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365 Challenge

Filtering by Tag: New perspective

The Road Less Traveled

Wesley Skinner

There are a lot of verses that stand out to me when I think about what is most important. Most people have a few verses that they like or maybe they are comforted by. But my favorite verse is one that embraces discomfort. 

1 Samuel chapter 15 has influenced the direction of my life more than any other passage I can remember.  

Samuel, the prophet of God, has just told Saul, the king, his marching orders from God; 'Go and completely destroy the Amalekites;men, women, children, livestock. Anything that moves or breathes, I want their name blotted out of the history books.'(paraphrase) But that's not what Saul does. Saul destroys everything excepet the king and keeps the good of the livestock to make a sacrifice to The Lord. We find out later, whether it is true or just an excuse, that he did this because he gave into what he thought was expected of him by his soldiers. 

What Saul did was the good and right and acceptable thing in his culture. Their custom was to save the good of the livestock to make a sacrifice to God, thanking Him for victory. The problem was, God didn't want the culturally acceptable thing, He wanted obedience.  

The first time I remember this passage standing out to me was early in college. I was at a conference, sitting in the floor of the hotel lobby just doing my daily scripture reading. I had been wrestling for a while with the question of what God wanted from my life, and here was the answer. Obedience.  

What I had been trying to do for so long was work God into my plan for my life. I had bought into the Christian spin on the American dream. My focus was wife, kids, nice house, good job, lots of toys, to be important some how and give God 10%. The other 90% was mine. Or even to try and figure out how to serve God in a good and right and culturally acceptable way like be a youth pastor(nothing wrong with that just not where God was leading me, thank God!) I knew what God wanted out of my life and being a missionary, especially one who lives in America and hangs out with college students, doesn't fit the culturally acceptable paradigm. I knew that some people wouldn't understand, and after 7 years of this some people still don't. Even friends of mine in ministry that infer or sometimes just flat out say, 'when you're ready to do REAL ministry come plant a church with me.' The problem was then, and still is today, that would not be obedience to God's call in my life. 

Understanding that obedience to God will not make sense to everyone and you will feel pressure to compromise, even from well-intentioned friends is a tough reality to embrace. It is also not always an easy road, but this less traveled road makes all the difference. 

 

God does EVERYTHING on purpose

Wesley Skinner

Among all of the specifications of the building of the tabernacle the sacrificial system and the law, something becomes very obvious, God is aGod of details!  Everything is very specific and, while I don't understand the symbology of everything that is listed, I can see why God is a very detailed person and does everything with purpose. 

Doing EVERYTHING with purpose, that is something I can really get behind! I am a creature of habit. It drives Monica crazy. And I am a creature of very specific and intentional habit. Everything I do I have carefully thought through and can give you my reasoning behind why. This may seem a little time consuming, but God wired me in such a way that I process things from many angles very quickly and I don't even stop to think about it, it's just the way my brain works. My morning routine is a Great example: as soon a I get up, I go to the bathroom get my toothbrush and while brushing my teeth gather the clothes I will wear(maximizing time) finish brushing then jump in the shower, after I shower I get dressed, put on deodorant, style my hair, put on my glasses and shoes(in that order).Then I get my coffee, which was set the night before to brew while I shower, four spoons of sugar(yes that's sweet) and a little heavy whipping cream(to thicken the coffee). From there I sit in the same spot in our office, perfect distance from the end table on my right(for my coffee), a little sunlight at my back and a comfortable seat. Then I am ready to spend time reading my bible. 

Am I OCD? Maybe... But I think God is too! That is probably why I am the only person in the world who really likes reading all of these specifics.  

If God does EVERYTHING with a purpose, what about us? Shouldn't we do things with purpose? Not saying everyone needs to be crazy like me, but what if there were a few things each day we chose to do intentionally. Maybe, it means giving yourself margin to take time to really listen to one person each day rather than speed from one thing to the next. Maybe it's choosing a person each week to call and catch up with or encourage. Maybe it's just being mindful to pray throughout the day as you go from one thing to the next. Knowing why you do what you do is key. 

What can you do on purpose today?

 

God's plan and death due to excess foreskin?(Exodus 4-7)

Wesley Skinner

The is so much mystery wrapped up in the Exodus, none weirder than the near death of Moses before his wife touches his feet with his son's foreskin! What's up with that?! Let's start by looking just before that section. 

 "22Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son,a 23and I told you, “Let my son go,a so he may worshipb me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.'"

God's plan from the beginning was to kill the firstborn son of pharaoh!  What a picture of the gospel! For His chosen people to be set free it will take the death of the firstborn son!

Now back to the super weird verse about circumcision. The sign of the covenant God made with Abraham was circumcision, with this covenant Abe would be blessed with innumerable offspring, have a relationship with God and be given a land of his own. A land that is to be holy, set apart for God's people. So much so that later on when Moses strikes a rock instead of speaking to it, he is not allowed to enter. God will even allow a generation of faithless Hebrews to die before giving the land to their offspring. Enter Moses on his way to this promised land,  he may be God's chosen person to lead Israel out of Egypt, but God still expected him to be obedient in all areas of faith and practice. And according to Gods covenant with Abraham, Moses' son should have been circumsized. 

Other random observations: 

Exodus 5:2- Pharaoh- 'who is The Lord?'- demonstrates Pharaoh doesn't know God.  

Exodus 5:20,21- Obedience is met with hardship. Israelites first reaction is to blame God. This becomes a pattern...

Exodus 6:2-5- this one is really interesting, God reinforces his name not Elohim, but Jehovah. He gives a fuller revelation to Moses than the patriarchs.

Exodus 6:15- one of the ancestors of Moses was the son of a Canaanite woman.  

Exodus 7:5- The signs were so the Egyptians would know God.

Exodus 7:10-13- The magicians staffs also become snakes but Moses snake eats them.
 

 

A burning bush moment(exodus 1-4)

Wesley Skinner

A moment we all wish we had, that burning bush moment. How many times have you longed for God to speak to you in some unmistakable way? If only God would appear to me in some dramatic fashion, I could do what He says with confidence... Let's look at the story of a man who had that chance encounter. 

Moses, the man we will follow for the next month or more, enters the picture. As a baby, he is taken in by Pharaoh's daughter, rather than killed, like other Hebrew boys. He grows up with all the Egyptian luxuries he could want. One day he stands up for a Hebrew slave being beaten and kills an Egyptian. Moses runs for his life. He finds a place in midian and marries. At the age of 80, God speak to him from a burning bush. 

And what does God tell Moses in this miraculous way? 'Go tell pharaoh to let my people go! ' Moses, a man uniquely qualified for this job. Raised in Egyptian royalty, educated like the king, raised as brother to pharaoh, passionate about fair treatment to his kin. If anyone is qualified for this job, it is Moses and now God is speaking to him directly in a miraculous way. How does Moses respond? He gives every excuse in the book to get out of doing what God says!

I am always so quick to pass judgement on Moses. This same judgement will be a frequent theme in coming weeks, as I struggle to understand how Israel can turn from God so quickly, time and time again. But, if I'm honest, I wonder how different I really would have responded. Obedience to God is no different for me than for Moses. Sure, I don't have a burning bush telling me to do things, but when I know what God is asking of me, how often do I respond exactly like Moses? I'm not you're guy. No one will listen to me. Who do I tell them sent me. I'm not a good enough speaker. People won't want to give money to see the mission happen. Being vulnerable with people about struggling to have a baby will be too embarrassing. Calling people to go on mission will seem too pushing. Sharing the gospel with that person will end in rejection. Being myself will be insuffient. 

In the end, I wonder, if we are not quickly obedience to God without a burning bush, what makes us think we will be obedient with one? 

 

Job recap; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Wesley Skinner

Job is a great book for my generation, a generation that wants answers now! This is the microwave generation and one that doesn't wait long enough to see that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Take an engine, some seats, an air conditioner, and a radio; separately they function and have purpose, but put them together the right way( with other stuff) and you have a car. Something that involves all of the other mechanisms but in combination makes something else altogether. I wonder when Henry Ford invented the car, if he ever had in mind what we see today, or what problems may have led to progress. The "Model T" was no "Porsche". 

Now, put yourself in Job's shoes. Faithful to God. Good to other people. Blessed by God. Then, lost his wealth, livelihood, family, and comfort all in a few moments. Berated with accusations from his "friends" about his alleged sin. His wife tells him to curse God and die. We get to look at whole picture, knowing that God is showing Satan that he cannot win. But in the middle of it all, while Job kept honoring God, he wanted answers. At long last God speaks and helps Job see that he has a limited viewpoint. He doesn't understand everything.  

What if Job did know? Do you think it would have changed how difficult the situation was? I think Job knew that God was good and that his love was unchanging. I think knowing that truth kept Job's faith alive. Maybe we have hard circumstances, I doubt harder than Job's. If our hope rests in God's goodness, while circumstances may change, His love never fails. Often I don't understand why life is hard, but I know, just like Joseph in Genesis, and Job now, God's plan is good, but sometimes not easy or the way we would choose it to be. If we could only see the whole instead of focusing on the parts. 

How should we respond to friends who are suffering?(Job 2-7)

Wesley Skinner

Understanding Job has always been a struggle for me. It's really confusing because job's friends give him a lot of seemingly good information and advice, yet God rebukes them. Recently, I have started thinking maybe that is the problem. Maybe their role as friends was not to give advice. 

Oddly enough, I have been to a lot of funerals. One that sticks in my memory often, was for a close relative's husband. He died in a tragic accident at work. I was with her at the hospital as she went back to view his body. She was, understandably, inconsolable. I remember being there with her and thinking, I should say something, but in times like that, there usually are no helpful words. They had twin little girls and in the days to follow I heard person after person tell her, 'she had to be strong for those girls'. It made me angry every time. Allow her to grieve! If you want to help, stop talking and be there for her. Help with the girls in her time of mourning, but don't add unnecessary stress to a person who's life has just been turned upside down!

This gives me new perspective on the book of Job. Why do we think we always have to say something? What can you say to a person who has lost everything? In the middle of tragedy, do you really think making a person think something they have done, might have caused the problem is a good idea?! Is that helpful in that moment?

I think the reason we feel a need to talk in these times is because our culture tells us that any emotion that is not happiness is wrong and needs to be corrected. But that is not a Biblical truth at all! We are to be joyful at all times, and Job demonstrated joy in the midst of sadness. Joy and happiness are two different things. One is an emotion based on circumstance, the other is a truth anchored and strong regardless of circumstance. We find all kinds of different emotions in the Bible: joy, sadness, righteous anger, laments, happiness, suffering, hope, fear, peace... Jesus was not always happy. Very famously "Jesus wept." Jesus mourned. Jesus righteously drove out the money changers. Jesus marveled. Jesus was sorrowful. All without sin. 

I think I'm learning that emotions are ok. Even ones that make us uncomfortable. And that sometimes, it is better to not talk. Even if there might be some truth to what you are saying. Know appropriate time and place. I can't learn this fast enough!