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March 2004 Archives

March 1, 2004

In The Trenches

So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. Exodus 17:13

Whenever I've read the story of the Israelites' battle with the Amalekites at which Aaron and Hur lifted up Moses' arms, I have seen it as a testament to friendship. Two man gathered around another to support him. Moses' arms grew tired from holding up the staff of God, so he sat on a stone while Aaron and Hur raised his hands.

But the story isn't about Moses.

The story isn't about Aaron and Hur supporting Moses.

The story is about these three men coming together to support Joshua.

Joshua is the key character in this story. Yes, Aaron and Hur helped Moses, but the three of them were determined to help Joshua. How do we miss that part of the story? How do we not see that their whole job was to help Joshua succeed in battle - not so simply succeed themselves?

God even told Moses to write the story down and to ensure that Joshua hears it. Joshua is the one whose success was celebrated - not Moses. Moses was merely the conduit for God's power.

Lord, sometimes I miss the point. Sometimes I feel like I should be like Aaron or Hur standing beside and supporting my friends when they need me. But all along, I have forgotten the initial purpose. It isn't only to support the one raising his hands; it is to support the one in battle.

Is there one that I have neglected in prayer? How many friends do I have in the trenches of battle who cry out to be remembered? Or am I like Joshua - the one in battle hoping to be remembered?

Remember me, Lord. Don't let my victories be forgotten. Continue to send Your strength through my friends, so we can someday celebrate the victory before Your throne.

March 2, 2004

The Work Is Too Heavy

"You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone." Exodus 18:18

Delegation is not a sign of weakness. Moses needed to learn this lesson. He was the leader God had chosen, so the people demanded a great deal from him. Every day they cam to him to settle disputes. From morning till night, Moses provided wise counsel and informed the people of God's laws.

Wise counsel is a good thing, but Moses was carrying the load alone. Eventually, he would burn out, and the people would be discouraged.

Father, if there is a problem I have always had as a manager, it is delegation. What keeps me from delegating? Am I afraid someone can't do it as well as I can? Do I not trust them to be complete and accurate? We both know how imperfect I am. Why should I expect more from others?

I believe my greatest struggle is with dividing the task in a manner that others can help me. Lord, help me to organize my work in such a way that others can be a part. Forgive me for taking on too much. I am only holding back those around me. The work is too heavy for me; I cannot handle it alone.

March 3, 2004

Heeded Warnings

Moses said to the Lord, "The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us. 'Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.' " Exodus 19:23

I don't get it. God warned Moses three times that the people should not go near Mount Sinai while He was there. Moses himself seemed to question God's continued warning: "You yourself warned us."

Why three times? Are we so untrustworthy that we must be told and retold or we will run into danger?

Well... YES!

Spirit, on more than one occasion, You have warned me, and I ignored Your warning. It is only by Your mercy, Lord, that I have not been completely destroyed. Help me to heed Your warnings. Consecrate me, so I may approach Your throne. Make me clean, so I might be invited into Your awesome presence. Make me holy as You are holy. Amen!

March 4, 2004

When God Speaks

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die." Exodus 20:18-19

God spoke to the Israelites from Mount Sinai. He gave them ten commandments on how they should live, and they were terrified. Although Moses had prepared them by having them consecrate themselves, they were certain they would die if God continued to speak.

Moses approached. He had been in God's presence before. What made the difference? How could Moses so confidently step into the Presence?

I believe Moses understood something the people didn't. The first time God spoke to Moses, he was fugitive in hiding - a murderer on the run. Yet God sought him out. God came to him with a purpose and a plan. Moses knew what we must come to know ourselves. Moses knew God's grace. God's grace is greater than any sin. His Son was sacrificed so we might understand it.

Lord, I fear You, yet I understand Your grace. Thank You for loving me enough to die in my place. It's not about me. It's all about You.

Come, Lord Jesus! Speak to me, Spirit, or I would die.

March 5, 2004

Relativism

"If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property." Exodus 21:20-21

How can we stand up to a world that embraces relativism when the Bible itself seems to embrace it?

Slavery is an evil thing. Buying and selling human beings in our society is not an acceptable practice. Yet it was the common practice in Moses' day. God gave Moses laws governing the treatment of slaves. Does His mention of it make it right?

God addressed the treatment of a first wife if a man marries a second. Does this make the practice of polygamy acceptable? It was also the norm.

Lord, these are tough questions. Examined out of context, these issues could rock my faith. They easily bring into question the modern day concerns about marriage, homosexuality, and abortion.

Many men and women - even in the church - are choosing to live together outside of marriage. It is common. Does it make it right?

Across our country and the world, mainstream churches are struggling with the full acceptance of the gay lifestyle. It is common. Does it make it right?

Abortion is a legal practice in our country. Unfortunately, it is common. Does it make it right?

I guess the only response I could have is: Now we know better! We have been given the gift of Your Spirit, who leads us in Your ways. We have at our disposal the wisdom of God. Embracing modern day practices that are clearly contradictory to Your Word negates Your Spirit's role in guiding us, in teaching us, in aiding us in a quest for righteousness. Embracing modern day practices that are clearly contradictory to Your Word negates the sacrifice of Your Son.

These questions are tough. But Your Spirit is tough enough to deal with the answers.

Father, I leave the answers to You. Help me to walk in Your ways. Help me to be salt and light in a world that embraces relativism. Show me the Truth, for without it, there would be no hope.

March 8, 2004

He Prepared the Way

"See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared." Exodus 23:20

God always prepares the way for His Chosen. Do we understand the immensity of this fact? He prepared the way for the children of Israel to enter the land of Canaan and occupy it - just as He promised Abraham. He prepared the way for us to enter eternal life through the death and resurrection of His Son.

I saw The Passion of the Christ this weekend. What an amazing movie. Some have complained about the brutality - saying it is "over the top." Yet amazingly, it was an accurate depiction of what the Romans did to one sentenced to die. How horrible it must have been. Some have complained about the dramatic license taken with the characters, but how interesting it was to imagine... what would it have been like to be Simon the Cyrene, the one who carried the cross? To have been caught by the whips? To have been scratched by the thorns on His brow?

Lord, You prepared the way. How You withstood it, I cannot comprehend. But to think - You did it for me. Help me to live up to Your faith in me. Help the world see how You prepared the way for all who believe.

March 9, 2004

With One Voice

When Moses went and told the people all the Lord's words and laws, they responded with one voice, "Everything the Lord has said we will do." Exodus 24:3

Have you ever been a part of something great? How wonderful it is to be a part of something greater than ourselves! To be a part of a group focused on a goal. When a group is truly committed, they seem to speak with one voice. Each person seems to share the same vision. Each person seems to fully support the others in accomplishing the goal.

How is it that one voice so easily becomes two - then three?

Lord, I really don't understand human nature. Together, we can commit to something - fully intending to accept what the group determines. Yet selfish desire gets in the way. Dissension rises, and a single mindset is splintered into many.

That seems to be the description of my job lately. All the changes we have experienced have been for the better. But the many voices sometimes wear me out.

Help me, Father, to not be the dissenting voice. Help me to focus on Your will and seek it. Help those in leadership to continue to seek You as well. Together, we will see Your will accomplished. Bless us, Lord, so we might bless those around us. Help us to speak with one voice.

March 11, 2004

Too Small

"See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." Exodus 25:40

I am always amazed with people's perceptions of prayer. Some people I know refuse to pray about the little things. They often say, "God has more important things to do. Why should I bother Him with that?" Others I know pray for the small stuff all the time. From finding a parking space to getting a green light, there is nothing they won't talk to God about.

The thing I have come to realize in my life is that God majors in the minors. He loves detail! His instructions to Moses about the design for the ark of the covenant and the other items to be used in the tabernacle are very detailed. He is not going to turn us away because a matter is too small. My goodness, He designed the atoms that make up all matter! I think He can handle the small things AND the big things all at once.

I, on the other hand, am finding it overwhelming to deal with the minutia and the big picture. Maybe it's that age thing - that over forty mental state. My mind just doesn't work like it did in my twenties.

Lord, I need help to keep it all together. I love the details, but my perfectionism oftentimes gets the better of me. Mistakes become obsessions, and it slows me down.

Help me to get through the details of today. Calm my heart and mind with Your Presence. I really need to feel You today, Lord.

Is that too small a thing to ask?

March 12, 2004

On The Inside

"Overlay the frames with gold and make gold rings to hold the crossbars. Also overlay the crossbars with gold." Exodus 26:29

God often uses His most precious material on the inside of things, where few can see them.

When God gave Moses the design for the tent that would be the tabernacle, He provided painstaking detail about how it was to be made. What strikes me the most is not the finely ornamented curtains that drape around the sides, but the frame that held it together. How many tents have you seen that have a frame overlaid with gold? The frame is hidden away. It supports the tent on the inside of the structure. No one would see it, except maybe the priests. Yet, the entire frame was to made of acacia wood and covered in gold.

Isn't that like God? He does His finest work on the inside.

Lord, You have used Your most precious possession to build the framework of my life. You used the blood of Your Son. My heart has been overlaid with the redemption that comes from the blood of Jesus Christ.

Do I take the time to recognize that? Did the Levites marvel every time they fastened together the golden framework of the tabernacle? Did they take it for granted?

Gold! He used gold on the inside where few could see!

Father, thank You for sparing no expense on the frame. Help me to live a life that is worthy of Your sacrifice. Help me to shine like gold on the inside, so Your Son might be glorified on the outside.

March 15, 2004

Weary With Detail

"This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for generations to come." Exodus 27:21b

I wonder if Moses grew weary from recording the laws and instructions God gave him on Mount Sinai. What was it like? Was he excited? Did he think, "Oh, boy! More instructions!"

Lord, I confess that I grow weary as I read the detail. Normally, I like to look beyond the words of Scripture - to think about the inspiration I gain from it - how it applies to my life. But I am struggling to see how the lasting ordinances for the Israelites through the design of the tabernacle apply to me. Help me to see what Moses saw. This WAS an exciting revelation. For the first time since the creation of Adam, You were establishing a system of worship. Before this time, many built altars to You - many worshiped You, but now there was a central place that drew Your people together.

For the first time, Your Chosen People could be identified as Yours. In their midst would be Your tabernacle - a place where You would dwell - a place where sacrifices were made and where holy lamps were kept burning night after night.

Just over three months earlier, the Israelites had left Egypt, a place where the entire culture was centered around the worship of many, many gods. For four hundred years, Jacob's descendants had lived in a land steeped in religious ritual that was not their own. Now, the ritual would be theirs, and it would be centered on the One True God.

There it is! The application I seek!

Lord, we still live in a world that chases many other gods. Although the rituals are varied, they are still there. Help me to set myself apart. Help me to be identified as one who worships only You. Be at the center of my life. Continue to build Your tabernacle in my heart.

March 16, 2004

Clean Underwear

"Aaron and his sons must wear them whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting or approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place, so that they will not incur guilt and die." Exodus 28:43a

Most of us have heard the joke about mothers reminding children to put on clean underwear in case they are in an accident, but how many have actually been told that? How do you think you would feel, however, if someone said, "Oh, by the way. Make sure you put on clean underwear, or you might die."?

This is what Aaron and his sons were told when God detailed His plans for them as priests. Each ordinance God gave was to be followed strictly - even down to wearing the proper undergarments, or they could die. Entering God's presence was not to be taken lightly. The priests needed to understand the truth. If they disregarded God in their ritual, the people would disregard Him in their every day.

Lord, have we forgotten how special it is to enter Your presence? Your Holy Spirit dwells within us, so You are always present. But do we take You for granted? Do we understand what it is to be consecrated or face death? Do we understand the great gift You have given us - the ability to freely approach You clothed in the garments of salvation - covered by the blood of Christ?

Father, thank You for paving the way for common man to enter the Holiest Place. You have made us clean - all the way down to our underwear, so we might spend eternity by Your side.

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!

March 18, 2004

On the Big Toe?

"Slaughter it, take some of its blood and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Then sprinkle blood against the altar on all sides." Exodus 29:20

In a modern world, the concept of animal sacrifice is rather gruesome. Killing animals doesn't just happen every day in American households. Oh, I'm sure there are some rural homes that set the table with freshly slaughtered meat, but most of us have never witnessed the death of an animal.

But for the Israelites, slaughtering animals was an every day occurrence. Either for food or for sacrifice, the animals served a purpose. The instructions Moses received for consecrating the priests involved the sacrifice of animals - so much of what God calls us to do involves sacrifice. Today it might be our time, our money, or our effort that God requires.

Interestingly, Moses was told to place blood on the right ear lobe, the right thumb, and the right big toe of each priest. At first glance, it may seem odd. But when you consider it further... what a message! God requires those in His service to be careful about what they hear, what they do, and where they go. Each of these three things can affect a person's heart and mind, his ministry, and his reputation. What a man hears, he considers and takes to heart. What a man does reflects his capacity for compassion. Where a man goes affects what others believe of him.

So are you listening to wholesome things? Are you serving with the hands of Christ? Are you careful to avoid places that could bring ruin to your reputation?

Lord, help me to be consecrated for Your service. Make me holy as You are holy, so You may be glorified.

March 19, 2004

What's that smell?

"Do not pour it on men's bodies and do not make any oil with the same formula. It is sacred." Exodus 30:32

Last night I remembered one of the downsides of West Texas in the spring. The moment I stepped outside, it hit me, that pungent odor that reminds me of the importance of cattle to our local economy. Although it is over ten miles away, the area feed lot was making its presence known. Maybe it's the amount of rain we've had this year, or maybe the wind was just right, but my eyes literally began to water.

The first words that came to mind were the words of a friend who frequently joked with me: "Hey! It smells like money!" He has since moved across the country and we've lost touch, but every time I smell that unique odor (not always as powerfully as last night I might add), I think of him.

What is it about smells? The sense of smell is the strongest stimulator for recalling memories. Somehow, it takes us back to places we have long since forgotten.

God knows that. When He set forth the ingredients for the anointing oil to be used by the priests, He was very clear. "Do not make any oil with the same formula." He wanted the priests to be unique - to be set apart from the world. Whenever the priests were nearby, those around them would know it. They were unique; they even smelled special.

Lord, help me to be set apart. May the fragrance of my actions and intentions remind others that I have been anointed by the atoning blood of Your Son. Let others smell Your fragrance when I pass by, and when some ask, "What's that smell?", give me the words to share the love of Christ with them.

March 22, 2004

The Source of Knowledge

"...and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts - to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship." Exodus 31:3-5

Have you ever wondered how men figured out certain things? How did the first potter learn that clay can be molded and fired to make something that can last for generations? How did the first weaver figure out how to turn thread into cloth? Today, men study from other men, but there were not always schools. Men lived off the land, and what they learned was with their own two hands.

God answered the question about how men gained their knowledge when He appointed Bezalel and Oholiab to oversee the craftsmanship for building the Tent of Meeting and all its contents. These men were experts. They could tell you how the ark of the covenant was built; they could even point out those little imperfections that every artist sees but no others can. But they didn't do all this on their own. Bezalel was filled with the Spirit of God. The skill that he and Oholiab shared came directly from the mind of God.

Since the very beginning of time, man has been learning new things, but the knowledge we gain comes from God. Sometimes, we forget that, and we think more highly of ourselves that we should.

Lord, I acknowledge that every skill I have comes from You. It is tempting to hold the praises I receive when others compliment my talents. Help me to always speak the truth: it is Your handiwork and inspiration - not my own.

March 23, 2004

Prone To Evil

"Do not be angry, my lord," Aaron answered. "You know how prone these people are to evil." Exodus 32:22

Moses had been on the mountain for forty days. The people very quickly abandoned the One True God to worship a calf made of gold that Aaron fashioned for them. Upon Moses' return, Aaron quickly reminded Moses that the people were prone to evil - as if their sin should be disregarded.

How outrageous! It seems as silly as saying, "The devil made me do it." Maybe God will simply look the other way.

But is it just a silly response? Many today would have us believe the same lie: "Oh, we are simply prone to this, so it must not be wrong."

The biggest problem I have with many movements today is this notion that people are simply prone to a certain behavior; therefore, it must be okay. Some scientists attempt to show genetic dispositions for behavior, as if to say the individual is not to blame. Accountability doesn't exist in today's world.

What does it matter if an individual's brain has more of a certain chemical! Can science prove how the change occurred? Was someone truly born this way? Did the balance change due to the environment in which the person lived? For whatever reason, some are prone to see something as natural that God did not intend. Just because it feels right doesn't make it right. Only God determines what is right and what is wrong.

Lord, we are a race that is prone to evil. Forgive us! Draw us back to You and away from our sinful ways. It is nice to know that although I am prone to evil, the sacrifice Jesus made is great enough to make me clean. Regardless of my sin, there is hope through Your saving blood.

Come, Lord Jesus! Have mercy on us.

March 24, 2004

To See His Face

"When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by." Exodus 33:22

Do we fully comprehend that no man can look God in the face and live?

Although Moses often spoke to God as one would speak with another man, God's face was hidden in the pillar of cloud. The one time God allowed His full glory to be shown, He covered Moses with His hand in order to protect him. But this protection was not from something evil - it was from God Himself.

There are times that I long to see the face of God, but I don't think I understand how terrifying it would be if I did. God is pure and holy. The difference between His heart and mine is so great. To see His face would not only reveal His glory, but it would reveal the darkness within me.

Lord, I long for Your Presence. I long to be clean. I long for the day when I can see Your face and live.

Dwell in me today.

March 25, 2004

A Second Chance

Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant - the Ten Commandments. Exodus 34:28

Moses blew it. He allowed his temper to get the better of him, and he destroyed the tablets containing the words of the covenant. Yet God gave him a second chance. For another forty days and forty nights, Moses stayed on Mount Sinai in the presence of God. He neither ate nor drank. I wonder if he even slept. Just being with God was enough.

The logic may seem a little odd, but it seems to me that is wasn't a bad thing for Moses to break the original tablets containing the Ten Commandments. He was given a second opportunity to spend forty days alone with God. My human mind seems to conclude that messing up might be acceptable because God is a God of second chances.

Lord, this way of thinking is dangerous. For much of my life, I have seemed to live for that second chance. At times You seemed closer because I was in constant need of forgiveness for obvious sin. The remorse I felt for failing You almost daily seemed acceptable because Your arms are always open.

Sin, however, will never do more than hold me down. For six months, I have made conscious choices to deny the addictive behaviors that once plagued me so strongly. Oh, these sins have been replaced with others - selfishness continues to taunt me. But am I better off? Do I sense Your presence as strongly as when I was in the pit?

I think what I am finally beginning to understand is: You are enough. I don't need to embrace sin in order to find You. You are always here. Thank You, Father, for standing with open arms. Help me to chase after You - the first time, so I will no longer need the second chance.

March 29, 2004

Willingness

All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought the Lord freewill offerings for all the work the Lord through Moses had commanded them to do. Exodus 35:29

The tabernacle was to be an intricate work of art. Every article was designed by the very mind of God. The most skilled craftsmen in Israel were to take part, yet everyone in the community had the chance to participate.

It wasn't skill that God wanted; it was willingness. All who were willing gave freewill offerings. These individuals were just as much a part of building the tabernacle as were the skilled workers in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship.

Lord, sometimes I feel like I have nothing to contribute to Your work. My skills are less than perfect; my perfectionism holds me back. Yet perfect skill is not what You require. Willingness is all You ask.

Help me to be willing. Help me to be a part of Your work today.

March 30, 2004

Whoa!

And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work. Exodus 36:6b-7

Could you imagine a pastor today saying, "Whoa! We have enough. Please don't give any more because we have plenty."? Just the thought of it is outrageous.

But this is what Moses had to do when the tabernacle was being made. The skilled craftsman came to him to say, "Please, no more!"

We could learn a lesson from this group of homeless people, who lived in tents and wandered in the desert. When God called them, they responded. We live in the wealthiest nation on earth, and we have become so selfish that pastors are almost required to beg for more when needs are apparent.

Lord, forgive our selfishness. Forgive me for not giving as I should. Provide what our churches need to reach the lost, for we won't do it of our own accord. Draw us back to You.

March 31, 2004

The Goldsmith

The buds and the branches were all of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold. Exodus 37:22

I've done many things, but I've never worked with gold before. The idea that one can take many pieces of gold and literally form them into one piece by hammering them is fascinating to me.

My medium is clay. With a little water and the right amount of pressure, beautiful artwork can result. Clay is easy to mold. I've always enjoyed the analogy of God as the Potter. To have Him place His hands on me to make me into a vessel of His choosing - how wonderful it is.

But I'm not so sure about Him as Goldsmith. It takes hours or hammering. That seems a bit uncomfortable to me. The idea, though, of God as Goldsmith is probably the most appropriate one. How much more work it takes to pound me into shape!

Lord, I long to be one with You. I know I should willingly say: do what it takes... if it is the hammer I require, then do what You must.

Couldn't You just speak me into shape?

About March 2004

This page contains all entries posted to The Potter's Hand in March 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2004 is the previous archive.

April 2004 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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