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Acts 5:33-42 // Honor in suffering

“33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 A Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law who was respected by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered the men to be taken outside for a little while. 35 He said to them, “Men of Israel, be careful about what youre going to do to these men. 36 Not long ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about 400 men rallied to him. He was killed, and all his partisans were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and attracted a following. That man also perished, and all his partisans were scattered. 38 And now, I tell you, stay away from these men and leave them alone. For if this plan or this work is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even be found fighting against God.” So they were persuaded by him. 40 After they called in the apostles and had them flogged, they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. 41 Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be dishonored on behalf of the Name. 42 Every day in the temple complex, and in various homes, they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.”

Acts 5:33-42

To listen to some famous ‘preachers,’ you would think that they never read the book of Acts. To those who are always preaching a Gospel of prosperity, ease and giving empty encouragements to self-care, there is an obvious disconnect as to what constitutes the favor of God and what counts toward dishonor. Here we see the Apostles being jailed, flogged and discouraged by the leading court in the country, and they go away rejoicing that they were worthy to be dishonored in this way for the sake of Christ, and because of His Name. This idea of honor in suffering runs contrary to what Joel Osteen and others like him preach and teach. 

As we consider what it is we have been called to accomplish as disciples of Jesus Christ, we must remember some of the things that He said would identify us as belonging to Him. He told us that we would be known for the love that we have for one another. That sounds nice, but it is also a very difficult thing to live out. It’s not just a matter of loving people that we naturally like and get along with, but a matter of loving people that push all our buttons and that we would rather not be around. So, following Jesus continues to mean a death to self. Jesus also said that we could not be His disciples if we loved family, position or anything else more than Him. It must be like hate in comparison. Our priorities must be radically different. That means that sports schedules for children, hobbies, jobs and everything else you can think of must come in an infinitely distant second place in comparison to our devotion to Him. We must be unswerving in this, and that is not easily or lightly done, yet another difficulty. 

But even deeper than those, we see that Jesus told us that we must take up our cross daily if we are going to follow Him. The cross comes with scorn, derision, and a condemnation by the world that cannot be overlooked. Jesus told us that the world would hate us just like it hated Him. And if the world crucified Jesus, then we must also see that we are next in line behind Him. This isn’t comfortable. This isn’t easy. This isn’t marked by health, wealth or ‘your best life now.’ We are never promised those things, and they are never shown as being markers of the favor of God in Scripture. These charlitans who pretent to stand in line with the message of Jesus Christ, but who have no real allegiance to Him, must be called out and shown for what they are. It isn’t love and tolerance to allow false doctrine to pervade the minds and hearts of the people of God. We cannot pretend for a moment to have a part in Jesus Christ if we try to separate the things that Jesus Himself said would be part and parcel of our following of Him. 

These men and women to proclaim Jesus Christ while paying for luxury upon luxury that they ‘deserve’ from the donations of thier adherents, who have little to nothing in comparison, will be called to task one day by God Himself and they will be held responsible for their lies and their missteps. I cannot presume to stand in judgement over their souls, that is up to God. But I cannot imagine that He is pleased, nor holds them in favor, because of their actions and preying on people through a false gospel of prosperity. 

The markers of the favor of God come with a clean conscience, a life of fruitful evangelism and a peace that surpasses all understanding. It comes with a contendness in all things, in all circumstances, not a grasping for ‘more.’ It comes with a desire to give away everything, because nothing in this life is worth holding on to except Christ. It comes with an insatiable desire to GoLove others however God has gifted us to do so, and we find our fulfillment, not in small shallow thigns like possessions, wealth, land or houses, but in seeing the work of the Gospel done in the hearts and minds of those we encounter. It has nothing to do with wealth, and everything to do with the faithful following of a formerly dead slave brought to life again and made to be an heir of righteousness. Proper priorities show those who preach prosperity to be sad, hollow hucksters with snake-oil ‘cures’ ready to sell to the most willing buyers looking for a quick fix. Lasting change, real hope and a life overflowing with meaning comes only from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God in our hearts and minds, and that cannot be bought, sold or acquired through any means we can devise. 

If we are folowing Christ, He has promised ot be with us always, even to the very end of the age. If we are not satisfied in this life, then it is because we are not actually following Him, not because we still have ‘favors’ to claim from God. He does desire to bless His chidlren, but not in the way that the world or people like Joel Osteen call ‘blessing.’ Take every thought, every teaching, captive and hold it accountable to Scripture, weigh it out and see if it is what God desires for you, truly, as you carry your cross for Christ. 

  

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Mark 11:15-19 // Renewing Proper Focus

“15 They came to Jerusalem, and He went into the temple complex and began to throw out those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers tables and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple complex.

17 Then He began to teach them: “Is it not written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ But you have made it a den of thieves!” 18 Then the chief priests and the scribes heard it and started looking for a way to destroy Him. For they were afraid of Him, because the whole crowd was astonished by His teaching.

19 And whenever evening came, they would go out of the city.”

Mark 11:15-19

— 

It’s frustrating to flip through tv channels and come across stations where people who claim to be Christians have placed themselves in opulent surroundings. Where there is always a call for an investment or ‘seed money’ that is more about increasing the comfort and wealth of the supposed evangelist than actually spreading the Gospel. 

Bad suits sitting in golden throne chairs with overdone hair piled high on top, televangelists seeking out private luxury jets that cost more than most of us make in a lifetime. Giant houses, fancy cars, all well beyond ‘need’ and into the realm of personal indulgence. Widows and the poor bilked out of their money so that these greedy few can have giant golden globes spinning behind them on their programs that make them look even more ‘impressive’ as if the Gospel message needs luxury and grandeur to legitimize it! 

God has given to His people so that they might invest in His Kingdom and see good work done that benefits everyone, not just the few. The widows are cared for, the orphans are fed and missionaries are sent out. Scripture says not to muzzle the ox while it grinds the grain, but the ox doesn’t need a $10000 suit, to get its teeth whitened every week or to go home to a solid marble barn stall with gold trim and a personal masseuse. 

The people in the temple and its courtyards had been distracted from God by the greed of a few, and it simply was not acceptable. Their worship had been waylaid and their sacrifices had been deemed ‘unworthy’ by unscrupulous men and money hungry priests. 

Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple was blunt, done in perfect, righteous anger and it was liberating for many. The people coming in knew it wasn’t right, but they probably felt like there was no way to fix the problem. They felt helpless under the power of those in authority and so they played into this corrupt system. 

As we GoLove people in Jesus’ Name, we need to remember what God has called us to and what really matters in this life. Is it comfort? Entertainment? Or should we invest in Kingdom work? Should we build up pastors and preachers into some corporate/CEO standard of living or should we keep the focus on reaching the lost and expanding the Kingdom of God? What is the proper use of the resources of the Bride of Christ? What does God desire? 

It is better to sacrifice and go without and see people reached for Christ rather than rob God and live in temporary comfort. I would not dare try God in this, His anger is poured out on those who fraudulently coerce and plan so that their pockets might be lined. Those who do this are self-condemned and do not represent His Kingdom or His Son. 

Mark 11:15-19 // Renewing Proper Focus

“15 They came to Jerusalem, and He went into the temple complex and began to throw out those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers tables and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple complex.

17 Then He began to teach them: “Is it not written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ But you have made it a den of thieves!” 18 Then the chief priests and the scribes heard it and started looking for a way to destroy Him. For they were afraid of Him, because the whole crowd was astonished by His teaching.

19 And whenever evening came, they would go out of the city.”

Mark 11:15-19

— 

It’s frustrating to flip through tv channels and come across stations where people who claim to be Christians have placed themselves in opulent surroundings. Where there is always a call for an investment or ‘seed money’ that is more about increasing the comfort and wealth of the supposed evangelist than actually spreading the Gospel. 

Bad suits sitting in golden throne chairs with overdone hair piled high on top, televangelists seeking out private luxury jets that cost more than most of us make in a lifetime. Giant houses, fancy cars, all well beyond ‘need’ and into the realm of personal indulgence. Widows and the poor bilked out of their money so that these greedy few can have giant golden globes spinning behind them on their programs that make them look even more ‘impressive’ as if the Gospel message needs luxury and grandeur to legitimize it! 

God has given to His people so that they might invest in His Kingdom and see good work done that benefits everyone, not just the few. The widows are cared for, the orphans are fed and missionaries are sent out. Scripture says not to muzzle the ox while it grinds the grain, but the ox doesn’t need a $10000 suit, to get its teeth whitened every week or to go home to a solid marble barn stall with gold trim and a personal masseuse. 

The people in the temple and its courtyards had been distracted from God by the greed of a few, and it simply was not acceptable. Their worship had been waylaid and their sacrifices had been deemed ‘unworthy’ by unscrupulous men and money hungry priests. 

Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple was blunt, done in perfect, righteous anger and it was liberating for many. The people coming in knew it wasn’t right, but they probably felt like there was no way to fix the problem. They felt helpless under the power of those in authority and so they played into this corrupt system. 

As we GoLove people in Jesus’ Name, we need to remember what God has called us to and what really matters in this life. Is it comfort? Entertainment? Or should we invest in Kingdom work? Should we build up pastors and preachers into some corporate/CEO standard of living or should we keep the focus on reaching the lost and expanding the Kingdom of God? What is the proper use of the resources of the Bride of Christ? What does God desire? 

It is better to sacrifice and go without and see people reached for Christ rather than rob God and live in temporary comfort. I would not dare try God in this, His anger is poured out on those who fraudulently coerce and plan so that their pockets might be lined. Those who do this are self-condemned and do not represent His Kingdom or His Son. 

Suffering happens with Christ, count it a blessing // Philippians 1

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”
Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭27-30‬ ESV

Again,
“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”

and earlier in the chapter,
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”

and this,
“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”

In Western culture, we have been coddled and encouraged to believe that Joel-Osteen-Word-of-Faith-Benny-Hinn-affluence lie, that this life, when lived in Christ is meant to be a life of comfort, wealth and prosperity. If we are all good little boys and girls, pray hard enough and send in enough ‘seed money’ that this life will be one of health, wealth and opportunity. We can ‘speak things into being’ as if we are God, and we then determine what makes ‘our best life now,’ simply based on what our flesh desires. This is a false gospel and stand contrary to the example Jesus left for us to follow.

When we open the Bible, what we find instead is that the best life we can live is one that identifies with Christ. True privilege in this world comes from suffering as He did or because of His Name. It’s not about things, or shallow fleshly pursuits. This life is all about living for Christ, and living as Christ. Suffering, rejection and scorn mirrors what Christ experienced. We should not shy away from it when God allows us to undergo hardships for His sake.

Does that mean this life should only be made up of suffering? No, of course not, but we must know, understand and believe that this life is not about some degree of personal comfort, a lack of effort on our part, praying blessings on ourself that we don’t need to share or that illness is an indicator of a lack of favor from God.

Our Father is not so petty and childish. He isn’t so shallow or simple minded. The depth of His love goes so far beyond money and health, and proceeds into the things and issues of the heart that really matter. Being rich isn’t a sign of God’s favor or a curse. It simply is. If we have money, then we must be good stewards of that money so that God is glorified and others are blessed in His Name. If we have time or talents and skills that we can use for Him, then our life goal should be to see Him glorified through those gifts, talents and skills in the time He has afforded us to GoLove others in His Name and for the sake of His glory.

Do I need to keep going?

Suffering does not indicate a lack of favor and ease does not serve as an indicator of an abundance of grace. We must seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. We do not concern ourselves with what the world says is important. We instead focus on Christ, on emulating Him and walking as He walked. And as clear as I can see, Jesus wasn’t in pursuit of wealth, prestige, ease and status. He was homeless, didn’t have a big bank account or drive a fancy camel train.

We should go and do likewise and seek to honor God through faithful service out of thanksgiving for what He has done. Let the world keep all of the soon-to-be-dust-and-ash it wants. We have eternal things to be concerned with…

shattered

(another unmarked journal entry)

in order for things to be set right with God, we must be completely broken. not just a casual recognition of sin, but an attitude, posture & spirit of brokenness must come over us.

there is no pride left to be seen in the contrite heart. there is no arrogance left to be seen in your attitude. every aspect of your life and person will look and feel as put together as a pot that has been dropped from the top of a tall building. some parts of who we were will be turned to dust, smashed beyond recognition.then the hands of God can bring the remaining pieces together, mending us, recreating us into something new.

no one ever asks to be broken like this…our instinct of sin will fight it until there is no other way to go, and even then it will keep on swinging. but when that brokenness comes, God’s spirit of peace, His grace and power will be poured over His child, and they will weep. but weeping eventually brings release and a realization of where we stand with God. then our broken hearts can truly be turned over to God so that He can mend them & make us whole through the grace and mercy given to us through Jesus’ blood.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

(sidebar)

pride is our greatest enemy. if we are chasing after God, we should actually desire this brokenness, but pride and fear try to hold us back. i don’t want to talk about ‘unleashing your spiritual potential’ for fear of coming across like joel osteen or a member of the ‘word of faith’ movement. but when we hand our lives over to God and submit our hearts to Him, there is a work that takes place in our lives that goes beyond anything we could possibly do on our own.

in hebrews 11, we see the result of lives that were broken and handed over to God for His use. they are the people who we look at as being almost superhuman when it comes to spirituality. but we must understand that the lives they led, we can lead as well. what they did for the sake of God is not something that the rest of us couldn’t do as well. if we surrender, if we let our pride be shattered, things greater then our ability and understanding will happen in our lives, because God will be the one at work, not us…

question,

are you satisfied with what you perceive as your best efforts in life? do you have a desire for greater things to take place? if so, what is your motivation for living in that way? do you seek recognition for yourself or do you want to promote the fame and glory of God?

if you desire for people to know who you are, then there is still some work to be done. if  you want to be recognized, there are some parts of you that still need to have a quick drop and a sudden stop, so that God can do what needs to be done in order for His purpose to be accomplished in your life.

it’s not easy, and it sounds scary, i understand…but if you could line up everyone from hebrews 11 and ask them if it was worth it, i guarantee you (with 100% confidence) that they would all say it was worth it.

surrender, let your life and pride be broken, and allow God to do something amazing through you.

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