The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. (1 Kings 19:11-12
Silence! Sometimes silence speaks louder than words. Sometimes silence is extremely awkward. Sometimes silence is welcomed, especially after the grandkids leave after a 2 day visit. Sometimes silence is painful, as when someone goes home, alone, after a funeral or divorce proceeding. But the most painful silence of all is when it seems, at least to us, that God and heaven are silent to our prayers and our needs.
It is not only painful, but as we see in the story of Job, it is often frustrating when God not only seems to be silent, but actually is silent. We don’t like it when God is silent and demand that God speak and speak right now. But God doesn’t always speak out. He chooses a time of silence. So, how do we deal with and respond to those times when God and heaven are silent?
Elijah had remained faithful to God even though many of his fellow Israelites have turned to worshiping empty, dead gods. Then comes the great victory at Mt. Carmel where Elijah challenged the priests of Baal to a contest. Prepare a sacrifice, one for Baal and one for the Lord God of All. The God who answered by fire would be the God of everyone. And we know that God answered Elijah’s prayer.
But then comes the threat from Jezebel: “I will make you like one of my priests of Baal, dead as a door nail!” Elijah, the man of courage and conviction at Mt. Carmel, becomes Elijah, a man filled with fear. He runs away and wishes to die. Yet God lets Elijah know that He, God, is not finished with him. He goes to Mt. Horeb, anticipating a meeting and a word from God. But when he arrives, something is wrong, or so it seems to the normal eye.
The Lord was not in the wind, not in the earthquake, and not in the fire. In other words, God was silent. In all of the normally expected ways that God spoke in that day, He chose to remain silent; not a word of confirmation of His awesome presence in any shape, fashion or form. If I had been Elijah I would have demanded: “OK, God, you called this meeting. You wanted to talk and I needed to hear and talk. What’s all this silence about?”
Truth is, that God uses those times for silence for something far bigger and much better for us, even when we cannot see how His silence helps us. I believe there are certain specific things that God teaches us individually in these times of silence. God will reveal principles and truths that relate directly and specifically to us and where we are in life at that particular moment. It depends on the situation what God is trying to teach us. However, there is at least one principle that applies to us all; a single overriding truth that fits us all. The fact is that the time of silence is the best way to discover the power and strength that wells up inside us during the times of silence.
Here is the principle: God is trustworthy! God does not have to move, or speak or do anything to prove that He and He alone can be trusted. When we are silent, usually, but not always, it means we are not doing anything. This is not true with God. Because God can be trusted, His silence does not mean is not that He is not working on our behalf. Truth is, God is hard at work for us, even when we can’t see or hear him; ESPECIALLY when we can’t see or hear God.
And even though God and heaven is silent, it never means that God has forgotten us. And, it NEVER, EVER, EVER means that God has turned His back to us. Remember the principle: God can be trusted! How can we be this confident that God hasn’t turned His back on us, even in the times of silence? The answer is clearly simple: because of the Cross!
As we close out this Blueprint For A Brand
New You, I wanted to find the word that brings all this together. When it comes to following blueprints for a
house, each specialist looks only at their part. But for the home to be built everything needs
to come together in the right way at the right time, otherwise there is chaos
and confusion. I want you to be able to
see clearly how thinking in a new way, having eyes that are open, and learning
to step out in faith can transform you into a brand new person.
Neither God nor I want you to just become a
different person, but to become the person that God Created And Redeemed
you to become. God takes the
junk out of our lives but He also gives us a reason and a purpose in life.
This God-Created, God-Honoring Purpose
is where we truly find the life that our hearts are hungry for. More than just you being a different person
from last year, God Wants Us To Become Who He Wants Us To Become By Going And Doing
What He Has Designed For Our Life In Christ. And the only text that God would allow me to
use is from Matthew 28:16-20 (The Message)
the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain
Jesus had set for their reunion. The
moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some,
though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission
you: Go out and train everyone you meet,
far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold
name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Then instruct them in the practice of all I have
commanded you. I’ll be with you as you
do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”
Anyone here ever heard of the Kodak
Company? At one time it was one of the
top corporations. Where is it now? On Jan. 17, 2012, it filed for bankruptcy. It took them years to get out of
bankruptcy. Why? They forgot their purpose. They thought their purpose was to produce
film for cameras. In 1975, one of their
researchers developed the first digital camera, but company executives told him
to keep it quiet. In 2006 they stopped
manufacturing Kodachrome Film after 74 years. They thought their purpose was
making film—when their true purpose was creating images.
Ever since then, they have been playing
catch-up instead of being the leader in their industry. Imagine people going to work day after day
without knowing their company’s business, yet that’s exactly what happens when churches
don’t know where they should be going and what they should be doing.
Rather than try to find out what they should
be doing, they keep doing the same things, expecting different results. To become the Brand New You that honors God
and gives us that life of purpose and meaning, then we need to know where we
need to be going and what we need to be doing.
In the beginning of the Church, it was clear
to them—they knew where to go and what to do.
It was going into their world and doing the very thing Jesus told them
to do. They didn’t have anywhere else to
go or anything else to do, but the One Thing Jesus told them to do: Make
Disciples Of Others Through Loving Them And Sharing With Them What Jesus Had
Done In Their Life!
The One Thing that EVERY Church and THIS
Church must be is that Community of Believers who GO into the world and DO what
Jesus wants, and what Jesus wants is for the lost to know they are loved by the
Father and can have a relationship with Him!
We need to know that our One Thing, the ONLY
Thing Jesus wants is for us to Make Disciples By Showing Them God’s Love,
Sharing What God Has Done For Us, And Inviting Them Into That Most Important
Relationship Of All. It is
about becoming The New Creation by The Blood Of Jesus Christ.
Too much of what happens in many churches
today is about consumerism. We think
that the church is all about meeting our needs.
Have you ever heard anyone say, “Well, I’m not going back to that church
because it’s not meeting my needs.”? They’ve
made the church about what they want more than what Jesus wants!
Purpose Is God’s Gift To Us, Not Our Offering To God. This Means We Exist To Show The Real Love Of God To Real People In Real Ways So That They Can Become A Real Disciple Of Jesus.
To be the person that God created you to become, to live the life that Jesus died to give you, there are two steps to take and one thing to remember: Step One
1. Make The Commitment
To Go Into This World!
It is a world that is not very nice. Sometimes it’s dirty and ugly. It’s a world that is filled with a lot of
pain. It’s a world that is scary. It is a world that is unfair and
unreasonable. It is a world that is selfish
and narrow minded. It is a world that is
torn apart by disasters and wars. It is
a world that is filled with darkness and sin.
That’s what Satan is doing with God’s creation.
But it was into this same world that Jesus
left heaven and entered into. Jesus
Entered Into The Pain, The Filth, The Brokenness And The Sickness Of This World. Sometimes, people came to Him wherever He
was; but Jesus didn’t wait for them to show up.
He went to them. Jesus sat and
ate with the worst sinners of that day—Tax Collectors.
He reached out to everyone who was called
unclean—the prostitutes, the adulteresses, the lepers, the poor—by those who
thought themselves to be religious and godly.
Anyone who had been pushed aside by the world, Jesus reached out to
them. And if we are going to be His
Disciples, then we follow his example!
In order to be a Brand New You, we stop going where we want to go and
start going where Jesus goes.
commitment to go into this world. Now
2. Make The
Commitment To Do Something Only Jesus Would Do!
Do you know what Jesus is doing in our world
today? He is loving every single
person. When Jesus walked this earth as
a human, He came to show a world that for some who wondered if God loves them,
and for others who felt like God didn’t love them—to show that God has
unconditional love for everyone!
It is really clear what Jesus wants us to do—To Love Others Like Jesus Loves Us! Jesus loves us completely, unconditionallyand sacrificially. None of us deserves this. Yet Jesus shows us how much God loves us at the cross.
And He wants us out there showing others how much God loves them. We love others with our actions and not our words. We show our love for Jesus when we give food to the hungry, clothes to those who have little or none, when we offer care to those who are sick or lonely, when we care for those who are in prison. It’s not what we talk about that shows our world the love of God, it is what we actually do to help those who are among the least, the last and the lost. Your world will never see how much God loves themuntil they see AND experience how much you love them. Do Something Only Jesus Would Do!
3. (And Here Is
The One Thing You Need To Remember:) Go
And Do Because Jesus Is With You!
When we are going our own way and doing it
our way, Jesus isn’t with us. But, When
We Are Going And Doing What Jesus Wants, We Are Never Alone. He is with you.
Did you hear how The Message translation puts it? “I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day.” He has never asked you to go and to do it alone. In fact, He Insists That You Don’t Go Or Do It Alone. In order to be a Brand New You, it takes confidence, the confidence that what Jesus said to those disciples, He really meant it and He really means it for you, too.
And You Must Believe That It Is His Presence
That Will Make The Difference In Our Life, And In Those Lives We Are Called To
Go To, And To Love. Our Life Purpose is to make new
disciples for Jesus, by going to them, by doing for them in love, sharing with
them all that God has done for us, And Then Inviting Them Into The Relationship
With The Father.
Churches that close their doors when there were people around them without Jesus, didn’t know what their business was. To be a real disciple of Jesus, to be an authentic Christian, to be a real church, we have to remember that our business is all about bringing people into a relationship with Jesus. You have to know why you are here. Do You Know?
Is Jesus Living In You? Galatians
2:20—“My old self has been crucified
with Christ. It is no longer I who live,
but Christ lives in me. So I live in
this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself
for me.” I’m not asking how much you
know about Jesus. I’m asking: Is Jesus living in you? The only way He can live in you is that you
ask Him and surrender everything in you to Him—your will, guilt, fear, your
days, your relationships, ALL that makes you who you are.
Ask Him To Give You This Week and Every Week The Opportunity To Show The
Real Love Of God To Real People In Real Ways So That They Can Become A Real
Disciple Of Jesus. You can do this
in many ways:
Don’t judge them. Sinners know they are sinners without you
Forgive Someone who has hurt you. The best way someone can know that God will
forgive them is to see that same forgiveness in you.
Help Someone who needs help.Open a door, give up your place in line, help change a tire, share an
unexpected gift, encourage someone with your acts rather than your words, take
someone to lunch—do you get the idea?
Tell someone what God has done for
you, especially if you didn’t deserve or earn it. The world sees us who follow Jesus as a
people who feel superior to others, or that we never have problems. This just isn’t true. Change that perception by being honest about
your issues and struggles—and how Jesus came to you in the middle of those
Well, here I go again on another Journey. It seems I’ve become a bit slack in my spiritual discipline of reading the Word. I was looking at my Bible on the desk and it was like I heard, “You know, it’s been a while since we talked. Don’t you think it’s time to catch up?” So I reached over and took it; then I found me a journal to write in, and an ink pen. That’s all: the Bible, a clean sheet of paper and a pen. No commentaries and not even Google to help me look up words and thoughts. Just me, The Book, and of course, the Holy Spirit.
Speaking of which (the Holy Spirit, that is), I’m wondering right now why did I have to have all those commentaries (because I started this journey with Jesus before the internet was so readily accessible)? And why do so many today have this book, that website, that author along side THAT Book? Over the past several years, I discovered to my amazement, that the Holy Spirit actually helps me understand what I’m reading! Who could have ever imagined such a thing? Well, God could.
Back to The Book. Where would I ever begin such a journey? There are so many books to choose from. One would think I would have to spend a lot of time deciding which book to begin with. This time, I had no trouble. He, the Holy Spirit, whispered, “The Book of Acts.” So that’s what I’m doing. I’m not reading a chapter a day–nothing against people who read the Book that way–just reading until I sense Him saying, “Let that sink in for a while.”
And this morning my Companion and Comforter said, “You know, you’ve been talking, I mean talking a lot, about starting back to regular blogging. Why not share what you’re discovering? After all, I did give you that gift of writing.” So who am I to argue with the Wisdom of The Ages.
Today’s entry is simply about the title applied to The Book Of Acts. It’s been titled “The Book Of The Acts Of The Apostles.” For many, many years I’ve insisted that those earliest editors misnamed this Book. I wish right now I could borrow Doc Brown’s time-traveling DeLorean and go back to that first group of editors when they came up with this title and ask: “What are you thinking? It’s NOT the acts of the Apostles. It’s the Acts of the Holy Spirit in surrendered people!” Gee whiz, guys. You’re better than that! Think, man, then listen to that title. A bit short-sighted, don’t you think?”
Why do I think that it’s an inaccurate title? I’m so glad you asked me that question. To read Dr. Luke’s stories with the title “Acts of the Apostles” taints your thought processes, and it’s easy to conclude that what happened then, was “limited to a handful of select special people and not really for me or my time.” Calling it the Acts Of The Apostles limits what this Book can do in you and I.
First, it relegates it just another History Book. Now, I love History more than most. I blame it on my High School History teacher Ronald Pettus. He is a collector of artifacts, many of which he brought into the classroom. He filled my little mind with more than memorizing dates–but left me hungering to know more about the people and the times. This is a priceless tool in understand THE BOOK! If we see Acts are only a history book of a select few people, we’ve missed the point of Dr. Luke’s work.
Second, we slam the door shut to the potential of the Holy Spirit using folks like us. There’s more going on here than dates and geography. If we agree that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are all about Jesus (and they are), then Acts MUST be all about The Holy Spirit, and it is. Each Amen on that? The Book of Acts opens up with Jesus telling those first disciples about, guess who? The Holy Spirit! And in Chapter 2, all Heaven breaks loose on earth. And it all happens because of and through the power of The Holy Spirit!
Now, I want to add a little side bar comment about the current state of the church culture. For the last century, more emphasis is put on human understanding and abilities rather than The Holy Spirit. I see it in my Tribe as Progressives try to tell me they know more about what God wants and expects than the Bible. Add to this that so many in churches want to hear what someone else says about the Bible rather than read it for themselves.
The result has been that a powerful Stallion has been reduced to a gelding. People are following today, an impotent message about an impotent life. And once again, Jesus weeps. So staring tomorrow, I will share from my personal journal some of the insights and wonder I am discovering as The Teacher, teaches me.
And remember, Love God with all your heart. Love others and way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!
I started to title this “What The Church Can Learn From Bikers”, but I realized that should is the word that fits. Now, a bit of explanation of my terminology. When I say “biker”, I mean BIKER! Not those people who wear spandex peddling those steel or some alloy tubes on skinny wheels. Those are called bicycles, not bikes. Cyclists are NOT bikers.
Bikers wear leather, not spandex. I know, because I am one. In 2003, after my divorce ended 29 years of a marriage, I set out to “redefine” myself. Decades ago I had a dirt bike and then a smaller street bike; but that was decades ago. I found myself drawn into a local dealer and started looking. Then I even went out price shopping at other dealers. Then I bit the bullet, and picked one out.
Being a preacher, it had to be black and it must have lots of chrome. I love chrome! I thought at the time I was redefining myself from the rubble of my life. It turns out, though, that God was taking me on a journey to DEFINE my life, the person HE created. For over 4 decades I allowed others to define me; that’s my fault. I needed God to define me, and He did. Not that I always got it right, but I kept coming back. And HE kept accepting me back. That’s how I became a biker. Now, back to what I’ve been learning. One thing I’ve learned is that many churches look nothing like the Body of Christ, but Bikers….they get it! And here are 6 things the church today needs, urgently needs to learn from bikers.
1. We Love What We Do!
We take great joy in what we do. There are few things more exhilarating than finding a winding road with the wind in your face. I never have heard a biker complain about going for a ride. However, I have heard bikers lament when they had to hang up their leathers. Now that’s a sadness that words cannot describe. No whining. No complaining. Just loving what we do at the end of the day and wishing for more time and planning the next ride. You will never hear a biker say, “You know, this morning I just don’t feel like riding today.” If you do, immediately dial 911 and get her or him to a level 1 trauma center. One of my Biker friends had this pillow on his book-case that said: “You never see a bike parked in front of a psychiatrist’s office.”
But church? Whining? You bet! Complaining? You can take it to the bank. Missing church? There is an unending list of really good sounding excuses. And when at church? Not much joy, except that it’s over for another week. Like Bikers, we should love what we do, but….here’s another lesson for church today.
2. We Are A Diverse Group
White collar, blue-collar, dog collar….a model of diversity. I’ve met factory workers, farmers, retirees, a federal judge, dentist, lawyer, small business owner….and yes, other preachers. But in leather, we are held in a common bond. Our backgrounds do not matter. There is a brotherhood and sisterhood that is not formed by how we are alike–but by our differences held together by a common passion. Whatever you do the rest of the week doesn’t matter when you fire it up, put on the leather and ride. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, what your politics are or where you live. The diversity adds beauty and strength to this ‘Hood of Bikers.
And church? Martin Luther King, Jr. was right then, and still right today when he said, “Sunday morning at 11:00 is the most segregated hour every week.” And today, segregation still happens. In some churches it’s race. For others, it’s political views, traditions, economic status, where you work, where you live. The church for decades has tried to be a cookie cutter factory, where we all look and sound alike. I don’t think those 12 guys Jesus hand-picked for the first disciples looked alike, talked alike and acted alike. I love seeing a congregation that’s gathered, reflecting the diversity of the community around it. But it’s rare to see it. Conformity rules the group. But like Bikers…we should be a diverse group. Another lesson we should learn from Bikers.
3. We Are Friendly
Bikers who do not know each other, never met before, meet at the gas pump , we talk to each other. In a meat and 3 diner, we talk to each other. If a biker is having trouble with their bike, we do more than just talk, we help each other. There’s a lot of people who act afraid of bikers. I don’t know why. They are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Ever noticed how Bikers acknowledge each other on the road? Usually with 2 fingers down. It mainly means “keep 2 wheels down”; that’s important on a bike because you don’t want them on their side, because you will be, too. The bike, the leather, the road–is a culture of friendliness.
I know that churches like to say they are friendly. And they are friendly–if you talk like them, act like them, believe like them. They are friendly, as long as you don’t sit in their pew or try to change something in their church. Then it’s Katie bar the door. Friendliness stops. Bikers are friendly because they don’t focus on the surface things. They focus on what matters the most to them. But we Bikers are more than friendly–we are friends–even if we don’t know each others names. It’s unconditional friendliness, a lesson the church should learn. Another lesson we should learn from bikers is:
4. We Are Loyal To Each Other
Bikers have each other’s back. They stand up and support one another. Even among the “One Percenters” (that’s outlaw biker clubs for the uninformed) there is a loyalty for those in their club. If someone gets hurt and can’t work? Forget Aflac, they hold a Rally, a Poker Run, or simply pass the helmet to help the one who’s hurt and their family. Bikers stand with and by each other, through good times and hard times. They even help others. There are Rides to benefit St. Jude’s, March of Dimes, Toys For Tots, and the list goes on.
And the church’s track record on loyalty? As long as everyone behaves themselves, and does what they are told to do, yeah. they’re loyal. But when one falls, when one is hurting, when one is struggling–many churches either kick them out, or even worse–they simply ignore the fallen and the hurting. Speaking as one wounded (more than twice) by the church, I didn’t see a lot of loyalty. Honestly, I didn’t expect it because their track record had already been establish–and it wasn’t good. But there should be a strong sense of loyalty to each other in the church.
5. We Don’t Worry About What Others Think About Us
We accept that some people will never accept us because, well, we are different. We look different, act different, talk different. Though I’m a preacher, truthfully when I have 3 days growth of beard and in all my leathers on my loud bike, I can see why some good honest church folks who don’t know me might think not so nice things about me. One Saturday I went riding with some friends, all of us with at least 2 days worth of beard, full leathers and we stopped at a little diner for lunch. As we walked in I noticed people staring at us, and not in a good way. Know what? I’m OK with that. I’m not out trying to win the approval of others. There’s only One whose approval I need. We don’t care about external stuff, well maybe except for our bikes. We are comfortable in our own skin and do not need validation through the approval of others.
And in the church? Nearly, if not everything is about appearances and outward stuff. Emphasis is on the external, the very thing that angered Jesus about the Pharisees. Being a Christian becomes more about what one does NOT do than what one actually does; more about how they look more so than who they are deep inside; more about certain beliefs than Kingdom Living. When it’s all about appearances, we lack the substance of the Kingdom Life. Bikers teach us not to worry about appearances and what others think. Here’s another thing that Bikers can teach the church.
6. We Know The Risks And Ride Anyway
We realize the being a Biker isn’t for everyone. It is risky. There’s a motto often seen in our community. “Live To Ride. Ride To Live.” There are inherent dangers. In my part of the world one of the dangers is deer. You’ve seen the damage they inflict on a car, think about a bike. Then there’s the dangers of car drivers. Road conditions. And when we are inattentive to those dangers. Honestly, there are tons of reasons not be to a biker. Yet, each day we gear up and ride. Are we oblivious to the dangers? Absolutely not. But we believe that the rewards most definitely outweigh the risks. Do I pray before I ride? While I ride? Is the Pope Catholic? We respect these machines but we don’t allow the fear to keep us from riding. When fear does override the joy, they sell those bikes and buy a convertible. What should the church learn from this?
A malady that has inflicted the 21st Century Church is the unwillingness to take risks for Jesus and the Kingdom. They want to play it safe. They want to know the outcome before venturing out, and that the outcome is worth it; meaning, the church will get new members. If you can’t get new members then it’s not worth the risk. The Devil knows he can’t defeat The Kingdom; he’s already tried and failed. Remember that empty tomb? Instead of attacking The Kingdom, he has filled many local churches with the need for playing it safe, and avoiding the risks. He won’t win the final victory, but he takes great delight in the impotency of churches unwilling to risk it all for Jesus. People risk eternity for the sake of time. Why not risk Time for the sake of Eternity?
Well, that just 6 of the lessons many churches should learn from Bikers. It’s 5 lessons the church MUST learn if it is ever to escape the current “survival mode” and once again THRIVE!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!
Now, if you will excuse me, I think there’s a curvy road calling out to me….
When most attend a seminar, conference or retreat they usually say, “Well, this is what I learned.” Notice the grammatical tense of that word. It’s in the past tense. I know my high school English teachers At Mrs. Weir and Mrs. Pettus would be shocked that I remembered anything from their lessons. And I have been guilty of using that word “have learned”, that the lessons are in the past tense of my life.
But one of the many, many, many things God has been teaching this “getting older” man is that while life has a “past tense” it also has a “present” and a “future” tense. Here is a nugget that God has been teaching me these past few years. Lessons that we learn about Him and our relationship with Him are not to remain in the past existing as a memory. These lessons are to be a continual part of this Journey in Grace. Thus the title of this morning’s blog: What I AM Discovering (notice the tense) At New Room 2018.
Most of these lessons are direct quotes or my shorthand version of those quotes from this incredible group of Holy Spirit Led and Empowered Speakers. This list is by no means, everything I am discovering. And if history repeats itself, as I’m sure it will, there will be even more discoveries come to my mind in this Journey In Grace:
There are too many loose ties and not enough strong bonds in most churches today.
There are things that happen when God’s People get together with Jesus in the lead, that would otherwise never happen.
God does the work, but He does it through us. It’s time to get our hands dirty.
It’s not about trying to get God to abide in us–He’s already abiding–but it’s about getting US to abide in HIM!
Being a Christian is all about entering into THEIR Relationship–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–and NOT about getting them to enter into OUR relationship.
There are some things in our life that happen only because of our relationship with Jesus. And there are some things that will never happen in us if we are not in a relationship with Him.
Revival is more than goosebumps and excitement, but a driven passion and holy obsession in us.
When Jesus shows up, life happens!
Stop making excuses for doing nothing. We have the King of Kings on our side and the Holy Spirit living in us!
Jesus left heaven for us. It’s time we leave our stuff for Jesus! (Maybe my favorite quote!)
Find the broken. Church ain’t the church unless it is reaching out into the community! (OK, maybe this is my favorite quote!)
We need to ask God to break our hearts with what breaks His heart.
Fire in a home without a fireplace will do harm. A fireplace in a home without fire is pointless. We need The Fire or we are pointless!
There is no greater tragedy than a sick church in a dying world. (Leonard Ravenhill)
The Holy Spirit transcends human ability and transforms human inabilities!
It is wrong to think that the Bible contains the Holy Spirit. The Bible constrains us. The Holy Spirit cannot be contained anywhere.
If Jesus in human flesh needed the Holy Spirit, we especially need the Holy Spirit!
When the church stops being the church we will die and become a monument to what God used to do rather than the movement of what God is doing.
You do what you from your passion. The church today has stopped doing out of its passion and replaced passion with a boring religious obligation.
God shouts to His enemies, but whispers to His friends.
Oh, this ain’t all of it. But just some of the things the Spirit impressed on me to share with you readers. Somewhere in these “nuggets” is a truth that some reader urgently needs to hear. And remember….
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
Well, it happened again. Last night Debbie (most definitely my better half) and I went out to eat supper. We had chosen Cracker Barrel. I thought that was a great ending to a great day. I had spent the day at New Room Conference listening, learning about sowing the seeds of God’s Word for another Great Awakening. The theme word this year is RISE. I was overwhelmed by Damien Boyd’s sermon about the importance of connecting with people, especially the poor. Damien pointed out that the poor isn’t limited to those without material substance–but especially those who are spiritually poor and those who have been broken by life.
Our server was Miles. He was polite and attentive to us. But this isn’t about Miles. It’s about Marissa. Many years ago The Spirit taught me the importance of acknowledging people at the Huddle House in Guntersville. We had been out to eat, and I noticed her name tag, and thanked her and used her name. She sat her coffee pot down, and thanked me for using her name. She said that no one called her by her name. It was always “Hey, you!” Fighting back the tears, she was overwhelmed that someone noticed she had a name. Ever since that evening I have made it a point to call servers, associates and cashiers by their name when I can see it.
Back to Marissa. We had just left our customary 20% tip on the table and was getting up to leave when another server, Marissa, was walking by. I said to her, “I hope you have a great evening, Marissa.” She smiled and thanked me. Then she turned back around, for a conversation. She said, “I was wondering how did we know each other, but then I realized my name is on my apron.” And I replied, “Well, you are a human being and you have a name, so I used that name.”
A bright smile came over her face and she said, “Oh, how sweet. Give me a hug!” We hugged and said our goodbyes. I noticed as she walked away, there was a renewed joy in her steps. Oh, it wasn’t me. It was the Holy Spirit. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time for Him to do what HE does best: Remind people of God’s Presence, that He values them, and best of all, He loves them.
And early this morning I reflected on that simple but Holy Moment of God being with us. I’m not bragging on myself–I have way too many faults to engage in such silliness. But the Spirit impressed on me this truth. All day I had been listening too and learning about the Kingdom of God. And that night I put it into practice–doing what I have been doing since that night in Huddle House in Guntersville–what I heard and learned. I thought I almost heard the 6 words I am striving to hear one day: Well Done Good And Faithful Servant.
You see, learning about the Kingdom of God but doing nothing is like a sandwich without meat, mayo, lettuce, and tomato–you’re toast. Jesus showed people that God values and loves them by connecting with them where they are. A person’s name–using a person’s name is a profoundly simple way of acknowledging their value and worth–as a person and as someone who bears the Image of the Creator.
When you see people, acknowledge their worth and value, then if you pray the Lord’s Prayer, it has become real and true in you–Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. See people the way God sees them. They have a name. God knows their name. Do you?
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Hi!
This morning a word came into my mind–yet another random thought–a condition with which I am afflicted. I wonder, is some 12 Step program to help me with this? It has served me well at times, so I guess I will allow this condition to continue. Oh? The word? OK, it’s erosion. One definition says:
the gradual destruction or diminution of something
In case you were wondering (I know I was) about that word diminution , here’s that definition:
a reduction in the size, extent, or importance of something.
The word “erosion” hit me this morning during the news. Tropical Storm Gordon, flooding alerts, another teen shot in Birmingham, a mother arrested in Florida for the death of her 2-year-old child are just some of the stories that caused this word to invade my gray matter. Most people think of erosion as something that happens to dirt and rocks. But there is another type of erosion–spiritual erosion–that is far more dangerous and even more deadly.
I can’t remember exactly when I heard the term “Post-Christian Culture” but I am keenly aware that it exists. My definition of “Post-Christian Culture” is as follows:
The loss or dismissing the values of the Kingdom of God
Can you handle the truth? Here it is: The values and ethics of God’s Kingdom are no longer the dominant influence on our culture. Over the years, as people who claimed allegiance to Jesus became passive, silent, or even worse–the consumers of what the church produces–it created an ethics and values vacuum. Aristotle once hypothesized “horror vacui” which means Nature Abhors a Vacuum. In other words, nature can’t stand for any space to be empty. When lightning forms it creates a vacuum, so air rushes in to fill that vacuum, thus creating thunder.
It’s not just nature–but human beings also abhors a vacuum. Way back in March 2009, Dr. Leon Seltzer wrote an article for Psychology Today titled “Human Nature Abhors A Vacuum”. He wrote, “We humans crave stimulation, and on many different levels. To experience ourselves as fully alive, we all have various “arousal requirements”–“whether physical, mental, emotional, social, or spiritual.” A little further into his article he makes this astute observation:
“…I’ve become acutely aware of how experiencing an inner vacuum can lead people to make poor life choices, especially in relationships.”
We are in a Post-Christian culture because the values of God’s Kingdom and Rule are noticeably absent in the American culture. A vacuum of solid and proven values and ethics have left, creating the vacuum. To fill that values/ethics vacuum, people are turning anywhere, everywhere to fill that void. Entitlement, selfishness, disregard for consequences, blame, hate, distrust….and the list goes on to what has filled that values/ethics void created when people stopped being followers of Jesus and opted more for a fan or casual relationship. “Jesus, I need just enough of you to avoid hell. That’s all.”
So, how do we change the current values and ethics environment we find our culture in? May I suggest we do what Jesus did and continues to do. Infuse the values and ethics of the Kingdom of God, once again. Here’s a list of ways we can do this, and if you have others ways, please share them in the comments section:
Tip servers at 20%, or more
Call the clerk, associate, cashier by their name if they are wearing a name tag
Stop being a consumer of what the church does–be a producer
Give up you place in the checkout line to the person behind you
Put your cellphone on vibrate mode when in a waiting room and wait to call the person back
Smile, smile a lot, especially in the presence of grumpy people
Refuse to judge someone by their external features. In fact, be friendly to them and get to know them
Help someone do something
Get acquainted with your neighbors
Volunteer with some outreach program
Accept and be glad that you are not entitled to anything
Work hard for something you want
Accept responsibility and even the blame when do something wrong
Admit you’re not always right, and certainly not perfect
Offer to take someone to lunch on Sunday, right after the Worship Service
In church, sit next to someone you don’t know, and strike up a conversation
When someone lashes out at you–respond with kindness and grace, not more heated words.
Care about God’s creation by being a good steward of this earth
Find common ground with others–hey, at the very least, we are all sinners. That’s a great place to begin
Simplify your lifestyle–don’t go into deep debt for the latest “toy”
Do one random act of kindness a day–if someone sees your act of kindness, it doesn’t count–so keep doing it until no one notices
Better yet, do random acts of kindness even if no one notices
Read the Bible and ask: “What does this say to me? About me?”
Pray–not with churchy “King James” words, but as if you were talking with your best friend, because HE wants to be your best friend
Allow someone to merge into traffic
Freely forgive even if–especially when–they don’t deserve it
At the fast food drive thru, pay for the person’s purchase behind you (I got this one from a Christian radio station)
Excuse yourself from conversations that are rude, ugly or lewd
Slow down and do something relaxing
Love God with all your heart, mind and life
Love others the way Jesus loves you
Make sure all the glory and credit goes to God for everything good
I could go on, but what specific things can you do to change the Values and Ethics of our culture? Please post in the comments….
We all have some way of self-identifying: “I am a husband. I am a wife. I am so-and-so’s daughter/son. I am a parent, grandparent. I am (fill in the blank).” Self-identifications such as this is a good way to identify our roles–at home, work, community, family, church, etc.
If you consider Jesus to be your Savior, then how do you usually identify yourself: a Christian or a Disciple? I know, I know, it sounds like I am about to strain at a gnat just to swallow a camel. You may be thinking, “What difference does that make? There’s more important issues going on in the world, in our nation that needs to be address. Christian or Disciple, really?” Yes, really!
We find the first use of this word “christian” in Acts 11:26–The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. Well, well, well, it seems that Jesus did not use that word “christian”. The Greek word is “christianos“ and it means “follower of Christ”. And it seems that this word “christianos” is used only 2 other times in the New Testament. Could it be, mind you I’m only asking a question, could it be that the word “christian” should not be our first choice of words when self-identifying with Jesus?
Well, what about the word disciple? It is the Greek word “mathētēs”that means “a learner”. Furthermore it seems that word “mathētēs”is used an additional 267 times for a total of 268 times. This means that for every time the word christian is used, the word Disciple is used 89 times. I’m not against the use of the word “christian”, but…
When we self-identify by the use of a word, it usually means we are describing a role and a purpose for our life. Strictly speaking out of my culture and experiences, many use the word “christian” as a title, not a role or purpose in life. Contrary to what is often heard, the Great Commission is not about creating christians but making DISCIPLES! The cultural bias that often drives a congregation is twisted up in the word christian, that does not mean now what it did those 3 times the New Testament writers chose that word. The cultural bias I see is that the word “christian” is a title, not a role. Before Antioch they were called “people of The Way”. “The Way”, by the way, came from a phrase used by Jesus that described His Role and Purpose. (John 14:6–“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”)
There are 3 Key Qualities of a Disciple:
Do you remember when you were in school and the teacher said those 7 most feared words? “Take out a clean sheet of paper.” It mean it was time for a test, pop quiz or announced. When listening to Jesus, we need a clean sheet of paper. Not for the test, that comes later. But we need to listen with an open heart and open mind. We need to listen to Him directly; not what someone else said about what He said. We need to approach each passage as if it were the first time we read it. Listen to God’s mind and heart. There are some “deep” passages, but what we need for life–for our role and purpose isn’t rocket surgery or brain science. You just need to listen.
Don’t be like you were when you were a kid and your parent was talking to you. You know, letting it go in one ear and out the other. Begin to uncover and discover how the Good News is designed to work in our life. Memorization is a tool, a very good tool, but go deeper. There is a wisdom in God’s Truth that we need to accept and embrace in our journey through this life. Explore how this Good News can make a difference in your life. I once heard this illustration. When a duck dives into the water for food, it comes back up at a different place. Internal transformation is the beginning point and the source of the Power that comes only from the Holy Spirit.
Information and knowledge are not enough. The key is application. It has been said, and very well I might add, that Wisdom is the APPLICATION of knowledge. Unfortunately, the cultural church has been inundated with the Intelligentsia. The Intelligentsia is a status class of educated people engaged in the complex mental labors that critique, guide, and lead in shaping the culture and politics of their society. In others words, lots of thinking and talking but not a whole lot of doing. Someone once told me that C. S. Lewis defined The Intelligentsia as people who are educated beyond their intelligence. I cannot verify C. S. said it, but I know more than a few that meets that definition of The Intelligentsia.
The goal of Jesus’ teachings was APPLICATION. Once a student listens, then learns, they are now ready to apply that knowledge. Knowledge with application is like a coke (I’m from the south, so the word ‘coke’ refers to a variety of different brands) without the carbonated water–it’s flat and loses its true taste.
Jesus wants Disciples, after all that was His invitation. People who will listen, learn and apply The Good News of The Kingdom of God. Being a Disciple isn’t a title–It is our role and purpose. This is just me, OK? If I believe the writers of the New Testament chose their words carefully (and I do believe that), if Jesus never asked for people to become christians (and He didn’t), then maybe I need to self-identify as DISCIPLE. Yep, I think I will do just that!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!
We urgently need more martyrs today! Can you imagine the revival that would happen in the U.S. if “Comfortable Christians”, Tenured Pew Sitters, Churchians and others who are more focused on their little piece of the church than the Kingdom of God would embrace J.D.’s challenge?
(This is the last of the series about the Hard Sayings of Jesus. Thanks for all the comments and likes!)
We do not have the time to get into all the Hard Sayings Of Jesus, so this will be our last in this series. I hope by now you have the tools and the courage to tackle on your own the hard, even harsh things Jesus had to say. Simply because we don’t like them or do not want to deal with them doesn’t mean we have the luxury of simply ignoring them. Frankly, I do not want to face Him on the day of judgment and have Him ask me why I chose to ignore them. So let’s get to today’s passage found in Matthew 10:5-15 (NIV)
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave.12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting.
13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
What exactly is Jesus saying here? There is a principle and a Truth that is guiding all the other messages we see and hear. And it is in Verses 14-15—If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. It will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 2 things about this image:
It was a sign of an unclean place. It’s what devout Jews would do if they ever had to go into a Gentile city or home.
It was a sign that you were finished with that person or place, and you were not responsible for their decisions and actions. It was a sign of letting them know that God’s judgment was now upon them—no more excuses.
It seems that Jesus is saying that when people reject Him and His Kingdom, His disciples are to shake the dust off their shoes and move on, and that Sodom and Gomorrah will do better at judgment than them. But Where is the Grace and Mercy and patience of God? Well, let’s apply the process of the 2 questions:
Is It Possible?
Jesus was in His hometown of Nazareth and in Mark 3:6 we read—“He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.” Obviously Jesus moved on. Now look at the second question:
Is It Consistent With The Principles And Message Of The Kingdom?
In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas go to Pisidian where the people began listening to them. But the religious leaders stirred up trouble and expelled them. And we read in Verse 51—So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium.
So the answer to both questions is clearly yes. If you can remember only 1 thing from this message, this is it: Nothing Is More Important Than The Mission Of God’s Kingdom. I am not more important than The Mission. You are not more important than The Mission. Our families are not more important than The Mission. This nation and its politics are not more important than The Mission. Your wants and wishes are not more important than The Mission. The church is not more important than The Mission. Nothing Is More Important Than The Mission Of God’s Kingdom.
So, how do we apply this authoritative word? Does it mean that we go up to someone and ask them, “Do you want to be a Christian?” and if they say “No”, we forget about them and ask the next person and the next and the next? Absolutely not. Putting this hard saying of Jesus into the right context is the key to the application of His Truth. This is The Pattern for how The Kingdom works and moves: Jesus SENDS! Jesus sends the First 12 Disciples, and He continues to send His Disciples.
This isn’t an Apostolic Age thing. The word apostle means one who is sent. Everyone is sent somewhere for the sake of the Kingdom of God. It may not be to a pulpit or foreign country, but you are sent nonetheless. Jesus is sending Disciples. They aren’t apostles (lowercase a) until they are sent. And notice where He sends them: Not to the Gentiles, not to the Samaritans—but to those He calls “the lost sheep of Israel”. Why?
Because The Kingdom Of God Should Begin Here! Before we can take the Kingdom of God into the world, it must be firmly rooted in our hearts. God has a Mission for Real Disciples. Those who attended the Small Group Training learned that it’s wrong to say the church has a mission. Truth is that God’s Mission has a church. We call it Missio Dei—the sending of God. God’s mission needs a church that will embrace and follow His Mission. I see at least 3, let’s call them Kingdom Principles, that Jesus demands from us if we are going to be more than Christian in name, but in heart and life.
1] The Mission Needs To Be Focused.
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
God sends Disciples to the places that needs what only God provides. This passage, these words of Jesus, is where we need to focus. First focus on ourselves, then on others. Here’s where the focus needs to be rather than on all the external trimmings that we think give us our identity:
Heal the sick—the word “heal”, means to serve. The word “sick” means those who are weak, powerless, without the strength to change their life
Raise the dead—it means to wake up and cause people to stand in life, not the death that sin produces in us. The Walking Dead TV series isn’t original. There are the Walking Dead all around us. Not zombies, but broken and lifeless people.
Cleanse those with leprosy—that word leprosy includes the disease of leprosy but was also applied to a variety of skin diseases. Spiritually it’s about those who are carrying around external labels that crush and destroy the human heart.
Drive out demons—the devil is having a heyday and causing mayhem because the church has stopped fighting them and starting fighting people. The phrase here means with force and strength. This is the warfare that God calls us into.
Freely have you received, freely give—It’s about sharing the extravagant grace and mercy that God has shown you with others.
2] We Need To Give A Clear Message.
And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The church can be really good at sending mixed messages. For example: Jesus can set you free—but to be with us, there are certain ways you need to act and a certain way of doing things. Here’s another: God has an unlimited supply of grace for you—but don’t be surprised if my supply of grace is limited. Oh, this is a good one: Christ makes all things new—just like they were 40 years ago.
The Greek word for “at hand” is eggizō (en-gē’-zō). It means: to join one thing to another. The Message of the Kingdom is to connect people to the Kingdom of God! The gospel message is not difficult. The Message Is Clear:
Let’s be clear that brokenness persists in all of us. We are all broken somewhere. We are sinners in need of the Savior.
Let’s be clear that Only by faith in Jesus can we be forgiven and set free from sin’s dominion over us.
Let’s be clear that when we are forgiven we join in with what God is doing in the world.
Some people place the stained glass windows of tradition and liturgy in front of Christ and hide Him. Some are destroying the Good News of the Kingdom by replacing the authority of Scripture with the authority of how we feel and what WE want to believe. The apostles were to “go and preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ It’s about the Kingdom, not the local church. We are to keep the message of God clear—it’s all about Jesus and His Authority to rule us.
3] Do The Mission With Urgency.
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. It will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. (vs. 14-15)
What I see missing in so many lives is The Passion for the Mission. Until we see and know how Urgent the Mission is, we will never have the Passion. Urgency Creates Passion. And that Passion motivates us to become apostles—people who are sent!
The Greek word for apostle is apostolos and it means a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders. It comes from the word apostellō—to order one to go to a place appointed. Real Christians Are Sent People.You Have Stopped Being A Sent People When You Become A Settled People. Me? I’m not going to be a settled person. I’m moving with God and with those moving with God and I’m shaking the dust off my shoes for those who have settled.
Without that sense of Urgency with Passion, then there is coming a time when those who are supposed to know—know the Truth and Live it in Urgency and with Passion—but have ignored and rejected The Kingdom—that God is going to shake the dust and judgement is going to be upon those people and churches. The judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah will not be as severe as those people and churches that reject God’s Kingdom for their own Kingdom.
Until you know how urgent the message and mission of the Kingdom is, you will never be a real Disciple of Jesus. People are hurting deeply all around us. Every day people are going into eternity without Jesus. Every day people are being deceived and believing the lies. Our work is urgent. Join in now before someone shakes the dust off the shoes towards you.
OK, I’m not doing this to start a theological debate, doctrinal fight, nor a “Roman Catholic” versus “Protestant” argument. It really is just a question: “Where did the concept of the ‘Apostolic Age’ come from?” I’ve had the mandatory seminary classes on church history, and I know the traditional thought about this alleged Apostolic Age. But when and where did this concept of an alleged The Apostolic Age originate? And I know that the consensus is it ended with the death of John.
Many teach and many more believe that it was limited to those Original 12, well, excluding Judas. But according to Matthew 10:2-4, Judas is listed as one of the 12, you guessed it, “Apostles”. but were there just those 12, including Judas? Well, maybe including Paul there were 13 “Apostles”. Perhaps we could add Barnabas to make an even 14. Maybe we could add Silas for 15. Some might have a good argument to include Timothy as an “Apostle”, making the number an even 16 “Apostles”.
Could it be this “Apostolic Age” is the result of the interpretation of History? I know, I know, most want history to be just the facts. Yet most of written history includes the result of human interpretation. And herein lies my contention: Is the concept of this alleged “Apostolic Age” the result of human interpretation? Now please understand, I’m not asking you to agree with my hypothesis, theory and conclusion. I am asking that you simply think for yourself, and then draw your own conclusion. I have a “Leroy Jethro Gibbs” gut feeling some of the comments may disagree with me, or some might stop following this blog. I’m OK with this, as long as you are thinking and seeking the Holy Spirit.
Me? I’m a KISS kind of man–Keep It Simple Stupid! With this as my backdrop, let me frame these words as best I can.
My Hypothesis: Our God is a “Sending God”. It is His nature and His deepest desire to send out His heart and message to redeem and restore fallen humanity; the ones who alone bear His image.
My Theory: He sends others that He has redeemed and restored to Himself for the purpose of redeeming and restoring others. Don’t try to sell me on the benefits of a Ford if you are only driving Chevrolets. If you want to reach deep into me, tell me what (or whom) is deep inside you.
My Conclusion: Because God is still reaching out to His Fallen Image Bearers through those whom HE sends, this thing called The Apostolic Age as defined by historians, hasn’t really ended. Furthermore, I assert this concept of an “apostolic age” to be anathema and has robbed the Body of Christ of it’s most basic identity–that of being a sent people. The result of no longer living with that sense of being “sent”, most, especially Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters, are living with a sense of being settled. And that, my blogging friends, is one of the worst tragedies; for a people who were redeemed and restored in order to be sent, to accept being settled.
What started this train of thought (some may say this train never left the station, or has derailed by the end of these thoughts) was my work on this week’s sermon. This work included the passage from Matthew 10 when Jesus “sends out” those 12 “apostles”. I looked up that Greek word we have translated “Apostle” (*NOTE the typical use of the Capital “A” as in THE Apostles and THE Apostolic Age, which “capital” letter is not found in the Greek texts) is apostolos. An apostolos is a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders. It comes from the word apostellō— which means “to order one to go to a place appointed.”
So, why isn’t an apostle (lowercase “a”) simply someone sent as a messenger to go to an appointed place with The Message? If my hypothesis is true, that God is the Sending God, doesn’t this mean He is still sending today? Tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Now this left-handed, right-brained preacher is about to put it into overdrive. What if we forgot about this “historical” image of an alleged long gone “Apostolic Age” and began living our lives right now as apostles (note the lowercase “a”)? Live as people who are sent to a certain place with a certain message? Can you imagine the transformation that could happen?
I now see myself as an apostle–but not with the delusions of grandeur. I see myself as one who is being sent with a Message to specific places and people. And you do not have to be a pastor, preacher, evangelist or missionary to be “sent” somewhere. God is looking for people to send to specific places. Those places are where there are human hearts and lives, made in God’s image, that need to be redeemed and restored to the Father’s Glory. God is looking to send someone across your street. God is looking to send someone across the aisle, across the hall, across town, across county lines, and who knows, maybe across the state or across the world.
What are the places that God is looking to send people to? The places where people need to be redeemed and restored. God’s best work is always done through ordinary people. Remember 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV),
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
Sent people are never settled people. They are ready and willing to go into every human situation with the Message of The Good News, this Kingdom News that redemption and restoration are now available to anyone and everyone. First these 12 were disciples before they were apostles (lowercase “a”, please). They learned from Jesus and then they went. How I pray for more people to live first as disciples, then go as apostles–people sent on a Mission from God! If you live with that sense of being sent, then the Apostolic Age isn’t over. How sad it must be to think God has stopped sending ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Nothing is more miraculous nor extraordinary than when another heart has been redeemed and restored by The Maker, our God who sends!
I may not have convinced a single person that this alleged “Apostolic Age” thing is a human concept. But if there is just one of you who are now thinking, “Could God be sending me somewhere?”, then it has been worth it! It is both overwhleming and liberating to know that we can be “sent”. And it is a prison all it’s own, to be simply settled where you are. Still think that the Apostolic Age is over???
This I have noticed, not all of the “Hard Sayings” of Jesus are hard because they are difficult to understand what He means. Speaking for myself, I find many of them hard—not because they are hard to understand—they are hard because they are easy to understand. The difficulty is in what they demand if we are going to really going to be saved. Such is the case in today’s passage, Luke 9:57-62 (NIV)
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
OK, let’s go ahead and apply the First 2 questions when dealing with the tough things Jesus said:
Is It Possible?
Is It Consistent With The Principles And Message Of The Kingdom?
We are dealing with 3 separate situations but there is a single answer for all 3 situations. It’s found in Matthew 16:24-25 (NIV)—Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Jesus lived out this model of following God and He expected no less from anyone who followed Him. So, the answer to both questions is YES. This means it’s a Word we need to take literally because it has authority over us.
I am so very thankful that Salvation is Free. It’s pure Grace that delivers you and I from the penalty of sin. And it’s pure Grace that delivers us from the dominion of sin because God gives each one of us who trusts in the Cross of Jesus a new heart—literally a new life. This new life comes with the promised indwelling of the Holy Spirit who helps us resist Satan’s attempt to bring us back under the dominion of sin.
And it would be much easier if following Jesus was only about getting saved, then just wait for the trip to heaven. Don’t you agree? Just go to the local terminal, find your gate, have a seat and just wait for them to call you flight number and take you home. But it’s not; there is much more. Jesus came in a time when getting to heaven was all about keeping rules and rituals. The problem with keeping rules and rituals is that they do not fill the heart with what for which we are created—That Relationship and Partnership with God.
And many people who listened to Jesus realized this, because their hearts longed for more. This concept of being saved by The Gift of God, wonderful! No more worrying about the Rules and Rituals. So people came running towards Jesus, wanting this wonderful Gift. And in today’s passage, we find 3 typical people wanting this Gift but without the cost of authentically following Jesus.
Think about this: What good is wanting salvation without the cost of following Jesus? A word missing from church today is a big word like mahogany: DISCIPLESHIP. This is a word that invokes the response from the movie The Princess Bride where Montoya Inigo says to Vizzini who frequently says “Inconceivable”— “I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Here’s the definition of DISCIPLESHIP—“It Is The Process Of Learning, Applying, And Sharing With Others The Teachings Of Jesus.” Learning for yourself, Applying to yourself before Sharing with others is what marks the difference between those who are “Christian” in name only and those who are Christian in heart, mind and life. Salvation is free, but Discipleship is costly. Here is why it’s Costly:
1] It Costs Personal Comfort
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Vs. 57-58)
Here’s a man like us. He wants to follow Jesus. Promising idea, right? And immediately Jesus challenges him where we all live: At the level of comfort. You work hard to be comfortable; if you have a family, you work hard for them to be comfortable. And many want to be comfortable following Jesus. But Jesus isn’t offering us Comfortable.
I’m thinking about David when God’s avenging Angel was about to destroy Jerusalem. David had ordered a census and the reason was David wanted to know how many men there were available to fight. After all, David is a Warrior, and a warrior needs to plan. But there’s a problem: David hasn’t consulted God about it. God gives David an option on his punishment and David chooses 3 days of an angel of devastation. As that angel gets close to Jerusalem, David wants to intercede for Jerusalem and offer God a sacrifice, in hopes of finding mercy and grace with God. The farmer Ornan offers David his plow for the fire and oxen for the sacrifice and all for free. But David responded, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” Unfortunately a lot of people who occupy the pews only want to sacrifice to God what costs them nothing.
You must give up personal comfort—to try even at the risk of failure. Jesus is demanding and following Him is even more demanding. Discipleship means we risk everything for Jesus. Right now, I’m thinking about our Mission Team Leader, Shelley Jones. Before she retired she was a computer programmer. Everything was about 0’s and 1’s–the binary code make it predictable. But as Mission Team Leader, she will tell you, she is way outside her comfort zone—but nonetheless, she’s engaged in Discipleship. You can’t follow Jesus in your comfort zones.
2] It Requires Immediate Commitment!
He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Vs. 59-60)
The traditional view of this part is that his Dad wasn’t even dead yet. So, it’s just an excuse to postpone. “Jesus, as soon as my Dad dies, I’ll follow you.” This makes Jesus sound less harsh. But in the Talmud, their Bible and Book of Discipline (for you United Methodists) rolled into one stated: “He who is confronted by a dead relative is freed from reciting the Shema, from the eighteen benedictions, and from all the commandments stated in the Torah.” The Shema is like their pledge of allegiance and it comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
The 18 benedictions were their prayers at morning, midday and evening, so they were relieved of praying. And they were released from obeying all the commands in the Torah. In other words, according to the rules and traditions, nothing is more important than a funeral. But Jesus shocks this man and the whole crowd. Jesus says, “Nothing is more important right now than The Kingdom of God.” Jesus is saying that the old way of doing things is long gone.
John McNeill, a well-know preacher in Scotland during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s tells this story. He was scheduled to begin a series of meetings in England. His father died in Scotland on the day the services were to begin. He was told that it would be OK to cancel the services, everyone would understand. But hear John’s reply: “This same Jesus stood by me and seemed to say, ‘Now, look. I have you. You go and preach the Gospel to those people. Would you rather bury the dead or raise the dead?’ And I went to preach.” There are no excuses for postponing your discipleship—learning, applying and sharing the Good News!
3] It Involves Unlimited Commitment
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Vs. 61-62)
Jesus wants you to make up your mind. There is a strong trend in our culture to want “Jesus Lite”. A cartoon showed a church building with a large billboard in front that proclaimed:
It’s not unique to our time; we clearly see it when Jesus walked His creation. People were always looking for an easier way to get into heaven. Following Jesus Lite can make you feel better about yourself, but it does not make you a Christian and it will not bring transformation to your culture.
Each of these men had an excuse—the last 2 were more direct. Did you catch the words that are the 3 Most Telling Words Of All?
First Let Me.
In trying to have a relationship with Jesus, do you have a First Let Me? What is your “First Let Me”? Your excuse?