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365 Challenge

Filtering by Tag: Purpose

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?

 

Even Moses can't do it alone!(Exodus 17-18)

Wesley Skinner

Delegation is great! There are a lot of times, when Monica has been talking about me, she says, 'Wesley doesn't actually do anything, he just gets other people to do stuff!' In a lot of ways that is really accurate. I'm the idea guy! And I love being the idea guy! I love dreaming big, casting vision and getting things started, then afterward, I love evaluating and seeing how we can improve. I am a great starter and mobilizer, I am not a great finisher. This is where Monica and I make a great team! I can easily get a lot of things started and not finish any of them before moving on, this is why I have read the first half of most of the books on my bookshelf. Monica is not that way, she needs completion before moving on.  

I have noticed this same problem with getting consistency in running again. I want to run. I have a great plan. When I am in shape, I really love to run. But the last time I had consistency was when I was on the cross country team at UAH. Having the team really helped me to stick with it. I have noticed this in other areas as well, I can run really hard for a while, I can juggle a lot of things, I can get a lot of cool things rolling, but unless I have other people with me, I will burn out. This is a lesson Moses had to learn. 

We get this cool picture of battle. A battle is happening and as long as Moses holds up his hands, Israel is winning. But as time progressed, he needed his friends to hold up his arms for him. Then we see Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, give him some golden advice 'The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.'

Moses learned two things here: 

1. Delegation is a beautiful thing.  

2. It is good to have people who can look from the outside in and give advice.  

Random observation: Jethro ate, with Moses and the elders, in the presence of God. 

 

God, the deliverer(Exodus 13-15)

Wesley Skinner

Exodus moves so fast! After reading Genesis which covers several thousand years over the course of 50 chapters, we now follow one group of people(Israel) led by one man(Moses) for 40ish years over the course of 4 books(Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers)! We also see God much more vocal. And as God expresses himself more, one major theme begins to come out, God's Glory!

Lasting ordinances: during the time of Moses we are going to see the institution of many things, in these chapters God gives Israel some lasting ordinances.  

1. Passover - Passover has become the longest continually celebrated festival in all of human history! The is no other celebration that still happens that predates this!  I could write much more about this, look for that blog post around Easter!

2. Consecration of firstborn. This is a really cool ordinance because we see the parents of Jesus observe it after he is born. 

Both of these, God institutes to remind Israel about the mighty hand of God that rescued them from Egypt.  

God's pressence: one interesting thing about the Exodus and the subsequent wandering is the visible pressence of God leading his people. He gives them a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. 14:19 let's us know that the angel of God was also traveling with them.  

Random oberservation: I know that it says God hardened Pharaoh's heart, but seriously, 10 horrendous plagues that destroy your country, one of which killed all the firstborn sons, now there is "the angel of The Lord" and a pillar of fire separating you from the people you are chasing, then you see walls of water opening a gap for you to go across the Red Sea. I'm thinking that's a bad idea. How much disaster is enough to get you to stop?!

God's Glory: over the course of this year, I will write extensively about this. For now I just want to mention three things, God hardened Pharaoh's heart for three reasons

1. So that Egypt would know there is a God in Israel. 

2. So that God would be glorified in Pharaoh's destruction. 

3. So Israel would fear God and listen to Moses.  

Israel complains way too much:  They have just seen God's miraculous deliverance and they give Moses a really funny complaint, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?” Funny, but still, have a little faith people! And again, when they can't find drinkable water. This will be a pattern, Israel sees God's provision, but still doubts. Can't say I'm much different though. I, so quickly, forget God's faithfulness. 

Random observation: Apparently, God is right handed(totally joking) but look at 15:6

Cool verse for the day: Exodus 14:14 "The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

 

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. 

The arrogance of youth(job 32-37)

Wesley Skinner

The plight of my generation is our arrogance! This is a disease I have suffered from for many years. Elihu gives us another shining example. 

Elihu waited through 30+ chapters of Job's cry for God to speak, only to have three friends attempt to convince him of sin in his life. When Job's responses prove suffificient, then enters the young guy. Indignant that the old guys couldn't prove him wrong, Elihu, begins his arrogant barrage. 

In true youthful form, Elihu, begins by stating how patient and respectful he has been, then gives the longest discourse in the book. It reminds me of the way I can be far too often, I listen only for how I can arrange my counter argument. This again further reinforces, something I need to learn, I don't have all the answers! I need to learn to stop listening through other people while I wait on my turn to speak. 

Two question that keep coming up while I read Job: 

1. Did his friends actually want to be there for him? Or just be there to point out his sin? 

2. How often do I talk too much? When should I just be present and let that be sufficient? 

Job has a bad day(Job 1-2)

Wesley Skinner

Imagine things are going well for you. You are obedient to God and see him bless you. You worry about nothing except the salvation of your children. It's easy to worship God in good times, but what about bad? This is Satan's proposition to God. 

God: job is righteous, have you considered testing him?

Satan: he is righteous in good times, but he will deny You in bad. 

Isn't this the age old question? Why do bad things happen to good people? Job gives us a case study, only, God tips His hand from the beginning. We see God tell us, Job is being tested because God believes in him. So we know the why, now we get to see how he responds. 

Job has a bad day. The worst. One servant after another delivers the messages to him, his livelihood(livestock), his wealth(camels), and his legacy(children) are all taken away. Job demonstrates the proper response, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” And Job fell down in worship. Everything was taken from Job except his joy. Joy rests in the Giver not the gifts. How would you respond in the face of devastating loss? Would your faith waiver? If so, you may be worshipping the gift not the giver. 

The life and death of Joseph(Genesis 38-51)

Wesley Skinner

Joseph is one of the most interesting characters in all of Genesis. He is the poster child for a rags to riches story and demonstrates more character than the rest of the patriarchs, yet it is not through his line that Messiah will come. 

To recap: Joseph's father, Jacob(Israel), had one true love, Rachel. Rachel had trouble conceiving and Israel had children born from his other wife(Rachel's sister) and the two maid servants. When Joseph was born of Rachel, he was Israel's favorite. His brothers knew it and grew jealous. It didn't help that Joseph didn't know when to keep his mouth shut. Joseph has two visions from God showing his family bowing down to him, so of course, he immediately discloses all. When his brothers see the opportunity, they decide to sell him into slavery. 

Joseph is bought by an Egyptian official and we see a trend begin, everything Joseph does, God blesses and Joseph quickly ascends to positions of influence. 

Joseph's character is on display as he ignores sexual advances from his master's wife and ultimately runs out when he finds himself in a sticky situation(see last blog). Potiphar's wife lies about the incident and has Joseph thrown in prison. In prison we find the same narrative, God blesses Joseph, he ascends to a position of influence and interprets a dream for the cup bearer to pharaoh. 

Fast forward a few years, pharaoh has a dream, Joseph is brought to interpret and pharaoh makes him second in command. This is huge because famine is coming to all the land and by the position of influence Joseph is able to relocate and provide for his family. Preserving God's chosen people and setting the stage for God's next big event. "The Exodus"

One of my favorite verses occurs at the end of Genesis. Genesis 50:20 "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." Joseph's brothers finally come to apologize and Joseph realizes something profound, it's a truth found, not just throughout Genesis or the rest of scripture, but an insight into the character and purposes of God that transcends time. Joseph realizes that all the crap he went through served a greater purpose. And that if we look at life as a series of separate events, we miss the bigger picture of what God is doing. Life is not compartmentalized. Everything that we do, everything that happens, God is using to write a story much bigger than ourselves. A story that started at creation and includes us, but transcends only us. The story of God's glory written throughout history. The purpose of man. The glory of God. 

 

Abram called out. (Gen 11-14)

Wesley Skinner

 

The writing of Genesis is beautiful. It's not not like our current writing. When I write I want my voice and passion to come through. I give my thoughts and make comments. Sometimes I think there might be a glimpse of something special. Maybe some way I understand something differently than someone else or my quirky random observations. But it's not epic. That word gets tossed around flippantly in our culture, but the writing of Genesis has something of grandeur. It reminds me of the beginning of Lord of the Rings when you get a recap of things when the ring was formed. Only here, we start with something more significant, the creation of the world and everything in it. And the Creator who is personally responsible and near. Genesis comes at you in waves, 30,000 foot view, then zoom in on one person of the story. Up to this point, the narrative has been on all humanity, Noah and his family being the one exception. But now we are going to begin following one man. 

Of all the people in the world God chose Abram. God came to him and told him to go. He didn't tell him where, only that he would be blessed and through him all nations would be blessed. This sets up something really special, we begin seeing a pattern develop. We see what a far reaching impact can be made through one man. One man, Adam, sinned in the garden casting the death sentence on all mankind. One man, Noah, was chosen to preserve mankind and animals during the flood. Now, one man, Abram, will be a blessing to all nations. God uses one man. One man can make a difference. And we will see this pattern continue. 

I think that is why I like the thought of this verse being the beginning of missionary sending, one man makes an eternal difference. For me, Abram is the first missionary. He is called to leave his home, family and comfort to go and bless all nations. Do we see that happen during his lifetime? Not really, if Abram, as a missionary were to write an update letter to his supporters, it wouldn't be filled with stories of dozens of people turning to God from idolatry. He might not have much to report at all, but the ground work is laid by him for blessing to follow, because he is obedient to go. 

I also think it is important to note that abram didn't have it all together, he is afraid of pharaoh and dishonors his wife. (And again later!) God didn't choose abram because he was perfect. That means there is hope for us!

Random observation of the day: Shem was not born before God told Noah about the flood. According to my calculations, there were about 100 years that passed from god telling Noah about the flood and it happening, then it says 2 years after the flood where Shem was 100 he had a son. Shem was born 2 years after God told Noah to build an ark. 

The beginning: talking animals and plot(Gen 1-3)

Wesley Skinner

The bible begins unlike any other book, there was nothing and by the very words of God there was something. Creation, man made in the image of God, then rebellion. 

Genesis is probably my favorite book of the bible. It moves quickly and gives you only what you need to know, then slows down to zoom in on sections of real importance. Which is great for me to stretch my imagination. I look at creation, see God speak, things appear then questions come to my mind. Like 'what was created first, chicken or egg?'. After creation we get no timeline and God said be fruitful and multiply, but after the fall God increased pain in childbirth, so it makes me wonder, were there children that had already been born in Eden from Adam and Eve. My imagination takes me all kinds of places with wild speculations that have very little to do with anything of real importance. 

One of my favorite things to speculate about is the talking serpent. It didn't come as a shock to Eve that the serpent could talk. And when God confronts Adam in his sin He asks "who told you that you are naked" the options are kinda small for "who" unless God might be referring to the animals as who not what. Who to me connotes personhood and speaking is a characteristic of personhood. Paired with the fact that until the flood people were vegetarians. Makes my speculation run wild that animals could possibly speak until after the flood. Who knows!? These are the mysteries that God felt we didn't need details for in Genesis. 

Mysteries that we have, made plain to us from the beginning, are purpose, conflict, plot, and resolution. 

Purpose. From the onset of Genesis we see our creator God, in need of nothing, yet create intelligent beings in His image with a desire to have relationship. God is personal with Adam. He didn't just set Adam on this rock and start it spinning. God walked with Adam in the garden. We also see that man was not intended to live in isolation, but in community, with God and with his wife. 

Conflict. The fall. We see man's perfect relationship with God broken when He ignores the one rule God gave him. 

Plot. The deceiver, Satan, is introduced. Because of the fall there is hatred(enmity) put between Satan and the "seed" of woman. Here we get a great foreshadowing of the struggle that will remain constant between man and evil until ultimately, the seed of woman will crush the head of the serpent, but the serpent will strike the heel. Satan and sin will remain a stumbling block until Jesus comes to crush the power and penalty of sin. 

Resolution. God foreshadows even more of His story in Genesis 3. There is a penalty of separation from God because of sin. Sin shows man his shame and instinctively man tries to cover his shame by his own methods. But it doesn't work. It takes Gods doing to cover the shame of man. God himself offers the first sacrifice for sin. He kills the innocent to cover the guilty. 

That is why I love Genesis. What are some things that stood out to you as you read? What a great start to the bible and the year!