Who’s first?

Isaiah 22:15-25

Have you ever wondered if a politician only wanted more power? Has it ever occurred to you political parties don’t have your best interest in mind? How easy is it to criticize them for taking advantage of the position “we the people” afforded them?

Very easy! And, in many cases, for good reason.

It sure seems like most of our elected officials in Washington love the power and prestige of their office more than anything. That’s what they fight to keep. Behind all their promises and rhetoric stands their true desire.

But, again, that’s too comfortable a target.

Let’s bring it closer to home.

What about religious leaders? Think of pastors you know and love. What about the ones who have abused and hurt people they should have cared for? Would it surprise you to know some pastors love the unchecked privilege and control they have? How many more stories of the disastrous results of that do we need before we decide enough? Yes, there are pastors who pastor for all the wrong reasons.

But let’s keep digging.

How many “church folk” stories are there in ministry? You know, the kind where good Christians put up good fights for the most obnoxious things. Of course, all for the glory of God. Ironically, all for the glory of God gets lost in all the talk about “my church.”

So, what does God notice about how we lead God’s people today? What would God say about our spiritual leaders abusing their roles? Our churches acting so selfishly?

That is a lesson from Shebna and Eliakim. Shebna was a ruler we could’ve written about in today’s devotional. He loved his political power and all that meant for him. That focus robbed the people of a faithful leader.

And God noticed!

Because he only sought to make the most for himself, God took his authority and gave it to Eliakim.

The harsh reality is we all have selfish tendencies. Not only do we have them, we lead with them. We even let selfishness infiltrate our walk with God and our church’s ministry. There’s a reason we confess our sin together! We need to acknowledge how we stifle the work of God because we’re too preoccupied with what matters most to us.

The good news is, in Jesus’ name, there is freedom to live, truly, for the glory of God. It begins by reordering our priorities. Looking to the example of Jesus, who gave up everything, we get ourselves out of the way of God’s work by immersing ourselves in the way of Christ.

Stay blessed…john

What kind of shepherd?

Exodus 3:1-5

You know many Christians whose favorite words of the Bible come from Psalm 23. A calming assurance falls over us when we hear together, “the Lord is my shepherd.” And that’s because most of us aren’t acquainted with shepherds and sheep. 

But the image of shepherd is crucial to the Bible’s story.  

Quite often, the image highlights a ruler’s function over the people. That’s not to say people are sheep. But people do follow leaders. The Bible’s concern is what kind of leader the people have to follow. One will be a good shepherd guiding the people faithfully. Or one will go a different route. The difference isn’t just where they are heading. A good shepherd cares for the people.

Exodus 3 places Moses in the desert. It’s years after someone first asked him, “Who made you a ruler and judge over us (Exodus 2:14)? At that point, no one had.  But we already see some of the care Moses has for his people. Even if his first plan backfired. 

In the desert, Moses is a literal shepherd. His next experience with God shows us something about how he’ll shepherd God’s people later. 

I read intrigue, curiosity and wonder into his story. It’s not every day you see a burning bush that doesn’t burn up. Moses also demonstrated a readiness to serve. He didn’t say, “Look at me!” “Here I am,” was his simple reply. Now, the text doesn’t say, but it’s implied Moses listened to God’s command. We assume he removed his sandals as he recognized the holiness of the moment.

In a few verses, we already see some of what will matter to Moses in the future. We’ll see some of these same qualities play out later. And scripture remembers Moses as a faithful shepherd and prophet.

Especially in American culture, we pride ourselves on being our own people. There’s no follower-ship culture–it’s all about leadership. Okay, fine. If you’re going to be a shepherd to others, then, what kind will you be? It matters to our faith. And when you realize we all follow at some point, what kind of shepherds will you follow? That, too, matters to our faith.

Stay blessed…john