Lesley (Dahlseng) Rieland

Children's Book Author and Christian Blogger

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Wanted: Followers, Not Leaders!


“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse!  The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.  He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.   And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him ” (Revelations 19:11-14).

I will never forget it.  It was New Year’s Day of 2014.   I had traveled to the cities to visit friends and then spent the night in a hotel.  I spent the next morning sipping on hotel coffee in my room, praying and journaling a bit before checkout time.  It may sound spiritual, but in truth I was mulling over and bemoaning my lot in life and praying for a change.  My justification for these feelings was that I wasn’t “doing” much for God.  A holy desire, right?  That’s when I heard His reply:  “I’m not looking for leaders.  I’m looking for followers.”  There are few times that I’ve heard something so clearly.  

I was wanting God to follow my plan instead of me following His, and He knocked me right off my horse.  The above passage in Revelations serves to remind me of who the true leader is.  God is not looking for leaders, He is looking for followers.  Christ leads the battle.  Christ wins the battle.  It is only by Christ.  The same is true in every current struggle we face or goal that we set.  If we remain paralyzed by fear or complacency in our lives, we have made ourselves the leader.  On the other hand, if our efforts to move forward and further God’s kingdom are not done in the spirit of humility – in surrender to Him – in the end, we have mostly furthered our own kingdom.  

Number 9:15-23 is perhaps one of the most repetitive passages in Scripture.  If God found it important enough to repeat over and over again, then it is worth our meditation.  I dare say that if this was the only Scripture I knew, I would still be well equipped.

“On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it.  From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire.  That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire.  Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped.  At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped.  As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp.  When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out.  Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out.  Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out.  Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out.  Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out.  At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out.  They obeyed the Lord’s order . . .”

Again, God is not looking for leaders.  He is looking for followers.  Jesus’ invitation was not simply, “Let’s go together!” though that seems to be the new trend in preaching today.  Rather, His call was to “Come, follow Me.” (Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17).  Even the Apostle Paul was a follower before he was a leader.  He emphasized the importance of this in his letter to the Corinthians by this correction: “For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?  What, after all, is Apollos?  And what is Paul?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task” (1 Corinthians 3:4-5).  Paul’s invitation to “Follow me” was with a condition.  His condition was “as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

So whether the temptation is to charge ahead in life or to remain as is, check to see whether that cloud of God’s Spirit is staying or going.  It may not fit our plan.  It may not feel comfortable.  It may stretch us further than we can imagine stretching.  Some of our pride may even get hurt . . . let it!   Our victory is only found in the humble obedience of one call: “Follow me.”

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Pressed, Not Crushed!

Life is full of challenges.  I’ve faced many, and I wish I could testify that I stood up to each one with full confidence, free of any doubt, discouragement, or self-pity. There’s always next time, right?  As it says in 1 Corinthians 3:18, we are changed “from glory to glory” into the same image of the glory of the Lord.  With each new challenge comes new revelation – IF your heart is open to it!

When I first began teaching in the children’s ministry over a decade ago, one of our favorite songs had a verse which paraphrased 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”  I sang it with an off-pitch yet triumphant voice, though I didn’t know fully how much that verse would mean to me until a few years of experience.  Twelve years as a Christian and I have not been immune to trials: health battles, financial pressures, miscarriage, marital struggles, personal offenses, and the various disappointments we all face.  These all have the potential to serve as dark clouds amidst my memories.  They are not.  As my mind scans through my life, some of these events are my most cherished.

Romans 8:28 tells us that “all things work out to the good of them that love God.”  I’m not saying that these struggles were all the will of God; I’m saying that the will of God is to make beauty of the ashes (Isaiah 61:3).  I’ve been pressed, not crushed.  The real beauty is that each time I find myself pressed, I come through with more of my “self” repealed and more of Him revealed.  I need not fear abandoning my own false securities, because He does not abandon me.  He never leaves us, nor does He forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).  When I admit that my own strength is not enough, then I can join the praises of the psalmists, declaring “the Lord is my strength.”

How could I know Him as Healer if I never had to trust Him for healing?  Would my life be any richer had there been no opportunity for Him to provide?  If I only faced things I could accomplish myself, would that encourage me to face something greater than myself?  Had I never felt alone, would I ever discover that His presence is enough and loose myself from the fear of rejection?  I would not know His unconditional love had I always managed to meet others’ conditions.  Let me promise you, there is a freedom in coming to the end of yourself – so long as you come to Him.

This last Sunday I heard again the story of Exodus, though one detail came to light which I’d passed over until now.  So many times I’ve heard the story set up: a Red Sea on one side and an Egyptian army on the other.  Imagine the pressure!  Then God parts the Red Sea and leads them safely upon dry land . . . This is true, in part.  However, had the Red Sea opening been their only aid, they would likely have been overcome.  The army behind may not have only pressed them, it would have crushed them.  What kept the Egyptians from attacking from behind?  “The angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them.  The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel” (Exodus 14:19-20).

I’m slowly learning to direct my attention away from the “enemy” and instead to Him who stands between me and the enemy.  Countless times, God has called out to us to not be afraid nor discouraged.  This is nearly always coupled with one promise: that He is with us.  “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged . . . the Lord will be with you'” (2 Chronicles 20:17).  “Fear not, for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10).  “Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you” (1 Chronicles 28:20).  “I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).  “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid” (Psalm 118:6).

This is a truth I thought I’d learned many trials ago.  Yet, it was not long ago that I found myself asking Him, “where are You?”  I should have known better!  Nonetheless, His reply to me was not harsh.  Instead, His word to me was even greater:  “I am not only with you, I am within you.”  Praise God, I will overcome all trials from glory to glory!  After all, He is “Christ IN me, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

To view more articles written by Lesley Dahlseng, simply Click Here!