Posted in Different Scriptures, Different Thoughts

powerfully weak.

In prayer with my friend and pastor this morning, we were challenged by these words of A.W. Tozer: “Part of the successful operation of that (unhealthy) church depends upon (those) with business talents and part of it depends upon (those) with natural gifts as salesman and politicians. I say that a Christian congregation can survive and often appear to prosper in the community by the exercise of human talent and without any touch from the Holy Spirit! All that religious activity and the dear people will not know anything better until the great and terrible day when our self-employed talents are burned with fire and only that which was wrought by the Holy Ghost will stand forever! Through His Spirit, God is waiting and willing to do for us or for any church what He waits to do for the entire Body of Christ!

It is a generous mystery, this dichotomy we’re invited to enter into.

On one hand, God has given us each gifts for ministry to be used for His Kingdom. If you’ve never discovered what yours could be, check out this easy test that highlights the 5 primary ways Jesus has gifted people to serve the Church. It’s good for us to discover where all our strengths are, and to be faithful stewards of the gifts God has given us. Part of the important work we do as a church is helping each person to discover how they’re gifted, and how they can join the Kingdom of God being revealed, proclaimed, and experienced. I also believe each of our homes, and each of our local congregations are gifted and shaped in particular ways to reflect and offer the healing presence of Jesus to our neighbors and our communities/world.

On the other hand, we have examples in both scripture and real life where people proclaim/experience God using their weakest areas in order to bring Him glory and do transformational work for the Kingdom. Where we are weak, we are forced to depend completely on the Holy Spirit for empowerment, instead of getting by on our own natural talents/abilities. As Paul writes to the church in Corinth: “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

So what should we do? Perhaps we could have a season of investigating our weaknesses, and invite everyone to serve only in those areas to ensure we’re always depending on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to arrive? Obviously not.

But we can purposefully seek practices of humility that invite us to both confess our desperate need for God, while offering our brokenness to God in ways that invite His perspective and redemptive use for the Kingdom. We should regularly be seeking ways to empower others and listening for God through them, instead of assuming God only wants to do what He has done through those He has already used. We should be willing to invite new people into service in ways that offer grace to experimenting with new skills – as a way of affirming our dependence on the One who must be our foundation and guide.

One thing the pandemic offered us, was a chance to strip back all the “extras”, and examine why we do what we do. Many have already lamented that the church, anxious to return to what was, may have missed an invitation and opportunity to be revived in ways we cannot on our own strength. What are the foundations of who we are, and what we’re seeking to accomplish as we gather, and as we are being sent out each week? Perhaps it’s good for us to completely “unplug” or “re-arrange” what seem to be our natural talents/resources on a regular basis – to light a candle, pause in silence, and orient ourselves in the presence of a God who promises He will always be found by those who seek.

What might that look like in your life today?

What might it look like if we sought such empowerment together, confessing by prayer and fasting that our own appetites and abilities to feed them will never reach that which God pours out freely?

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Posted in Different Scriptures

1 John 4:1-6

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world.

Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (NRSV)

Here is how we know a false prophet
Or if in the mirror, one be
If they would speak not of Jesus
Or aim not His Kingdom to see

If they come saying “look toward this worry”
Or even “look here at this peace”
If such things have nothing of Jesus
Let all that is said, be released

If someone has a spirit denying
Jesus or the Kingdom He brings
Such a spirit, you’ve already conquered
Worry not, of such earthly things

For the One who is in you is greater
For in Christ, what you say comes from God
The world will to the world listen
The deceived will find the Truth odd

Yet before we start pointing fingers
May we listen to what words we live
Is our life being shaped by this Jesus
Or is it lip service we give?

Easily we could become a false prophet
The spirit of error so followed
Lord help us today, to live by the Love
Of Your body and blood we have swallowed

Posted in Different Scriptures, Uncategorized

submitting to Freedom

In reading of Paul and Silas in jail recently (from Acts 16), I was drawn to pay attention to part of the story happening in the background. The narrative we often celebrate are Paul and Silas, in chains and imprisoned right after being stripped/beaten/flogged. In the midst of singing hymns to God (v. 25), a violent earthquake shakes the foundations so that all the doors are opened and chains unfastened. What a miracle! The jailer enters the scene assuming the worst, and is thankful to discover Paul and Silas and the others are all still there! He’s drawn to Jesus, becomes a believer, and his entire family is baptized as they enter this new community of “The Way”. The story continues forward after that.

Mamertine Prison, Rome – Just one of the places Paul spent time imprisoned

But looking back over those moments there’s a story within, we often overlook. There in that prison were other prisoners, even though we’re not sure their number or the crimes they committed. We can assume there are some in the prison who deserve to be there. Yet when the earthquake happens and the chains and doors are unfastened – everyone remains. Why might that be?

For that answer, we look back to verse 25, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

I remember sitting in the waiting area of a doctor’s office on our honeymoon (we both had tonsillitis, yuck). As I waited for Sarah, I met an older man and we began to talk. He had served the country in combat, and was telling me a story of his escape from a POW camp in Germany. I didn’t know him that well, but I was riveted. I would have listened for hours.

I imagine the fellow prisoners surrounding Paul and Silas, seeing them beaten and suffering. I imagine their countenance as they entered the prison – genuinely thankful for new witnesses to share the good news with. The compassion they may have looked upon the other inmates with, even through swollen eyes. The whispers of “Have you heard??…” as rumors swirled about all the things these followers of Jesus had seen and experienced. Stories were shared, no doubt: Paul’s vision of Jesus, and work with so many churches. Silas’ prophetic words for those in the prison. The conversion of the local woman, Lydia. The other prisoners would have been transformed in hearing about Jesus, and in listening to the worship being offered in such a low place of pain and suffering. It’s a testimony to the the Holy Spirit we believe is active in these moments.

I believe the other prisoners were transformed by the witness of Paul and Silas, in ways that made them so aware of freedom in Christ, the chains and doors being unfastened seemed to make little difference to their present condition. They had already been set free in Jesus.

We’re reminded by all of these things – to be those who are willing to share our stories of God working in our lives. Speak of the hope and the peace you have, even as one who is looking honestly at our world; as one who has wounds from being hurt by it. Those around you today may have chains of bondage you’re completely unaware of, and you are able to offer freedom simply by sharing the living presence and Love of Jesus in Your words.

We’re also reminded – the story of who becomes transformed by our words may never be shared. Our world often celebrates the most compelling (or most profitable) narratives, but leaves many to be known only by those who live them. That doesn’t make such stories less important to the Kingdom. Every one of those prisoners who came to know Jesus is just as precious to God as the jailer, or Paul and Silas themselves. In fact, in the stories written down or passed on to their families and loved ones – the fact that they remained in prison that night instead of escaping -offered powerful testimony that revealed the absolute freedom Jesus offers.

Maybe that’s the message you need today also – even more than other aspects of the story. You need reminded of the Freedom we have when we come and submit all of our identity, our story, our shame, our hurts, and our joys to Jesus. It’s a freedom that transcends the momentary/temporal experiences we face. The peace of full submission to His Loving Freedom is so much more powerful than the temptation to run when we see an open door.

May we be challenged by all of this today in healthy ways. In a world that counts pageviews, book deals, and followers/subscribers, may we humbly and gladly submit our stories to being “His” story, revealing and responding to Love wherever and however we can. May we relate to all others today understanding that in life there are no “major/minor characters”, as all have become part of His redemptive narrative of Love.