Advertisements

Blog Archives

The Way of Deepest Honor

Father of mercy & grace, I praise You this morning for Your consistency & faithfulness. You are deeply loving, and amazingly generous with us who are so broken & so desperately in need of You. It is so easy for us to get hung up in ourselves, to focus on our own accomplishments & struggles. Thank You for these reminders about Your authority, grace & humble servanthood. Remind us again today what it means to serve like Jesus, having the same attitude humility. I pray this in His Name, amen.

Luke 22:24-30
24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“But I am among you as the one who serves.” We should probably reread that sentence every morning at least, shouldn’t we? Maybe we should put it on Post-It Notes, and tack it up around our home & work spaces, put one on our dashboard in our car & stick one on the handle of our grocery cart on days when we’re in a hurry, too. Jesus says, “Look, I see this world & it’s structures, I really do. I understand the social pressures & the expectations you put on yourselves & your culture presses on everyone…but I am different. And because I’m different, I want you do be different just like I am different. Look at my example. Examine what I’m doing. Look more deeply into me & put less stock into what this world says. Follow Me.”

For those of us who’ve spent any time with Jesus, we know this is the right answer. We know what His example is for us, but we still struggle like the apostles did with this expectation we see the world cramming in our faces. Humility is a trait that is definitely admirable, but in this world it will get you run over, left behind & forgotten. People who really accomplish things are bold & make a name for themselves. They are pacesetters & captains of industry. People take notice of them & they build a name for themselves, These are the people set as our examples. They write books & do interviews. They get things named after them & they gain the admiration of everyone. That’s what we’re trained to shoot for in this life.

Count Nicholas Von Zinzindorf said this though, and he is more on track with Jesus than this mindset of looking out for number one. He said, “Preach the Gospel, die & be forgotten.” Inspirational, right? We’re probably not going to see a poster made of that one & hanging on the wall of a Fortune 500 office anytime soon.

IMG_DC9EB03D0796-1

This isn’t the way our world works. But this is the way of Christ. This is the reality that we are adopted into when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior & Master. Listen to Jesus again. Hear what He has to say.

“But I am among you as the one who serves.”

What would change in your world today if you and I really adopted that mindset? What will you do differently today if you choose to be forgotten so that Christ might be exalted? Who will you find to focus on if you take the efforts of your heart today and turn them toward that person in an attitude of servanthood like Jesus showed us? What kind of impact would you have on your family? Your friends? How might Jesus be lifted up & how might God be more deeply praised & glorified because of you?

Be among your peers today as one who serves. Walk among your family today as one who serves. Don’t seek your own way, your own priorities today. Walk like Jesus walked. Move in the rhythms of His grace. Wrap a towel around your waist & pick up the basin of water as you bend to wash the feet of those around you in His example & in His Name. You’ve seen the example of this world. You’ve seen what temporary things that accomplishes. Look instead to Jesus & serve today as He would serve.

 

Advertisements

Poor Contributions

Father, humble hearts are precious to You. Healthy perspective of the limitations of human effort & our brokenness, an understanding of our deep & unending dependence on You, & a faith that reflects both seem to go a long way in Your eyes. It isn’t big gestures that win You over, but the small daily obediences that come from this faith. Grant us eyes to see & hearts to comprehend this measure of faith. Give us the grace of Your strength to measure to the stature of the generous & faithful widow in Luke 21. We should all depend on You so freely, trust in You so deeply as we walk in these precious rhythms of grace in Your Spirit. Let us abide this deeply with You today. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 21:1-4
1 Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box,
and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Self-promotion & humility rarely seem to go together, do they? When we see people who claim to honor God with their life constantly drawing attention to their piety, naming things after themselves, building stadiums and lavish homes for themselves, it can be difficult to take them seriously. I was blessed to grow up with a preacher who had an obvious God-given talent for drawing people to Jesus. His ministry flourished, the membership grew & the buildings did, too. But all the way through, he was also gifted by God to do something amazing, he remained humble. He refused a lavish salary. He stayed in the same unassuming house for years & he never bought himself a fancy car.

And God honored his humility & the primacy of the Gospel in His life. It was obvious. He was a wonderful example (and still is) of what it means to serve faithfully and humbly, despite the evidence to the contrary that said he should have had more attention & accolades.

This day in the temple, Jesus looked. He saw what people were doing as they came into the Temple of YHWH in Jerusalem. God notices who we are. He knows what we do & He has no issue discerning the intentions of our hearts. We come to Him with all manner of motivations, our hearts & minds crowded with thoughts, worries & concerns. We hurt for someone who is hurting. We are stressed over income. We long for a friend or family member to leave addiction behind, to find help in their struggle with drugs or pornography. We grieve with the weeping mother & father who lost their days-old infant. We carry guilt from our own sins. And with these burdens we come to God.

You would think that concerns like these would keep us on our knees, humble before God as we approach Him. The messes of our life, the lives of our friends & family, the brokenness we struggle within this world…these things should bring us to a place of open, honest reflection as we come before the King of Creation. He is holy, righteous & perfect. We are so obviously not. He needs nothing. Apart from Him, we are nothing. Humility & perspective shouldn’t be a problem.

But these rich people enter into the Temple complex with pomp & ceremony. They bring along their entourage, a porter to carry their gifts in front of them. They make a big show & blow horns as they give their ‘gift’ to God & draw more attention to their self than to Him. The show matters to them. They want to be seen. They want to be impressive. They want things their way. They want people to want to know them, to desire their company. They make idols of their own façade & shrines to their ego. They do not understand humility, at least not publicly, and so they over compensate with inglorious displays.

The offering box sat in the doorway of the Temple. It was there for ease of use as you came in & went out. It was placed in a location where you didn’t have to come in, walk up to the front & draw attention to yourself. Rich & poor, men & women, young & old would all pass by it & there was no preference, position or power honored above another as people came in to worship God. The focus was on Him.

So, in stark contrast, the widow drops in two very small, very thin copper coins. They would make no noise when they fell into the box. They would draw no attention to her status or income level. She had no entourage, no pomp. So, Jesus looked & saw her heart.

He had no words to praise the rich that day. But He stopped what He was doing to pay attention to & praise the heart of this nameless widow. No husband, no job, no family entering in with her. She comes to God, an impoverished, undervalued individual. But she knows her God. She understands His faithfulness. She has full confidence in His provision & His love over her & so she gives Him all she has. No reservation, no ego to block the intent. She loves God, trusts God & allows Him to be the one who cares for her even if no one else can or will. There is beauty in this humble love, this complete trust & Jesus cannot let this moment pass.

Giving from abundance is still acceptable. God blesses some people to have much in this life. They have been entrusted with a gift that spreads & blesses others. They can give to multiple charities, employ large numbers of people & surprise those in need with gifts from the Lord. Being rich is not a crime. Being rich does not constitute a lack of favor in God’s eyes. But Jesus did say it as easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Wealth isn’t all advantages. Stewardship does matter. Humility & an understanding of God’s place in what we have is an absolute imperative. Otherwise we fall into the traps of wealth, and the pits of arrogance.

Giving from poverty isn’t always a guarantee of God’s favor, either. You can be poor & have a terrible attitude toward God or generosity. You can make a big deal about the $2 you put in this month & talk to people about how proud you are that you remembered to give two weeks in a row. You can talk about the struggles of giving & generosity, drawing attention to your situation, seeking pity for yourself & admiration for being able to give anything at all.

I’ve seen both sides of both of these coins over the years and there is one thing that remains through every situation, every heart:

God loves a heart that gives cheerfully, freely & humbly.

Generosity that matters comes from faith & trust in Him. Generosity that makes an impact comes from trust in Him. Generosity that speaks to the heart of God is generosity that lays everything else aside & reveals an unfettered reliance on Him & a seeking of His glory as the first-fruits of our life. Time, talent & treasure all belong to Him. They are given to us by Him for His glory & we give them back as gifts & tithes & offerings for the exact same reason. John the Baptist has it right: He must become greater, I must become less. Humility matters. Generosity matters. The two go hand-in-hand every time.

The Lord & The Pretenders

Father, we see in Your Word how humbled people become the moment they see Your glory or have a personal encounter with You. Moses stands on Holy Ground just to hear Your voice. The Israelites later say that they will not be able to live through listening to You speak. Prophets cower, apostles shy away &the psalmist says that You make Lebanon skip (the actual ground skips!) when You speak. Father, may we be clothed in humility when we come to You, when we speak with You. A blast from Your nostrils shatters the mightiest trees, & stars are born when You say the word. But You also grace us with Your presence in Your Word, & through the whispers of Your Holy Spirit within us. We praise You & Your mighty works, we remain humbled before You, as is right. Speak now, for Your servants are listening. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 20:41-47
41 But he said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is David’s son? 42 For David himself says in the Book of Psalms,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
43     until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

44 David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?”

45 And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 47 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Jesus had so many questions asked of Him throughout His ministry, but when He was confronted by the Sadducees, Pharisees & Scribes there were often questions of authority batted around. This time, Jesus is the One asking the question, seeking a deeper answer & understanding for those present. He has a point to make about Himself & human authority. Any religious expert worth their salt should have been able to answer a question about David & the Messiah. That should be a softball question. But here, Jesus again takes them somewhere they weren’t expecting to go. They know who David is, they know who the Messiah is, in theory, but Jesus sees & knows that they lack understanding about authority & the deity of the Messiah.

When God asks questions of us, He does so to open our eyes beyond the worldview that we have set up for ourselves.When He speaks, revealing Himself, He does so to bring understanding & wisdom into the picture & into our hearts. He asks questions that lead us to His wisdom & will. He opens doors for us so we might leave behind what we thought we knew & grab a hold of His truth. Jesus does the same right here with this crowd.

Jesus references a commonly know psalm & prophecy for the Messiah, one that reminds them of His lineage from David, but also poses a question in regards to position & timing. It would not seem right that a father should call his son “Lord” or that a son would have authority over his father. We do see this happen with Joseph as he ruled in Egypt, & was in authority over his father, Jacob. But this was not the normal way of things. This passage about the Messiah probably perplexed them a little because they couldn’t break from their regular understanding & so Jesus seeks to open their eyes to real authority & His own identity in that regard.

Human authority is always temporary. Sin sees to this for us. At the best, we live a long life & then we go the way of our ancestors, but our authority does not go with us. Human authority is always temporary & it is always transferred/conferred to another person, either on purpose, at our death or by force. Position is fleeting, power cannot be maintained. We are limited because of the truth of death as a result of the Fall in the garden. But this psalm, & Jesus Himself, speak of the Messiah whom King David calls “Lord” & who is also supposed to be his descendant. This isn’t because of a twisted family tree, this is because the Messiah, who is David’s heir, also has another quality that exceeds David’s humanity. Jesus is revealing to them that the Messiah will be (and is) both fully God & fully man. It’s not one or the other. The Messiah is both David’s heir, born of flesh from his lineage, & also fully divine. Not part of each. There is never 50% of God, or 75% of God. God is whole. He is one God with three Persons, Father, Son & Holy Spirit. So the Messiah is a mystery in that regard (among others,) & He breaks open our understanding of authority.

The people needed to hear this. The Sadducees, like the Pharisees & Scribes, profited from buffering the people from God. They set up their own hierarchy, maintaining an air of distinction between themselves & ‘regular’ people who could never know God or the Scriptures like they did (sarcasm intended.) And so Jesus straight up calls them out for dressing for the part they scripted. Big hats, flowing robes, lofty (but false) human grandeur on display simply to elevate themselves above the rest. He points out how they abuse their power & take advantage of people because of it all the while having a fresh reminder of the Messiah who was sent to rescue God’s children. He exposes the deceit of the religious elite while exposing the divinity of the Messiah. And so He gives a warning, look to the Messiah, He is more than you expect. Look at the scribes & their lot, they are less than they appear.

Real authority isn’t a badge worn or a degree held. True authority comes from God, & it remains with God, & the Messiah was entrenched in every understanding of the word. You & I will encounter people every day who hold temporary authority, & Scripture reminds us as Christians to honor that position, even if the person is hard to respect. David’s son King Solomon said this:

Proverbs 21
1
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;

    he turns it wherever he will.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
    but the Lord weighs the heart.
To do righteousness and justice
    is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
Haughty eyes and a proud heart,
    the lamp of the wicked, are sin.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
    but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
The getting of treasures by a lying tongue
    is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.
The violence of the wicked will sweep them away,
    because they refuse to do what is just.
The way of the guilty is crooked,
    but the conduct of the pure is upright.

As we walk daily under the authority of God, & with Jesus in the rhythms of His grace, we must trust the authority that God has over us all, even while we still show respect for those who hold temporary authority over us. His Holy Spirit speaks to us & within us as Christians, & His authority is right there ready to guide us if we will be still & listen.When we stand before the King of kings, we should do so with reverence & awe & with a fair bit more listening than talking.

People will always let us down & human authority has a tendency to be poorly wielded. But God’s authority is perfect, & He will always point us toward His glory rather than the shallow things we tend to reach for in life. Come now, let us bow down & bend the knee before the Lord our Maker.

Brag on Jesus, walk in peace

megaphone

Shout with joy to the Lord; lift up your voice, rejoice & sing!

Galatians 6:11-18
11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

We live in a world that is jam-packed with self-promotion.Hollywood ‘elites’ and musicians press their opinion on every subject into our cultural conscience simply because they have a platform to do so, misunderstanding their position in society. Everyone, it seems, that can have a voice, opinion or viewpoint wants to make sure they are heard, too, among the sea of other voices cluttering our ears, minds and eyes. The cry of ‘look at me!’  rings through social media outlets. People seeking praise or trying to justify their poor life choices do everything they can to make sure that they are right, simply because they can be heard. Proverbs 18:2 “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

img_ee0e78798ada-1

But, as Christians, we are called to something different (1 Peter 2:9). In humility, we consider others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). And in this attitude of humility (James 4:6), we will always find that there is only One who is worth bragging on, worth talking about at length, and it’s Jesus. Simply because we are aware of our own mistakes, our problems, our own failings, they are all too clear (Romans 7), so we brag on Jesus, the One who has saved us from ourselves (Titus 3:4-6.)

People who shout about themselves have only a narcissist to promote to a host of other narcissists. The competition is thick. But when we brag on Jesus, and what He has done, our voice will ring out above the rest, because we point toward something higher, something the rest of the crowd doesn’t have. And in the distinctiveness of Christ, we will find that truth rings out over the noise, that a humble voice can have the deeper impact. When we boast in Christ, we point toward a work done in us that is greater than our own human effort, we point toward hope, depth and meaning, which the world is sorely lacking in with its messages of self.

In humility, we understand our place, we see our sin, our need for God, and we are brought to joy because of what He has done for us in Christ. And then we spend our life’s efforts singing His praises. They may press their man-made reason and so-called righteousness on us, but we can see beyond their flash and into the emptiness of their arguments.

Use every occasion to point others toward Jesus today, and sing His praises. Rest in Him, find your identity in Him, you who are in Him are clothed with Christ. Let the world see Him in your actions, attitudes and adoration today.

2 Corinthians 5
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Shout with joy to the Lord; lift up your voice, rejoice & sing!

Acts 26:12-23 // Paul’s Defense, pt 2

12 “‘I was traveling to Damascus under these circumstances with authority and a commission from the chief priests. 13 King Agrippa, while on the road at midday, I saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice speaking to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 

15 Then I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ 

And the Lord replied: ‘I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting. 16 But get up and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen and of what I will reveal to you. 17 I will rescue you from the people and from the Gentiles. I now send you to them 18 to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified.’ 

19 Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. 20 Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple complex and were trying to kill me. 22 To this very day, I have obtained help that comes from God, and I stand and testify to both small and great, saying nothing else than what the prophets and Moses said would take place — 23 that the Messiah must suffer, and that as the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light to our people and to the Gentiles.'”

Acts 26:12-23

==

 There is a layer of humility, mirroring the humility of Jesus, that Paul has as he tells his story for the last time in the book of Acts. I’m sure he told it to other people more time between this moment and when he was martyred, but this is the final recorded time it is shared. This conversion account is Paul’s badge of honor and simultaneously points toward his greatest shame. He was not called to this work for Jesus because he was doing such a good job following God. Instead, he was fighting against the people who were being obedient, and walking with Christ. He was so hung up in his works-righteousness religion that he could not see or hear grace. Again, that is not to his credit, and he knows it. 

He preached repentance as one who needed to repent, one who knew what it meant to need grace. His humility was birthed in that shame, in that conviction of sin. Paul elsewhere calls himself the ‘chief of all sinners,’ and this helps us see that he understood the degree of his spiritual blindness before he met Jesus on that road to Damascus. 

Jesus spoke directly to Paul’s pride and anger in verse 14 when He told him it was ‘hard to kick against the goads.’ Paul had been struggling against God leading up to this moment (everything was all about what Paul could do, not what God was capable of) and now Jesus is confronting him directly and telling him that he needed to stop struggling with the divine instruction he was receiving. 

I wonder how much I kick against the goads. 

How often do I fight and struggle against the Spirit’s leading in order to accomplish what I want to do, to work my own plan? How much does my pride keep me from seeing the path of rightousness laid out before me? How much hardship do I suffer needlessly because I am too focused on what I want to do rather than on following where God wants me? Doing what He wants? 

This requires a daily examination and, like Paul, a healthy dose of humility. If I am going to GoLove others like I should, then I should be doing that from the righteousness that God provides, not from something I try to manufacture on my own. Repentance and humility work hand in hand here to see this accomplished. It is to God’s credit and His glory when Paul’s life changed, and when mine does as well. Pride wants me to keep kicking against the goads, the Spirit encourages me to die to self. The latter is the only option that brings peace and joy, and the Lord knows my heart well enough to know how much I need Him to see me through. 

Acts 19:11-20 // Magnify His Name

“11 God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul’s hands, 12 so that even facecloths or work aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them.

13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists attempted to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus that Paul preaches!” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 The evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus, and I recognize Paul — but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them all, and prevailed against them, so that they ran out of that house naked and wounded. 17 This became known to everyone who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. Then fear fell on all of them, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18 And many who had become believers came confessing and disclosing their practices, 19 while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone. So they calculated their value and found it to be 50,000 pieces of silver. 20 In this way the Lord’s message flourished and prevailed.”

Acts 19:11-20

==

And here we have an excellent example of what it means to be a servant of Christ. In all these examples of wonderful things being done, we have only one question to ask, “Who is being glorified?” And the answer lets us see that Paul’s ministry was legitimate. The Name of Jesus was magnified and recognized more highly than Paul’s. Paul wasn’t able to do this anonymously, but he certainally wasn’t doing it to self-promote. His humility pointed toward his legitimacy as an evangelist. Someone who is truly concerned for the things of Christ is also going to seek out glory for Christ alone. 

I am always skeptical of people who enjoy the limelight too much, and as a preacher, I understand the temptations and struggles that go along with the office. So I joke with the congregation sometimes  about them never seeing my face on the church bus or my name on the sign out front because it isn’t my pulpit and it most certainally isn’t my church. In John 3:30, and Luke 17:10 we are reminded that “He must become greater, I must become less.” and “In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty.'” Because it’s not about us for even a moment. The Gospel is something that we have been entrusted with, but it isn’t about any individual but Christ. 

Paul’s Christ-centered humility was a marker of the legitmacy of His teaching and work. He wasn’t trying to draw crowds because he had a new book to sell. He wasn’t doing an “Apostle Paul’s Miracles & Holy Hands Healing Tour” either. Every moment was laser focused on Jesus, pinpointed on what He had done and was meant for His glory. Paul saw himself simply as the vehicle for delivering the message and doing whatever work God has designed for him to accomplish in His Name.

And so, like Paul, we don’t need to worry or consider our own reputation when we are telling others about Jesus because it isn’t about us for a moment. We shouldn’t be concerned with what they might think of us, for good or for ill, we simply need to be faithful servants who are accomplishing the tasks the Master has set before us. Our faithfulness to Him is shown through our dedication to seeing His Name glorified and lifted up. He is our focus and that focus should be obvious to anyone that encounters us as we GoLove others in His Name. Jesus first. Period. 

Acts 18:18-23 // The Work of the Greater Church

Acts 18:18-23The Return Trip to Antioch

“18 So Paul, having stayed on for many days, said good-bye to the brothers and sailed away to Syria. Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He shaved his head at Cenchreae because he had taken a vow. 19 When they reached Ephesus he left them there, but he himself entered the synagogue and engaged in discussion with the Jews. 20 And though they asked him to stay for a longer time, he declined, 21 but he said good- bye and stated, “I’ll come back to you again, if God wills.” Then he set sail from Ephesus.

22 On landing at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and went down to Antioch. 23 And after spending some time there, he set out, traveling through one place after another in the Galatian territory and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.”

Acts 18:18-23 

==

As I look at the ministry of the Apostle Paul, I am reminded again and again of the divisions and separations that have occured over the last 2000 years. Granted, even in the early years and decades of the church, Paul & the other Apostles had to deal with separations and issues that divided the church in its infancy. Some separations were out of necessity. The church had to branch out from Jerusalem, & so disciples wouldn’t make the trip in from Antioch Psidia, Cypur or Rome every week just to attend services. That was quite impossible & so there would have to be separations that took place in the body as it grew & as the faithful multiplied. These separations still exist today. I have friends spread out all over the country and in different places around the world & so it isn’t really practical for us to all gather each week on Sunday for worship & that’s okay. Plus, we know that this separation is temporary. Our eternal gathering will be without these separations over miles. 

Some divisions occured because of culture & language. It wouldn’t make much sense for an Etheopian Christian to become a part of a church in Gaul. The cultures & languages would produce a number of hurdles to overcome, not insurmountable mind you, but enough that no one would blame our Etheopian brothers and sisters for gathering where the communication was easier. Again, this separation is temporary & we still view them as our brother & sisters in Christ, even though our heart languages are different. Even if we couldn’t speak together, we could sing a common song together (each oin our own languages) & participate in a meal or Communion together and understand well enough what was needed in order to spend time together as family. These barriers & separations are normal in this life & we look forward to the day when we all speak as one again in the perfected Kingdom of God. 

Other divisions simply shouldn’t exist and do nothing but separate the body. Sometimes it’s a disagreement over doctrine because one person or group has wandered from the truth & authority of the Word. Some exist over music preferences, instrumentation, dress, traditions & structure. People pick hills to die on that do not honor Christ & that promote division rather than put to death the desires of the flesh & pride. These divisions (not separations, but divisions, rightfully) are not in the plan and desire of God for the bride of Christ & need to be done away with. 

We should all be accountable to the Word itself and not the traditions of men. We need to be sensitive to cultural identities, but at the same time, we must be conscious of the freedoms we have in Christ and the bigger picture of the church universal & our witness to the world. Jesus told us that the world would recognize that we were His by the love that we shared with one another. Division doesn’t work toward that witness. Unity builds and enhances that reputation. Unity must come under the authority of the Word, the doctrines of the faith that are clearly laid out there and in the blood of Christ Himself. We cannot add to it, modify it or subract from it and still be faithful to Him. 

Paul’s journeys between the churches reflected this unity. They cared for one another, took care of each other’s needs, prayed for one another & sought Christ for their cities in a unified effort to take the good news of the Gospel to the nations. Paul encouraged them, and they in turn encouraged him. We should be actively engaged in strengthening one another, pointing hearts and minds back to the Word, living under the authority of God laid out there for us to see. As we GoLove others in Jesus Name, it is crucial that they see a God-honoring & proper example from us as we interact with other believers. They need to see the way we esteeem Christ & His Word & His exmaple of service, grace & love for others. Our integrity comes from this & not from anything that we would do to try to bolster the message, as if it needed our help. 

Acts 15:36-41 // When Pride Divides

“36 After some time had passed, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit the brothers in every town where we have preached the message of the Lord and see how they’re doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul did not think it appropriate to take along this man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work. 39 There was such a sharp disagreement that they parted company, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed off to Cyprus. 40 Then Paul chose Silas and departed, after being commended to the grace of the Lord by the brothers. 41 He traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”

Acts 15:36-41

— 

There are times when being right matters and times when being ‘right’ becomes destructive. We have all experienced those moments where we took an argument a little too far. These are the moments that we replay over and over in our head, either trying to desperately self-justify what we did, or in deep regret, we try to identify the moment when we went over the line hoping we can begin to reverse what we’ve done. 

Human pride is a terribly dangerous thing. It separates friendships, like we see here, it destroys families and divides churches. The “My way or the highway” mentality is never going to promote unity. Screaming matches and “because I said so” statements aren’t likely to get someone to come over to your side. Even when speaking like reasonable, compassionate human beings, we can take something too far, or be too set in me pattern of behavior or one philosophy of ‘how things must be done’ that we wind up creating a destructive environment that is hard to recover from. 

Humility in Christ must be at the core of our being, a willingness to listen and to have flexibility in our plans (so long as they honor God & adhere to His Word) must become a part of how we do things. We must prayerfully approach situations that we know are going to be hot-button issues and seek out God’s way over our own ego’s desire. This isn’t easy to remember to do. It requires a very intentional self-awareness and an active knowledge of our own flaws and tipping points. 
Sometimes, the best response to a heated argument is to step away, prayerfully think through everything that has been said and to take careful consideration of the other person’s point of view. Our hearts are not naturally inclined to do this. It takes a great deal of discipline & humility. But if it really is just a matter of opinion and has nothing to do with maintaining the truth of the Gospel, then we need to be willing to preserve unity over preserving our own ‘rightness.’ 

A disjointed church is not the best witness that she could be, and every church congregation has her own issues and struggles. But we should all do whatever we can to see her shine bright and be a consistent witness as we GoLove others in Jesus’ Name.

  

Psalm 119:73-80 // י Yod // Dependent on God 

“73 Your hands made me and formed me;

give me understanding

so that I can learn Your commands.

74 Those who fear You will see me and rejoice,

for I put my hope in Your word.

75 I know, Lord, that Your judgments are just

and that You have afflicted me fairly.

76 May Your faithful love comfort me

as You promised Your servant.

77 May Your compassion come to me

so that I may live,

for Your instruction is my delight.

78 Let the arrogant be put to shame

for slandering me with lies;

I will meditate on Your precepts.

79 Let those who fear You,

those who know Your decrees, turn to me.

80 May my heart be blameless regarding Your statutes

so that I will not be put to shame.”

Psalm 119:73-80

Wisdom begins in us when we learn to fear God properly. Understanding grows in us when we gain a proper perspective as to who we are in light of just who He is, too. We cannot have a healthy perspective on life so long as we see ourselves at the top of the ladder of importance. Instead, with a dose of humility and an honest evaluation of reality, we see just how much we need God, His love, grace, mercy & His rule over our hearts, minds and lives. Pride has no place before the throne of God.

Read this portion of Psalm 119 again, a little more slowly, taking in the depth of what David is saying & admitting.

Read it a third time, acknowledging your own need for God’s guidance.

Read it a fourth and final time, and make it your prayer as you see Him out. 

  

Acts 1:15-26 // Picking up the pieces  

“15 During these days Peter stood up among the brothers — the number of people who were together was about 120 — and said: 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled that the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David spoke in advance about Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was one of our number and was allotted a share in this ministry.” 18 Now this man acquired a field with his unrighteous wages. He fell headfirst and burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out. 19 This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that in their own language that field is called Hakeldama (that is, Field of Blood). 20 For it is written in the Book of Psalms:

‘Let his dwelling become desolate;

let no one live in it; and

Let someone else take his position.’

21 “Therefore, from among the men who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us — 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day He was taken up from us — from among these, it is necessary that one become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

23 So they proposed two: Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “You, Lord, know the hearts of all; show which of these two You have chosen 25 to take the place in this apostolic service that Judas left to go to his own place.” 26 Then they cast lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias. So he was numbered with the 11 apostles.”

Acts 1:15-26

— 

What do you do to recover from a painful memory? How do you move forward? What is the rough way to behave? How do you pick up the pieces and move ahead? 

Jesus had obviously chosen to 12 men for a very specific reason. There was a mirroring of the tribes of Israel, and from a numerological standpoint, it was the combination of God (3) and man (4) multiplied out together. It was highly symbolic and meaningful, and so there was a need to restore what was broken.

Now, Jesus had plenty of time to do this before He ascended, but the community needed time to heal and He was also leaving them tasks to accomplish in their own. They needed some victories and some healings to take place in their hearts that required them to take steps of faith and seek out God.

Now, the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out on the church, so they resorted to the best method they knew to involve God in the choosing, and so they cast lots. Today, we have no need for lot-casting, but instead should rely on the Holy Spirit to help us in moments where we don’t know quite what to do. But that being said, we do need to rely more on Him than we often do.

Sometimes my life is in difficult to carry, hard to move pieces because I have been trying far too hard to make things happen on my own rather than trust God to move. I push and press and shove and cram until shards snap off and things get pointy and I wind up wounded. And God is always there to bind me up, bring me healing and help me move forward, the moment I give the reins back over to Him. The messes of me are totally fixable for Him, and I must again resign myself to His leading. 

Judas, the ‘son of perdition,’ left a wound in th  community that needed to be addressed, healed and moved beyond. His betrayal was used to usher in grace for us, which just goes to confirm that God can and does use even the worst bits of our lives to still work His will. 

We are not beyond redeeming if we still have breath. Even our worst mistakes can be learned from and God can work wonders from the ashes and rubble we leave in our wake. But it takes faith, humility and a resigned spirit to help bring about this change. Pride will always keep healing from happening. Humility draws us close to God and allows Him to do that work in us that enables us to GoLove in His Name and in His grace. It must be through His power and in His strength that this is accomplished. Just like it takes an expert to restore a shattered artifact or to retouch a masterpiece, we must leave the work of restoration in the hands of God. Our own efforts will always come up short of perfection. 

 Bad restorations:  
  

%d bloggers like this: