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

are we willing to be unnamed?

In one of this weeks’ lectionary passages, we find the story of the prophet Elisha being used by God to anoint Jehu the next King over Israel (2 Kings 9). But he doesn’t go anoint Jehu himself. He calls one of the prophets who serve with him, and sends him to do it. He tells him to hurry, and communicates the urgency of the situation. Once Jehu has been anointed, he tells the prophet, he must run away quickly as well. Which makes sense – if you’re anointing a new king while another king still seems to be on the throne – you should get a safe distance away, quickly.

This is an important moment in the history of God’s people, as He begins to bring judgment on them for straying so far. There are difficult moments of restoration ahead. But here in these passages, we hear the foreshadowing of Jesus being welcomed as the new king in Jerusalem, even while other powers still seem to reign (Matthew 21:8). 2 Kings 9:13 pictures Jehu’s fellow officers throwing their cloaks under his feet as he walked, proclaiming & welcoming him as the new king.

It was such an important moment. It was included in the stories we have, that were passed down for generations. We tell the story of the prophet still today, as he obeyed Elisha for what he had been called to do. No big fuss was apparently made, even though this would have been a dangerous mission. If caught, he would likely face accusations of treason, if he survived long enough to do so. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons the name of the prophet wasn’t passed on in the story.

Today, God continues to invite us to speak and live according to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We are empowered by His Holy Spirit in ways that bear fruit (Galatians 5) that is useful for doing so. This is not as we strive to “discover what is already within us”, as popular as that may sound today. This happens as we abide in Jesus, who is the vine from which the fruit of the Spirit arrives (John 15:5). We may be the branches who bear fruit – but the life of that fruit did not, and could never originate within us. Bearing such fruit is often subversive, as the ways of the Jesus’ Lordship are so often at odds with the ways of this world. Sometimes that means we should do our part, and get out of the way quickly as God continues His work.

There are times God calls individuals to be named in ways that reveal His glory within their particular story. When Jesus healed the man who’d been possessed by demons in Mark 5, he told him to go and share his story. Because of their relationships and knowledge of the man – “everyone marveled” at what Jesus had done.

But sometimes, as in today’s passage, we only know what is necessary. Someone was obedient. Someone responded to what they were called to do and because of it, the purposes of God were advanced in important ways.

Are we willing to be that “someone” today, who lives in response to the Love and Lordship of Jesus, even if they don’t get credit? Will we bear fruit for the kingdom, offering what grows – even if those who consume will only offer credit to the vine – not the branch?

May we live today in ways that proclaim the name of the King, no matter what that means for our own name…

Posted in Spoken Word

Revelation 3:1-6

To the messenger in Sardis
From Jesus, Lord of all
He who holds all in His hands
And lifts us when we fall

Lord, You know what we have done
Yet doing is not living
Your words examine our remains
For anything You’re giving

You call us out from sleeping clothes
Awaken from our slumbers
Come and strengthen what remains
Free from what encumbers

Our works are fully incomplete
Offered in our own strength
We know the depth, Lord, of Your grace
Show us now the length

May we be called “Alive” by You
Not only by consumers
May Your Kingdom come today
Not only songs and rumors

We hear your Word, attentive ears
Humbled to confession
We will conquer, not by works
But by Your intercession