Friday, July 18, 2014

God Is Not Dead. . .

God is not dead, but Moses is! The unfolding life of Moses slowly narrates the fulfillment of divine purpose in a single life and in the life of a body of people. It jumps from the royalty of Egypt to the slavery of Israel as it unfolds a glorious dramatization of the Hebrew people. It was Moses that fearlessly faced Pharoah then defiantly led Israel through the Red Sea to the foot of Mt. Sinai, the Mount of the Law.

Under Moses, Israel became a nation. Following him, they experienced the glory of God at Sinai, only to fall into idolatry under Aaron. Moses was all that the leader of one and one-half million people could be - for forty years!

In that time, he thanked God with them when their babies were born. He prayed for them in battle, as they upheld his hands. He pled with them in their sins, and was disappointed and angry at their idolatry. He shared with them in feast and famine. He buried their saints and laid away a whole generation of disobedient, complaining Israelites, all the while instructing the new generation in the moral concepts of a loving and just God.

Now, Israel the chosen of God, is ready to march into Canaan, but Moses lays entombed in the soil of Moab. Israel mourns his death. But what do they do now? The weak readily admit Moses couldn’t get the people into Canaan: “He obviously wasn’t up to leading Israel into Canaan, nor can anyone else, so let’s quit!” More courageous souls suggest, “We just need another Moses! Find him, and we are as good as there.”

It was time for a change, obviously; it was time for Moses to move to the next level of his journey and God so ordered it. God also had a man ready to step in the moment Moses stepped out. This new man did not part his hair just like Moses. He never threw back the walls of the Red Sea, nor brought sweet water from the bare rock. He never faced Pharoah and he never saw the glory of God’s face. He had no staff with which to frighten off the enemy. He had no tablet of stone by which to govern the people, and he had no eloquent brother to be his spokesmen to the people.

But, Joshua was God’s choice and Joshua had a divinely sanctioned program to offer the people. When he presented the blueprint, the church began to move forward … Moses or no Moses!

Without dwelling on the giants in our lives, our North American General Assembly of the Church of God went through such a transition as Dr. Duncan retired and the Assembly agreed with the Ministry Council that Joshua was in the wings in the person of Jim Lyons. Jim’s first year has been tough sledding for him and for us, almost as climactic as transitioning from Moses to Joshua. And, God’s challenge seems to little different than what Joshua faced … occupy Canaan!

Jim has been well received. He has also been thoroughly discussed in social media and elsewhere for the baggage he brought to the office, decisions made in accepting the office, and choices rendered in the pursuit of his office. Several observations are valid when we think of Moses and Joshua.

1. The church is in a time of transition
That is not all bad. I learned long ago to “Get Ready: God uses Transitions!” That is more than a slick slogan; it is a time-honored biblical truth. It is however a good time for us to have healthy dialogue.
2. God is to be reckoned with. 
God ordered the change for Israel but his plans for them did not really change. Both the pulpit and the pew must be sensitive to the voice of God and neither run ahead, or discount, the other.
3. God had a man for the job and a job for the man. 
Moses taught the people and led them to the Jordan. Joshua’s charge was to cross the Jordan and “Occupy Canaan.” Every pastor has experienced this at some time. A good Drum Major never leaves the band too far behind ; on the other hand, a good marching band keep the leader in sight. When doing their job, each will make the other look good. Too many congregations are satisfied with their status quo and become like Israel complaining about Moses’ leadership. Remembering only how good the Leeks and Onions were back in the security of their slavery and how difficult it had become to be a responsible and free people.
4. God’s man has a sense of God’s direction
Joshua had a firm dependence on the Book of the Law, taught by Moses, and he knew the people’s need of it (Read Deut. 34 and Joshua 1). There is no place for dictatorial autocrats, in an attempt to be prophetic. Neither is there place for agitators, but we do need to learn how to work together.

I already know that Jim Lyons is NOT Jesus; he doesn’t walk on water. He puts his pants on just like I do and he is as flawed as I am. I disagree with some trends I see; but, I voted for him hoping he would bring some fresh thinking into a Movement grown stagnate in its lack of understanding itself. Moreover, I probably voted for him for the leadership potential I believe he has … as we learn to work together.

From Warner’s World,

we can make Jim God’s man of the hour by becoming the people God calls us to be; or we can break him, if we choose, and I know without doubt that most of us love the church (and God) too much for that ...

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