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Food for the Soul

Food for the Soul, devotionals to help you in your busy life, written by NEWIM board members and staff. 

Mountaintop Moments

Kim Johnson

The Lord our God said to us at Horeb,
“You have stayed long enough at this mountain.”
                                   
Deuteronomy 1:6 (NIV)

The recent rain and cold weather has left our SoCal mountains with a beautiful blanket of snow. Looking at them has reminded me of the times I have spent with the Lord—on the mountaintop. We’ve all had them at one time or another: precious moments when we encounter God in a deeper, more intimate way.

In this verse in Deuteronomy, we find the Israelites having one such moment when they had gathered at Mount Horeb to hear from God. From Exodus 19 we know that fire and smoke covered the majestic mountain as lightening flashed and loud bursts of thunder pierced the air. It was a breathtaking display as God gave them His law and they were inspired by this incredible experience. Yet their Lord had not rescued them from the slavery of Egypt to settle near a mountain in the wilderness. He had brought them out—to send them in—the Promised Land. This was merely a demonstration of His power so they would know they could trust Him to conquer Canaan. As much as they might have wanted to stay, God declared it was time for them to move toward to do battle.

Being on the mountaintop is extremely enticing. Resting in the refuge of His presence, we find a profound comfort and we want to stay there. It doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of your alone time with God, at a leader’s or women’s conference, in a prayer meeting, or even just reading a particularly good book. The intimacy can feel fleeting and we wish we could capture it and stay in it forever.

God has purpose in His pursuit of us, however. He uses the mountaintop times not only for relationship, but to prepare us for what lies ahead. He knows what battle may be looming around the corner and He will not leave us ill-equipped. Instead, He meets us in those quiet places to demonstrate His love for us, refresh our soul and give us courage as we continue to follow His plan for our life.

Don’t expect to stay too long on the mountaintop. God has work for you to do.

 We tend to seek the mountain tops in life
But it’s in the valleys where God makes the flowers bloom!
                                                                  
—Author Unknown

Owning Responsibility as a Leader

Kim Johnson

  • (Adapted from Equip.org)

"And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord" (2 Chronicles 20:3-4).

When Jehoshaphat became king of Judah, he assumed responsibility – the duty and obligation to lead the people and manage the resources of the nation. There were challenges of course. The biggest came when an army comprised of warriors from three countries made plans to attack Judah.  As the leader of that nation, Jehoshaphat had a choice. He could run, he could hide or he could show up – and show up he did.

As leaders, we face this same challenge, sometimes on a daily basis. It can come from anywhere and from just about anyone, even from someone in our inner circle. The test is not found so much in the trial, but in how we respond and what we allow to result from it. There are things that can sometimes be out of our control, but we choose how we react when faced with unpleasant issues. 

How we elect to respond in the face of a crisis says much about our leadership. Accepting the responsibility of being a leader is the one thing a leader cannot delegate. We can share the vision, assign duties, authorize decisions, and manage volunteers. When it comes to the bottom line, however, the “buck stops here.” It is ours to own and the excellence of our leadership depends upon our willingness to continue to step up. It doesn’t matter if we stand alone, we still must stand.

  • Dropouts:        Leaders who give up and fail to take responsibility
  • Cop-outs:        Leaders who make excuses for why they are not responsible
  • Hold-outs:       Leaders who waiver too long to take responsibility
  • All-outs:         Leaders who own the responsibility and take action (Jehoshaphat).

                                                                  The Maxwell Leadership Bible

Be Careful What You Ask For

Kim Johnson

Go and tell Hezekiah, “Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father:‘I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears;
surely I will add to your days fifteen years.’”
                                                                                                                       Isaiah 38:5 (NIV)

It is an essential principle of our Christian faith that God knows what is better for us than we do. When we pray, we verbalize that belief by asking God to bless according to His will. Yet there is no doubt we have a definite agenda in our hearts when we come to our Father. If we are praying about sickness, we ask for healing. If we are praying for a good outcome for an event, we pray for success. For any number of circumstances, when we take them to God in prayer, we pray specifically. And we should. However, holding on too tightly to our own desires can be costly.

In Chapter 38 of Isaiah, King Hezekiah was gravely ill. In mercy, God sent Isaiah to advise the king that he would not recover, giving Hezekiah an opportunity to “get his house in order.” This is news no one wants to hear and it was no different for Hezekiah. So he prayed, reminding God of his faithfulness and begged for more time. With compassion, God heard Hezekiah’s prayer, sending Isaiah to tell the king He would honor the request with an additional fifteen years of life.

What a gift! Yet as we now know, Hezekiah had no idea there would be extreme consequences for those extra fifteen years. Manasseh was born to Hezekiah and then succeeded his father as king. Manasseh reigned for fifty-five years, the most evil king ever to rule over Judah. He encouraged idol worship, using his own son in the practice. He shed much innocent blood, exhibiting an extreme wickedness that provoked God’s anger. God continued to warn him but Manasseh ignored God’s admonitions. The nation of Judah significantly suffered and was ultimately defeated by the Babylonians. This from a man who would never have been born if Hezekiah had accepted God’s will for his life.

Accepting God’s will in our lives is no problem when the journey is easy. It is where the going gets tough we might find ourselves questioning Him, getting angry with Him or begging Him for our will to be done no matter what. The issue isn’t about openly sharing our deepest desires with the Lord; it is about compelling our compassionate Father to answer according to our will, not His.  He alone knows the future and we can trust Him. It is never wrong to ask but always right to be ready to accept His answer, even when it is no.

In Gethsemane the holiest of all petitioners prayed three times
 that a certain cup might pass from Him. It did not.
                                                                                                           C. S. Lewis

Spiritual Confidence

Kim Johnson

“David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands . . .” 1 Samuel 17:45-46a (NIV).

If anyone in the Old Testament was confident, it was David. As a young man, he saw everything as God’s doing, no matter what was happening around him. Someone else might take a negative view of the same situation, only focusing on the problem and the reasons why it could not be resolved. David, however, would focus on the positive and view it from the perspective of his trust in God.

In the verse quoted above, David was a young man when he faced Goliath, who was most certainly intimidating. Even the bravest Israelite soldier was afraid of him. There is no doubt David saw Goliath’s strength, his huge weapons and his enormous size. He no doubt heard Goliath boast and shout obscenities against God and His people. Yet as David prepared to battle this giant, he stood tall, claiming the victory for the Lord even before he hurled his first stone. David was confident, not because he was oblivious to the difficult task but because he was convinced of God’s presence.

This account of David and Goliath is a vivid example of the kind of faith we need as leaders. We cannot count on the size of our volunteer group, our own strength or our resources, no matter how extensive they may be. Depending on anything but God can cause us to focus on all the wrong things. We’ll see problems not solutions, be anxious without reassurance or suffer opposition instead of support. Our efforts can become so overwhelming that we quickly lose perspective. Instead, this example of David can be a great reminder that it is the power of our almighty God which enables us to accomplish His will. We are more than conquerors—only through Him.

“Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable,
And receives the impossible.

                                                —Corrie Ten Boom

A Good Ending

Kim Johnson

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
                                                                                       —2 Kings 2:9 (NIV)

Of all the prophets there was never one more prolific than Elijah. He had raised the dead, spoken fire down from heaven and revealed a devastating drought coming from God. Many in that time probably thought there would never be another man of God like him, but we know that wasn’t the case. Moses was a strong leader who was replaced by Joshua. David was a man after God’s own heart yet Solomon completed the job his father was prevented from doing. Time after time we see God replacing a mighty leader with a successor who was doubly gifted. It was His will and His plan that was important, not necessarily the person in charge of it. Those leaders were not irreplaceable. God has limitless options at his fingertips to accomplish His plan and He will achieve His purpose.

One of the biggest pitfalls of being a leader is to believe we are indispensable in our role. The trap is set when we begin to do all the work ourselves, even if it is out of necessity. When this continually happens, pride can creep in and create the misconception that no one else can do the job as well. By hanging on too long we risk missing the privilege of partnering with God in planning our replacement. It is not a matter of if, but when God determines it is time to bring another leader on board. By failing to recognize the need for a succession plan, we become the problem rather than the solution. Ultimately it is His ministry that suffers.

The measure of a successful spiritual leader is not always the length of their service. No matter how long we lead, the serving is significant because it is for His glory not ours. Following God’s leading includes being prepared, even when that means it is time to pass the torch. He is trustworthy in everything, including His timing. The best thing we can do in our ministry is set ourselves up—for a good ending.

“Outstanding leaders pass the torch with fire blazing. Mediocre leaders pass a dimly lit torch. Poor leaders drop the torch making it difficult if not impossible to pick up again.”

                                                       —Reed Markham