone at the planning meeting told me I had better “really sell the idea” to the congregation. Aware that it was a big undertaking, I handed it over to God and He inspired me that Sunday morning to ask members to share the feelings they experienced when they had performed outreach in the past.

It wasn’t me who convinced the congregation. It was God’s inspiration and the heartfelt words of church members that brought about a huge commitment from the church. And the one who had suggested that I sell the idea told said, “Well, you did it.”

Today’s passage is the conclusion of the first stage of Moses’ story. He has taken the snake by the tail, trusted God, and moved forward with a daunting ministry. Suffering through nine plagues, Pharaoh decided to release the Hebrews so they might return to Canaan. But then he changed his mind and decided to pursue them.

What does Moses do to stop the pursuing Egyptians? What does God do? According to verse 30 who saved the Israelites? How do they respond?

When we are challenged to do work for God it is easy to be intimidated by what might be in store. When we serve the kingdom of God successfully it is also easy to think that our own abilities brought about the success.

I believe that the challenges are there so that we must trust in God, leaning on Him and not on our own understanding (see Proverbs 3:5-6). Then, when we have success, we need to acknowledge the true author of that success – God.

I believe God proves His power time and time again to us so that eventually we can grow confident in being daring for God. When we dare and we trust, then God will sustain us and make our work successful and good.

We need to open our eyes and see who it is that gives us ability. And we need to take confidence from this so that we might be willing to do more for God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Share with someone about a success in ministry that came from God.

Take It By the Tail 1

Exodus 4:1-5

This summer has had its fill of challenges. Vacation Bible school at two churches, a special service held for county employees from around the state, continuing education classes, and now planning for a Christian rock concert in our area. With each opportunity comes the usual questions – Is this the right thing? Will I do it well?

And whenever I am faced with a new ministry or outreach opportunity I simply have to trust that God will be at work to make it a success. But these challenges are small compared to the huge challenges faced by Moses.

What concern does Moses express? What does God have him do? What happens to the staff? What does God have Moses do with the snake?

As we return this autumn we can look at the possible ministries that may await us – perhaps new ones or familiar ones which need to be revitalized. Facing them often causes some hesitation, perhaps a tremor of fear. Can I do it? Do I have what it takes? Will it be a success?

Moses was challenged immediately when God called him to save the Hebrews from Egypt. The first step was for Moses to give up what he had. At this point in his life he had already lost his powerful position, the tremendous wealth he most certainly had while living as a child of Pharaoh, and his connection with his people. The only things left were his staff and his fear.
God commanded Moses to throw the staff to the ground where it became a snake. Consumed with fear, Moses ran from the snake until God gave another command. Moses was to pick up the snake by the tail.

This is the riskiest way to deal with a snake. Seizing it by the tail allows the snake to writhe back and bite the person holding it. In this case the snake turned back into a staff, but the message is clear.

God wanted Moses to trust Him completely, to do something risky and dangerous. Moses had to rid himself not only of the staff, but of his fears as well. If Moses was going to do anything he had to rely entirely on God and not on himself.

The same is true of us. The thought of ministries and new challenges may be frightening, but if we cast our fears and our self-reliance on the ground, we can pick up the challenge – grabbing it by the tail and trusting in God with our whole being. With God in control of what we do we can be assured that our ministry will be effective.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What ministry is waiting for you to take it up by the tail?