Posted in Different Scriptures, Uncategorized

I hope I irritate you.

Recently I was able to preach on the word “covenant”, specifically connected to how the author of Hebrews addresses God transforming everything in Jesus Christ. As we begin a new year, it’s a time when most of us examine our lives, and re-affirm those things that matter deeply to us. Many who want to live in response to the Love of God revealed in Jesus use these early days in the year as a natural time to renew our commitments, especially in response to the covenant Love God offers to us. I was encouraged once again by God’s desire that we would be able to “know Him” in ways we couldn’t previously. (Hebrews 8:11)

In following the threads woven by the author of Hebrews, there was one text that stood out to me in a new way this time. In Hebrews 10:24 we’re encouraged, “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,” I’ve read this before, and haven’t spent much time considering it because the meaning seems pretty obvious. But just beneath the surface, there’s an invitation to pause and consider the author’s choice of words.

Most of our best translations easily help us understand by saying something like “spur one another on”, “provoke each other”, or even “stimulate each other”. Some others say things like “motivate one another” or “encourage one another” toward Love. If the author had just wanted us to be “encouraging one another” to be more loving, he could have easily used words similar to the ones he uses in Hebrews 10:25 or 13:19. But here in 10:24 he purposefully uses a particular action (to irritate sharply/provoke) as a noun (something to be considered). The noun itself is only seen one other time in this form, over in Acts 15:39 to describe the “sharp disagreement” between Paul & Barnabas that caused them to part ways. The verb form is found in Acts 17:16 (the spirit of Paul was being provoked by the idols he saw in Athens) and 1 Corinthians 13:5 (Love is not easily provoked). This is an irritating provocation that we are unable to ignore.

In this play of words, we’re invited by the author to consider how we can be the kind of active presence in our world that provokes/stirs up/compels Love (agape) and good deeds. Much attention is given in our era to how businesses or even influencers can post content that “gets a response”. It also makes sense that we would desire responses that are measurable/quantifiable. But are we being purposeful as to the kind of responses we are attempting to draw out from those around us, or those who consume what we’re sharing? As enjoyable as it might be to complain about something we have the right to complain about – is it provoking others toward Love? As desirable/easy as it may be to comment or share or join in a conversation with others – is our involvement giving others permission to continue in a direction other than Love?

Into all of this, what would it look like for us to be those who “provoke/irritate/disturb” one another toward Love? There may be as many responses as there are people – which is why we need so many beautifully different and complex members/parts of one Body in Christ. But as the author urges, we get a sense that this isn’t something that will happen accidentally or inadvertently. This is something we must be purposeful about.

Several years ago, I was serving on a mission trip to Joplin, Missouri. We had a great time, and I believe we were a small part of blessing the community as they recovered from seriously damaging tornados. We cleared debris, demolished unsafe homes, and prayed together over the area. When we came home, and the dust settled, I realized I’d brought home a souvenir from all our work outdoors – scabies. I’ll let you google how horrible these little bugs can be on your own (it’s disgusting), but I’ll sum it up by saying: It was an itch I could not leave unscratched. Those little bugs burrow and irritate in ways I’d never experienced before. I have pretty strong will-power when it comes to mosquitos, but the irritation level of these things had me near tears, desperate for relief.

This is what came to mind as I prayed over Hebrews 10:24. How irritating are we being in the direction of Love? Does our presence, and do our words have such an impact on those around us, others cannot help but respond in a Loving way?

Special Note: This does not mean we go around like flower children, always smiling and handing out dandelions (although I love smiles and dandelions). Sometimes to Love someone (in the way of Christ, who is the living revealing of Love) means to invite uncomfortable examine in the gracious presence of the Holy Spirit that provokes actual Love, instead of the fluffy stuff our world sometimes misinterprets as Love.

So there you go. Where/how can you be more irritating this week? Would you pause for a moment even now, inviting the Holy Spirit to think with you over the past 24 hours – and how you may have provoked others in thought or emotion?

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Posted in Spoken Word

Matthew 24:36-44

Matthew 24:36-44

Lord, when You finally come return
Fully revealing Your redemptive plan
When all of creation, swallowed by Love
Including every woman and man

Up until that day, none will be counting
As if they’re knowing the date
Some will have lost all awareness
Yet You call us to actively wait

There will be a disturbing encounter
Love itself meets those living opposed
All false selves will be dissolved as You come
All Truth is then fully exposed

May we be those who remain in Your coming
Love, the very mode of our being
Not blinded by the glory of Your Lordship
Well practiced in such ways of seeing

Make us so aware of Your coming
That here even as we await
We are not those slumbering or watching clock
But those who actively participate

You’ve begun to arrive by Your Spirit
By the ways You’ve already revealed
May we not remain desperate for healing someday
But come as those now being healed

Posted in Uncategorized

“We are making pianos.”

“In the third chapter (of 1 Thessalonians) Paul prays, “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love, one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you : to the end He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father.” He is not praying for something that has been done or for something to be done for unconverted souls, nor for something that is impossible to have done now. And in the fifth chapter he is still praying for the same thing, and that it may be done now. We give you Scripture texts that need not the least twisting or turning to bring them to bear upon this subject. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.”

This doctrine is not of man, but is taught in the wondrous words of the Son of God, when He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with an thy heart, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself,” and is taught in the catechism: “The chief end of man upon the earth is to glorify God, that he may enjoy Him forever.” Amen.

Noiselessly, stone upon stone, grew this great temple of God, built of stones made ready before they were brought. “There was neither hammer, nor ax, nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was building.” So is the house on high built of “lively stones,” ”a holy priesthood,” the eternal temple of our God. But the quarry is not a quiet place. There is heard the sound of hammers and chisels. There drills are ringing, and workmen shouting and running and sweating. There goes a blast, and there a great ledge of rock comes thundering down. The quarry is a place of business, and there is the noise and whirl of eager activities, as souls are excavated and fitted for the symmetries and the symphonies of heaven.

A man who had never heard a piano before was so thrilled and enraptured with the wondrous melody that he started off to find the piano factory, expecting there to be ravished by the many, mingling strains of music. But he found only the whirl and buzz of machinery, the rasping sound of saws, the clatter of hammers, the patter of hurrying feet, and dust, and din, and stroke, and shout, with which the work went on. Wait a while; nor chide the din and rush and shout; we are making pianos.

But these “lively stones” after they brought into line, are to be polished. A short time since they were shapeless hard-heads or rough boulders of granite. You can see your features reflect in the massive pillars that rise in front of the court house in Chicago.

God polishes with life’s tests and trials until His saints shine.” – Vivian Dake

These words were just a small part of a message preached by Vivian Dake, Free Methodist founder of the Pentecost Bands in the later 1800’s, as he spoke at a Presbyterian church in Attica, IN. These “Bands” of 4 young men or women were being sent out all over the United States, Europe, and Africa. One of the “Pentecost Bands” of young women sent out by Dake in 1889 was a vital part of founding the Free Methodist Church here in Champaign, IL (originally in Urbana, IL, 1890). Led by Rena Brown, what they found here in Urbana was a famine, as mentioned in Amos 8:11, “Not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.

We pray that our lives can be used by God to protect against such a famine returning.  Not only that the words of Scripture would be read aloud & heard, but may they be lived out and actively transforming lives by the power and New Creation Life of the Holy Spirit – setting all people free from that which wounds and oppresses, bringing healing and redemption as it bears fruit for the Kingdom of Jesus.

To read more of the life, ministry, and writings of Vivian Dake, click here.