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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Grace to Be Gracious (Part 3) – Audio Message

grace[1] To conclude my recent postings concerning our need to truly receive and understand God’s grace for ourselves in order to extend grace toward others, I felt it appropriate to use an audio of a message I shared with House of Prayer Church under Pastor Lynndene Way.  I shared this message in 2012 and still find it important to remind myself of its details years later. 

The message is divided into two tracks totaling approximately 34 minutes.    The first part dives into several of Jesus’ parables which give us an understanding of grace.  The second part incorporates personal application as I share a little about how it has translated into my own life.  Hope you will be blessed!

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
(Ephesians 4:32) 

To view Lesley’s article on Grace to Be Gracious Part 1, please click here.
To view Lesley’s article on Grace to Be Gracious Part 2, please click here.

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Grace to Be Gracious (Part 1)

grace[1]“A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” ( John 13:34-35).

Jesus’ words form the backdrop to a lesson His disciple Peter is soon to learn.  Certainly the last three years had been the most revelatory of any Peter had experienced, though none were as pivotal as what was yet to come.

Jesus continued, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.’  Peter asked, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now?  I will lay down my life for you.’  Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me?  I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!'” (John 13:36-37).

And so it went.  Three years of loyal discipleship appear to reach a bitter end.  Three times Peter disowns Jesus and for three days he is left with the grief over his master in a tomb.

It’s so easy to brood over the remorse of our last moments with loved ones.  Did we say ‘I love you’?  Was our last goodbye with an embrace?  Did we fully express our appreciation like we should have?  At times our last moments are in strife.  Perhaps there was a disagreement.  Perhaps we needed to ask forgiveness and didn’t get the chance.  This is the torment Peter no doubt faced. His last memories were of Jesus’ eyes locked on his . . . just as the rooster crowed.  Jesus knew, and there was no time for apologies.

Thankfully, we serve a God who can raise up even something that’s dead.  After three days, Christ was raised, and within His third appearance to His disciples, He was about to raise up a broken Simon Peter.  The three betrayals were met with three questions from Jesus.

First:     “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
Second: “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
Third:   “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Three times Peter was given the opportunity to replace each rejection with an affirmation of his love for Jesus.  My NIV Bible offers the heading “Jesus Reinstates Peter” to this passage.  It is a powerful illustration of second chances.  It is a powerful demonstration of GRACE.  

It is interesting that the disciple whose actions should have caused the greatest offense against Jesus went on to become the one whom most scholars agree was the head apostle.  Peter was also the first to receive the revelation concerning the acceptance of the gentiles.  Within his vision, the Lord revealed to him, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10: 15).  This would have been a major challenge to their prejudicial mindsets during that time – but Peter understood grace.

It is difficult to be gracious to others if you can’t receive grace for yourself.  Pride is at the crux of this dilemma.  After all, how can God’s blessings be recognized as an act of grace if we feel we deserve them?  Grace can only be received in humility.  Likewise, true graciousness can only be offered out of humility.  True graciousness is an extension from the understanding of the grace God has given. 

Jesus points out this principle as his feet were being wet with the tears of a sinful woman, washed by her hair, and anointed with her perfume.  This woman had been extended grace, and Jesus references her actions as a window into the nature of love – and, I believe, grace as well.  After all, grace is the extension of God’s love.  Jesus stated, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much.  But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).  Similarly, Peter had been forgiven much, and he would soon be called to love much.  Grace would call him to be gracious. 

Remember the backdrop to Peter’s pivotal lesson?  Jesus had just finished commanding His disciples to love one another to such an extent that others would recognize they were disciples of Christ.   He then told Peter that where He was about to go, Peter couldn’t follow . . . “but you will follow later.”  This is likely in regards to Christ’s death, resurrection and heavenly ascension.  Nonetheless, there seems to be great symbolism within this statement as well, given the lesson Peter was soon to undergo.  At that time, Peter was incapable of following Jesus’ command to love just as He had loved.  Peter had yet to fully comprehend his own need for grace.  He was still convinced of his own abilities. Until . . .

Until his betrayal and reinstatement. It is interesting that after each opportunity Peter had to replace his betrayals with affirmations, Jesus gave these commands:

First:    “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
               “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
               “Feed my lambs.”

Second: “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
                 “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
                 “Take care of my sheep.”

Third:   “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
               “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
               “Feed my sheep.”

These commands can be easily romanticized on our super-spiritual highs. However, there will be lows. The “sheep” and “lambs” are not always so cute and cuddly. Sometimes they seem downright baaa-d. (Sorry, I had to – I’m a children’s author after all!)  Personally, in these times I’ve learned that I will not be able to extend grace if I don’t bring to remembrance the grace given to me!

” . . . to you who are listening I say:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you . . .

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.
And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? . . .
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High,
because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
(Luke 6:27-36)

To view Grace to Be Gracious (Part 2), click here.
To view Grace to Be Gracious (Part 3) – Audio Message, click here.
To view more articles written by Lesley, simply
Click Here!

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Biblical Wisdom

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_scrappinstac'>scrappinstac / 123RF Stock Photo</a>Wisdom is a theme throughout the entire Bible, but the reader will especially not escape Wisdom’s call when turning to Proverbs.  Just as Proverbs 1:20 depicts Wisdom as “cry[ing] out in the streets”, so too it cries out to us from each chapter. 

We live in an information age.  Simply keeping up with technology and politics can be a challenge, let alone remaining well-versed in all the little extras that are deemed important within society.  The pressure is not confined to only adults.  Children’s education is pushed earlier and earlier.  More and more activities are added to the “well-rounded” requirements list.  The question is, do we take the time to hear Wisdom’s cry? 

It may seem that our constant pursuit of information and skill is the modern-day equivalent to wisdom.  However, what exactly is wisdom?  Webster’s New World Dictionary defines wisdom as “good judgment.”  Though knowledge is a prerequisite to wisdom, it is possible to possess knowledge but still lack wisdom.  Thus, Wikipedia further defines wisdom as “the judicious application of knowledge.”1  

It is often thought that wisdom comes with age.  In large part, I believe that should be true.  If I am no more wise in twenty years than I am now, then I will have to ask myself some serious questions about how I’ve lived!  Rightly so, secular definitions of wisdom will indicate a correspondence between life experience and wisdom.  The Bible, on the other hand, hones in not only on experiential learning, but even more importantly on character development.  In other words, the common theme of a Proverbs-kind-of-wisdom largely comes down to our heart.

After all my siftings through Proverbs over the years, I have come to believe that there is one foundational element to wisdom: HUMILITY.  This should be of no surprise, since either “pride”, “humble” or “humility” is mentioned at least a dozen times in Proverbs alone.  This is only counting overt quotations in which the specific words are mentioned.  Added to this list are numerous other references that wisdom and humility go hand-in hand.  A humble heart allows the building blocks of wisdom to form.

Proverbs covers many different aspects of wisdom.  Discipline, for instance, is a common theme.  However, I believe this to be a fruit of wisdom and not a building block for wisdom.  Just as we hear two issues echoed throughout the Old and New Testament commandments, loving God and loving others, so also I believe two similar themes show up in the building blocks of wisdom.  The first building block to wisdom is a healthy fear of the Lord.  Secondly, wisdom is built within a respect for others.  Where does humility fit into these?  Remove humility and neither one of these building blocks are possible.  Remove humility and down falls wisdom.  After all, pride comes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18).

1. The Fear of the Lord:  Proverbs 9:10 states that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  In turn, the fear of God is coupled with humility in both Proverbs 9:13, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance” and Proverbs 15:33, “The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.”

I should note one important disclaimer whenever the phrase “fear of the Lord” is used.  This is not to say that we walk through life continually afraid of God’s judgment or displeasure with us, nor that His character is unmerciful.  The truth is that God is love (1 John 4:8) and He is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4).  Equally and simultaneously important, however, is to understand that God is holy (1 Peter 1:16) and His judgments are true (Revelations 19:2).  I would assert that without understanding this latter statement, one will never fully understand the former.  A humble person with a healthy fear/respect for God will acknowledge that He is God and we are not.  Yes, I feel I have to state the obvious!  I know for myself that this statement may be easily acknowledged in words, but unfortunately not always in our hearts or our actions.

If it is unclear why the fear of God has any association with humility, then simply look to the two great falls within history.  Lucifer (now Satan) possessed great wisdom until one sin entered his heart:  pride. Ezekiel 28:17, as most theologians agree, sheds light on the arch angel’s fall in his prophesy:  “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor”.  Isaiah 14:14 adds even more explanation to these events when describing that Lucifer’s desire was to make himself “like the Most High”.  History then repeats itself within the Garden of Eden where Satan uses the identical weapon of pride against Adam and Eve to destroy any fear of the Lord and respect for His command.  Pride grew from the same desire, that when they ate of the forbidden fruit they would “be like God” (Genesis 3:5).

Unfortunately, history continues to repeat itself.  Pride creates in us the desire to pursue our own way, seemingly oblivious to the fact that God would know better, and resistant to the fact that in the end, He will judge our eternal course. Humility understands His supremacy and respects His spiritual laws.  Humility submits to His will.  Humility is conducive to walking in His ways.  This is wisdom . . . or at least the beginning of it.

2. Respect Others:  What does respecting others have to do with humility?  The Apostle Paul references the correlation between humility and the treatment of others within Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” Within Proverbs, humility is displayed in a respect of others by way of honoring counsel, accepting correction, and listening before speaking.  Here is just a sample of the relevant verses:

“Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice” (Proverbs 13:10).
“Listen to my instruction and be wise” (Proverbs 9:33).
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise” (Proverbs 19:20).
“Plans fail for lack of counsel” (Proverbs 15:22).
“The wise in heart accept commands” (Proverbs 10:8).
“He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding” (Proverbs 15:32).
“He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame” (Proverbs 18:13).

From experience I can say that it is easy to appear wise in our own eyes.  On the contrary, this mentality is often a red flag that we indeed are not! Our perspective is just that – our perspective.  It is unnatural to see things from a different point of view, and equally unnatural to view ourselves outside the context of our own desires.  On the other hand, humility will always direct our view towards God for His perspective.  It will also honor the experiences of others from which we can learn, as well as our relationships with others.    

At times I am so preoccupied in the attempt to fill my head that I miss the call of God attempting to change my heart.  I catch myself yearning to appear knowledgeable before men, rather than acknowledging the higher Wisdom from God.  Certainly there are benefits to today’s information age.  Nonetheless, it is important to frequently question our own attitudes and motivations.  “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways . . a prudent man gives thought to his steps” (Proverbs 14:8,15).  When choosing our steps, the ultimate choice is to walk humbly with our God.  We can choose to humble ourselves, and I can testify (unfortunately) that it’s a far better option than being humbled!

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