Monthly Archives: June 2020

Being a Moses or a Joshua

Being a Moses or a Joshua
I have come to understand in the world of church revitalization, there really is not any question about WHAT needs to be done or about where, when, and why. The biggest struggle in revitalization is the WHO. Are the people who need revitalization WILLING to take the necessary steps to restored health? Revitalization would much easier, if congregations, leaders, and church members enthusiastically jumped on board for the hard work of revitalization. But there is always fear and push back from folks who genuinely afraid of what the “UNKNOWN FUTURE” might look like, with or without them. I have had several situations where all the steps were slowly taken to build trust and confidence in the work to be accomplished and the leader/catalyst do the work, only to have a church or pastor balk at taking the first step. What does a Church Revitalizer do? He knows what, when, where, why and how-but the WHO says no. I will list below what experience has shown me what to do. But before I get too far, let me explain what I mean by being a Moses or a Joshua.
In Numbers 13-14 we have the story of Israel coming to the Kadesh-Barnea area, Moses sends in 12 spies to check out the land. After spending 40 days scoping out the Promised Land, the 12 spies brought a report along with some of the fruit from their journey. The “Church Business meeting in the Wilderness” voted 10-2 to NOT go into the Promised Land. There is a lot of similarities between that “church vote” and what happens in a Church revitalization vote. FEAR IS A PARALYZER. People could not or would not go forward in obedience to God because of visible and invisible giants. At this point, Moses has a choice to make; go in anyway or stay with the decision of the people. Now Moses rightly knew firsthand what He was supposed to do; but decided to stay with the people of Israel and die with the defiant generation. Fast forward 40 years to Joshua 1:1-2; Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise and cross this Jordan, you and the people.” Moses decided to live and die with a generation that chose to disobey God – very pastoral, but now good leadership. Joshua told to cross over Jordan with the people. Of course, there is a new generation of people now because everyone else died. Joshua tells the people in 1:11 “you got 3 days and we are going across. Joshua the leader did not put the decision up for a vote again. He obeyed God’s instruction. So, when a church says no the Church Revitalizer has two options be a Moses or a Joshua. I would hope as a Church Revitalizer they would choose being a Joshua.
When it is decision time; after all the talking and cajoling is done, the church has to make a definitive decision. They have options because the are autonomous.
1. Say yes and mean No
2. Say No and mean No
3. Say Yes and mean Yes
It is absolutely essential for a church revitalizer to have BUY-IN from the Church and its leadership. When we look at the three options, we have to ask what exactly the vote is saying.
The Church Revitalizer needs to find out who is saying No and Why? If there is a resounding NO, then you can probably assume that there was not enough groundwork done so the people understand are comfortable with the proposal.
1. Pastor must be a risk taker, and able to make a tough decision
2. Staff – Must staff for future, not present
3. Power Brokers – emotions, power base losses
4. Older People- congregation tired, “unmovable”
5. Lay Leaders- fear of change
Change Brings Opposition, it cannot be overstated, the revitalizer must Find the Source of Opposition.
Here are some possibilities of what a NO vote may mean:
1.No may not mean to revitalization, but to the plan/approach. The people are ready, but not with the specific action plan presented.
2. A No vote could mean that too many unanswered questions remain. As a rule of thumb, the church revitalizer needs to try to “answer questions before they become questions from the people. I know this can seem like an exhausting task but providing as much information up front will alleviate questions and NO votes later. So, answer the questions before they become a question.
3. Find the barriers; in any proposal there will be barriers or non-negotiables will pop up. The Church Revitalizer must find these and deal with them before a vote is taken. That means the revitalizer has to do his homework of exegeting the Church and the Community.
Sometimes the Revitalization Team could be the hinderance to a positive Yes vote. So, the structure and substance of the Revitalization Team must be established with the right people.

Revitalization Team – this is the Working with the people of the Church step
1. Careful Selection of people; get the right people on the bus, even though you do not know where they sit
2. Communication Lines clearly established; one cannot over communicate
3. Creating By-In; the Team must own and believe the work before the congregation will. The Spies mentioned earlier did not have buy-in into the Promise Land as a personal possession.
4. Church Task not Staff Task; this is vital, for if the church only sees revitalization as something the staff is going to do – again there is no ownership. Leaders have to be on-board, lay, and professional staff
5. Clear idea of what is being asked; the people have to have a clear understanding of WHAT they are asked to do. To try and get buy-in without a plan; the revitalizer will be asking the people to buy something but have no idea what they are buying. This will result is a NO VOTE.
6. Assessment of the Church Health. The Revitalizer has to know who he is dealing with as a people. If you look at Moses’ situation, we find that they were grumblers and stiff-necked. Not really conductive to a position decision.
a. Spiritual
b. Resources

Handling Opposition – how a revitalizer deals with this area is crucial. Instead of trying to “win the argument” use tools at your disposal to confront and deal with conflict and opposition. Keep the “goal and vision of health” before the people. Do not let someone become the Main Distraction! Use the tools available to defuse opposition. Obviously, a Church Revitalizer has to present accurate information without prejudice or manipulation. Some of the tools listed below will circumvent a “wild Card” looking to derail the train.

1. Use Health Assessments [Transformational Church]
2. Perform SWOT analysis of Ministries
3. Perform Community Demographics analysis
4. Create Vision for a Future
5. Get the “Elephants” on the Table – a revitalizer will deal with either a dinosaur or an elephant. Dinosaurs go extinct; but elephants can adapt. Make sure you know which one you have!
Finally, No means No – in the end; an autonomous church may very well say NO and mean NO. As a Church revitalizer, you cannot become their Moses! Even the Pastor may have to evaluate who he is in light of a no vote. Ultimately a Church will decide. The revitalizer cannot become an obstacle to possible future decisions. No may mean no for now. If the Door is closed, do not bust it down. Some Churches will just die. Just as a Church will have to count the cost of moving forward or staying the same, so does the Church Revitalizer – he must count the Cost

Jim Grant, D Min
Executive Director
Galveston Baptist Association

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End of a Generation

Numbers 32-36; a sad passage of scripture. We learned last week there was a census taken and 601,730 people over the age of 20 years old. The LORD had told the people no one over the age of 20 except Caleb and Joshua would enter into the Promise Land. They would all die in the Wilderness, including Moses because of his disobedience. We have the book of Deuteronomy before the conquest of the Promise land in Joshua, but Numbers is the last expose’ on the movement and journey to the River Jordan. I counted the various moves of the nation of Israel, some 44 times they moved. Wandering around waiting to die. The last person to die before Israel entered into the Promise of God to Abraham was Moses. He got to see the view from Mount Nebo what could have been, but never got to go in. This is somewhat of an analogy of the Christian life. We get out of Egypt [sin and bondage], journey through the wilderness [carnality] but never enter in to the Promise Land [Abundant Spirit filled life]. So many believers get out but never get in! Living in the Wilderness is living in a carnal state of disobedience. Think about this for a moment, a person through Faith in Jesus Christ, is delivered through the Blood on the Cross – the Lamb of God. Salvation! Forgiveness of sin and restored and reconciled back to God. The old slave master sin has been defeated. The Emancipation of the Sinner! Only to be enslaved again by the fleshly lust of the human nature. Israel always wanted to go back, to live in the past – a sort of nostalgic life. But the OLD SINNER life isn’t worth going back into; yet so many elect to live there. Israel was never meant to live in Egypt or the Wilderness, they CHOSE TO!

Salvation isn’t just about being forgiven and redeemed, it is about Abundant living in Jesus Christ. To settle for anything less is frustration to the Holy Spirit living inside us!

No only do we have in these chapters the culminating story of the dying generation, but we have the choice of Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh to live on the WRONG side of the Jordan River! They literally begged Moses to let them live in the area east of Jordan. They acted like Lot when he chose to dwell in Sodom. He looked with human eyes and lusted – 1 John 1:15-17. They said it was because of the great herds of animals and such – but they SETTLED for what they could get instead of what GOD had Promised. Moses allows them to forfeit their Promised Land inheritance, but they had to help the other tribes conquer the land.

We have the death of AARON THE PRIEST and brother of Moses at the age of 123. In chapter 34 we have the apportioning of the Canaan land to each of the tribes. Then there is the Cities of Refuge for those who unintentionally killed someone. A place where they accused could be protected until the “case” was heard by the congregation. There is the dividing up of property to the Levitical Priests who didn’t have any inheritance in the Land; but would be supported by the other tribes.

This is the final instructions to the NEW GENERATION going into the Inheritance of God. In the book of Deuteronomy, we get the “2nd Law” which really is a reminder to the New Generation about what the DEAD Generation forgot. Most of it is about living Holy Lives before the LORD GOD and the inhabitants of the Land they were conquering. The Command “Do not pollute the LAND” with you sin is huge. I believe that is what happened over the course of time by Israel which ultimately resulted in Babylonian Exile for 70 years. God removed the Remnant so He could cleanse the LAND. The Land had become so polluted by the excesses of idolatry and immorality, God had to evict them so he could cleanse it thoroughly.

We will see that Promised Land Living [Abundant Life] is not without its trials and tribulations, But God Said, everywhere the sole of your foot should touch, is Land I have already given you. We today must remember also that we are meant to go and conquer the land before us – knowing that God has preceded and prepared us to LIVE ABUNDANTLY IN CHRIST.

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Offerings and Recipes

Numbers 28-31; Offerings and Recipes; looking at the Law and the sacrificial system can be overwhelming, confusing and appear to be something to skip over like a genealogy list.  If we are willing to take a closer look at the Levitical Law and the prescribed “recipes” for presenting and offering the sacrifices we can get a better understanding of how life for the Israelites and even the Jews in Jesus’ day as the performed the required sacrifices on daily, monthly, Sabbaths, and festival times.  Today as believers we have the ultimate sacrifice in Jesus Christ the – superior sacrifice because He is the Lamb of God; perfect without blemish or defect. Of course the physical Lambs had to be a year old without blemish or defeat. This brings to mind the requirement of not only what the offered, but what WE offer to God; which is ourselves and to be pure in heart with clean hands and clean heart before man and God. Sometimes we may think that the sacrificial offerings given should really matter, just as long as we bring something to God. But what does God require of us? Micah 6:8 – “He has told you, man, what is good, and what God requires of you: only to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God.” If we do not respect God and His holiness, then we can get into a “defective offering” giving position. We are to be Living Sacrifices – Romans 12:1-2.

Back to the Offerings and Recipes. I am cooking a brisket on my electric smoker; it really smells great. But long before I could put it in the smoker, there was plenty of prep time getting the slab of beef ready for the fire. I looked up how to trim the fat off the beef, and how to make a good rub that would seep deep into the fiber of the meat. All the prep time is worth following exactly if I want the intended outcome to be a great meal of smoked brisket.

In Numbers 28-29 we find the various offerings and what each one consisted of. There is the Burnt offering with two bulls, one for morning the other for evening; two male lambs  mixed with oil and flour. Now something about these burnt offerings, they are offered over flame – we might even think of them being BBQ to God. For the sweet smelling aroma comes from the fat of the animal; and the Fat is the LORD’s [Lev. 3:17]. Then there is the Drink offering, poured out over the animal being sacrificed – well that is basting the meat, so that it is moist and tender.  There is the grain offering offered, I guess we could consider that the crust formed by cooking it. [Think of fried chicken and the crust]

So now that we have the various ingredients for the various offerings; let’s look at the offering.

There is the Daily offering: we includes burnt, grain and drink offering in morning and evening. The meat: two bulls and two lambs. Oh, in the following prescribed offerings, the daily offering were always done, these listed below we in addition to the daily  burnt offerings.

Next is the Sabbath offering: you have the burnt offering, two year old lambs without defect, and increased flour and oil and drinking offering

Then there is the 1st of the Month offering: same as a Burnt offering, but also added is a goat [sin offering] one year old and without defect; but also increased drink and flour quantities.

Then we have the 14th of the 1st month offering: It’s commemorating the LORD’s Passover: The burnt offering  which then includes the Sabbath Offering and the Daily offerings. The people hold a Holy Convocation for 7 days. [I probably should mention that these have not included the offerings that the people themselves could bring, such as a sin or guilt offering – find those in Leviticus] On the 15th of the 1st Month, there is the observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Our reading list for us the Feast of Weeks, to commemorate the first fruits of the grain/harvest; called the New Grain offering. This is also a holy convocation as well. The recipe contains the Burnt offering, the Grain offering and the daily offerings. The meat for this is 2 bulls, 1 ram and 7 lambs and a goat for a sin offering.

Now when the 7th month comes around we have a very extensive sacrifice offering and a cycle of offerings presented on the 1st, 10th and 15th of the month. No work was done during this time. They sacrificed for 7 days straight, each day reducing the number of bulls by one. SO on the first day, 13 bulls, 2 rams 14 lambs, 1 goat and their respective drink and grain offerings. On the 8th day – Israel held a Solemn Assembly – no work done. The only sacrifices giving were the Daily offering and Votive and Freewill offerings. Whew!

Now if we are going to be pleasing to the LORD and He took great lengths to tell us what was a “sweet smelling aroma” in His nostrils; shouldn’t we follow the recipes? I know, I can hear someone out their, “my mom never used a recipe, and everything she made was awesome.” Great for your mom, but she was pleasing YOU not GOD! Let’s follow directions – let us be a SWEET SMELLING AROMA in the nostrils of GOD, and we present ourselves as LIVING SACRIFICES!

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God doesn’t forget

Numbers 26-27, A census is taken. All the tribes of Israel [12] are counted. The key here is every man above the age of 20 years old. Numbers 14:26-35. In Numbers 13-14 we have the story of spies looking at the Promised Land. We have the “Church Business meeting” that Israel has and votes 10-2 not to go into the Promise Land. Instead of Faith, they lived by Fear of the giants and the fortified cities. God had already given them the Land, God promised Abram the land back in Genesis 17/22. Where ever the sole of your feet trod, I have already given it to you. After they reject entrance into the Land, they have a “parking lot business meeting” and decide they should go across. They are told, don’t do that because God is not with you. Point: When God opens the door and we fail to go in; don’t expect the door to remain open! Israel has a great loss of life and defeat, because God was not with them. They knew He was not because they had the “Pillar of fire and Cloud” showing them the way. Israel, like we do not listen when God speaks. If we hear, we do not act. This is disobedience and GOD does not bless disobedience. All that to say in the recording of the census of the tribes, we find 601,730 people we counted. These people would die in the Wilderness. I did some quick math; there are 14,600 days in 40 years, divided by 601,730 = 41 people died everyday for 40 years! The generation that got out of Egypt [chronic complainers and stubborn] didn’t get into the Promised Land. The last person to die of that generation [other that Caleb and Joshua] was Moses.

I work in Revitalization and have often asked the question “Will we have to lose a generation of Church people before GOD can do anything with us again?” It saddens me that we, today are very much like the nation of Israel, chronic complainers, always wanting what we want at the expense of the generations around us. There is a contingent of churches and church people who are always wanting to go back in time to “the good old days.” As I write this , our nation has been engaged in the effects of a global pandemic; my greatest fear is that we will have learned nothing from it and will seek to return to “normal” when it has subsided. We must remember that normal wasn’t working then, so it won’t work in return either.

While the rebellion and stiff-necked character of Israel is well documented in the Old Testament; it is also revealed in individuals. In this case Moses is the person. Look back with me at Numbers 20:8-12 where Moses was dealing with a recurring problem. The people didn’t have water and were grumbling against him. This is the second time that God provided the miracle of water from the ROCK. In Exodus 17:1-7 we find the first incident. Moses was told to “strike the ROCK at Horeb.” Mount Horeb is Mount Sinai – the Law giving place. Moses struck the ROCK and water came forth as God promised. But in this second event, Moses was told to “Speak to the ROCK.” In his anger with the people, Moses Struck the ROCK twice with the rod. Water came forth, but what a cost to Moses. In chapter 27:12 – 14, Moses is reminded that he also will die in the Wilderness because of his own disobedience of striking the ROCK  instead of speaking. You may say that was awful harsh for one disobedient act to not be allowed to enter into the Promised Land. I must remind all of us – one sin prevent us from God’s presence. It was one sin that caused Adam to fall. One sin that makes us guilty. Moses of all people, having been with God on the Mountain, heard God speak and shared the revealed Glory, He of all people should have remained obedient. Moses took out his frustration on the ROCK. This ROCK is Jesus! Jesus need only be struck once for the sins of mankind. To strike Jesus the ROCK is to re-crucify Him. Moses never entered into the Promise Land; the Abundant Life because of his sin. There are millions I believe that are still stuck in the Wilderness because of their continual sinning against God. The sin that Moses committed – vs. 14 “you did not treat Me Holy.”

Oh how we forfeit the blessing of God because of our sins! Joshua and Caleb with a new generation was allowed to enter in the Promise Land. Will our present day churches be so stubborn and continue in sin, which prevents them receiving the blessing of GOD? Will a generation of rebellious churches who want to go backwards instead of forward die before God can lead another generation in to His blessings?

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If God Be For Us . . . .

Numbers 22-27; the partial verse quote in the title is finished with “Who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

I chose that verse because in our reading we are confronted with Balak and Balaam. Balak is the King of Moab, the son of Zippor. A better understanding is that Moab is the off-spring of Lot and his incest relationship with his daughters after Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed. When Israel moves in the Wilderness to Moab area, Balak is fearful of the amount of people and feels threatened by their presence in His land. So he engages Balaam from Pethor to cast a curse on the people of Israel. Balaam seeks God, but tells Balak that he can only speak those things God says to him. This happens three times in our reading. Each time Balaam has Balak construct a sacrifice to the LORD. But what happens instead of cursing Israel, they are blessed. Finally, Balak tells Balaam not to Bess or curse them. Also in this narrative is the people of Midian – who are the result of Abraham’s second marriage in Genesis 25. I found this to be odd that God would have Moses strike them down. [Numbers 25:16-18] I found this odd because Jethro the Midianite, took Moses in and he married Zipporah who was a Midianite. Okay, I’ll admit I do not have the Wisdom of God. Anyway, all the attempts to destroy the people of Israel is thwarted by Balaam’s seeking God’s counsel.

We have in this reading the story of Balaam and his donkey. A real doctor Doolittle story of talking animals, or even a Shrek and donkey relationship. Anyway, the donkey sees the Angel of the LORD standing before Him three times with drawn sword and tries to avoid him; each time the donkey gets beat by Balaam for not going forward. When the donkey pleads his case to Balaam, Balaam talks back to him. Now help me a bit; talking donkeys are not the norm right? But Balaam talks to the donkey like it’s an everyday thing.

In chapter 24 we have the documented oracles of Balaam. An oracle is an opinion or wise counsel. In the oracles we read of the scepter of Jacob rising up. How that Amalek will be destroyed. We have to remember about Amalek from Exodus 17:8-16. In Numbers 24:7, the reference to Agag the king that King Saul did not kill in 1 Samuel 15:8, who shows up again in Esther in the person of Haman the Agagite. It is interesting with the connections that I have indicated that the enemies of Israel continue to show up generation to generation. We also have the oracles telling us of Jesus prophetical reign.

Now Balak is King of Moab, an idolatrous people who worship Baal. But God did not allow Balaam to evoke a curse on the people. But look what happens in chapter 25 of Numbers. Incidentally, I’m not sure that Israel was even aware that God was protecting them from Balak. But in Numbers 25; the anger of the LORD is brought against Israel – Why because they PLAYED THE HARLOT! What Balak couldn’t do – Israel did to themselves. “They played the harlot by taking the Moabites daughters as wives. Something they were strictly told not to do. The LORD tells Moses to bring the guilty leadership forward and parade them publicly before the people and execute them. Whoa, talk about putting the fear of God into people. I wonder what would happen if that occurred today? Like Annias and Sapphira in Acts 5! The “plague” was stayed because Aaron’s grandson ran a spear through a man from the tribe of Simeon and his Midianite woman. If we read this correctly, is this where the Levites become the “intercessors” for the people because the “provided atonement” in this situation? I think so. In the end there are 24,000 people killed for their rebellion. Isn’t it interesting that the down fall was a sensual downfall in that they “prostituted themselves to Baal for the sake of having the Moab women! Hold on now, think with me – Ruth is a Moabitess who marries Boaz and out of their union comes Jesse – David – Solomon and Jesus! Wow, I don’t understand it all. But there are the facts.

So God protects Israel from Balak’s attempts to destroy them – Balak being an ancestor of Lot and His daughters. Then we have God against the Midianites because the frustrated Israel while in the Wilderness. But Moses was helped by Jethro the priest of Midian, while he was on the run and he married Zipporah. But God is hostile towards them now – Numbers 25:16. Out of this disobedience of intermarriage, the Levitical priesthood is established. [Numbers 25:12-13]

If God be for us, no one can defeat us. But if we are disobedient towards God, there is no one to help us!

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