Sacrificial Service: Isaiah 53

1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
English Standard Version

Manic Monday: Love, exciting and true…

Translation 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous, not bragging, not being conceited, not behaving improperly, not seeking its own, not being provoked, not calculating evil, not rejoicing in unrighteousness, but rejoicing the truth: [love] puts up with all, believes all, hopes all, bears all.

Thoughts on the passage
Paul describes the actions that love involves. Interestingly, these actions are of an emotional and attitude verbiage. Of the fifteen verbal descriptions of love, seven are stated positively, eight are described in a negative format: this is what love does, this is what love does not. More than giving a definition, Paul gives a picture of what the “fruit” of love looks like.

Each of the verbs Paul uses to describe love carries the idea of something that is ongoing, and not complete. Viewing love as a process denotes work and consistent focus. The words are fairly self-explanatory. The interesting thing is they are profoundly lacking in the Corinthian church. If “the list” is absent from one’s church or life, then love is also lacking. The verbal actions of love boil down the very definition of love: to prize, to hold as precious. If love were truly ingrained in the church, then 1 Corinthians would have been a very different book. If I prize people, if I hold God’s people as precious, it will actively demonstrated in how I interact with them. Paul defines love via its actions.

The bottom line:
Show some love

(especially on Monday)

Why I stayed in church

I’ve constantly dealt with the question of why 20’s and early 30’s were leaving the church. I never asked why I didn’t leave. Here is a first attempt at answering the question. It revolves around one key thing: God.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 1:6

Religion is a crutch
True. We do not need a crutch, we need a savior. We don’t need help or an aid, we need something that will radically change us. The biggest thing to me about the church is the Gospel. The central message of the Gospel is death to life; sin to righteousness. This isn’t found by a right of passage or a self-help crutch. It is founded on Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.

Christians are just hypocrites
True. We’re also liars, thieves, fornicators, cheats, gossips, gluttons, drunkards, murderers, slanders, etc. Funny thing is, as I look across the human experience, I see the same thing. The church isn’t made of perfect people, and if it were, we’d at least be liars according to 1 John. Church is family. We’re not perfect, but being perfect is not the point. Again, it comes down to the central message of the Gospel. Church is filled with redeemed people not perfect people.

Church doesn’t meet my needs
True. Here is the paradox of church: If everyone comes to church focused on meeting everyone’s needs, everyone’s needs gets met. Church is not about what you can get, it is about what you can give to others. Why would someone join something that is not about them is a bit crazy. This goes back to the central message of the Gospel: Jesus gave Himself on our behalf. His focus was on our needs and the Father’s will, not Himself.

The Gospel
I did not quit because I believe Jesus died and rose again. Believing this means being a part of a community of people who also hold that belief and seek to proclaim the message of death to life. The Gospel is central. Church is not about what I get, but as Jesus modeled, church is about what I give. The hardest principle to get is realizing the church is not about me, it’s about Him.

The Church
I embrace the church because it is Jesus’ most prized possession. In pursuing Christ and helping others, ultimately our own needs get met. In getting the focus off ourselves we gain depth and a spirituality that can only come from the grace of the Cross. In church we realize the greatest need of all mankind and the only solution. We’re messed up, and knowing that fully, Jesus still reached out to us.

The bottom line:
I did not quit church because Jesus did not quit on me, those in the church, or those who still have not heard the Gospel. The church isn’t perfect and neither am I, and that’s ok. Christ is the one who makes us complete and perfect. The problems of church become less and when I pursue God and help others more.

Manic Monday: Live to work?

Often we get stuck in the live for the weekend rut. God created us for work. Whether your job is what you like or not like, God placed you there.

In life group we talked through what it means to “set our minds to things above.” A key conclusion we talked about fulfilling the role God gave us in each moment He places us. It’s being who God wants us to be wherever we are.

Maybe we should change perspectives and live to work. There is huge ministry opportunity to serve and help those we connect with at work, family or wherever God places you. The weekend is a joy no doubt. But there are God sightings during the work week as well.

(especially on Monday)

Not Perfect is a Holy Thing: John Mark

Person: John Mark
Epic Fail: Desertion
God’s View: A useful man

Ever been unfaithful, quit or walked out and think God can no longer use you? STOP! God uses quitters. Being unfaithful creates significant consequences and fallout. The issue is not the sin, but in repentance. John Mark quit, but that’s not the last word.

God’s man of action
Mark wrote my favorite Gospel. As a boy I remember always being in and studying the Gospel of Mark. It described Jesus as a man of action. It’s the adventure Gospel. (As a college & seminary student Mark had a lot of action as well.) The Gospel was written to encourage and spur Christians to serving and pursuing Christ. Its abrupt ending (depending on one’s view of the last chapter) begs the question of what’s next.

John Mark served the apostolic community as well, and he contributed to the New Testament. His ministry still impacts people today. The Bible describes him as a fellow worker. He went on missionary journeys. Mark was a man of action.

Mark’s Failure
Mark was a deserter… On a missionary journey Mark deserted Paul at Pamphylia. Paul, also a passionate man of action, did not want to take John Mark on his second missions trip. This created tremendous tension between Paul and Barnabas. This caused the two great leaders to part company.

Barnabas gave Mark a second chance and took him. Paul took Silas. And, as history would have it, Mark demonstrated repentance and stood as a man of action. Quitting produces significant consequences, but it does not have to be the end.

God’s final view
Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. ~2 Timothy 4:11

Paul, who wanted nothing to do with Mark, at the end of his ministry… when he was  at the end of his life… when all were abandoning him… requested the presence of John Mark because he was useful. That is change.

This week as we looked at Not Perfect is a Holy thing, remember this key point: imperfection and sin does not have to be the last word on your life! When we see Christ face to face we will be made perfect and lacking nothing in the realm of holiness because of Christ’s work on the cross. But today… right now… as you’re reading this… you are not perfect, but in Christ you are holy!

The bottom line of Not Perfect is a Holy Thing:
Do not pursue perfection, pursue repentance. Do not make sinless your goal, but actively serving Jesus Christ. You and I will fail, we may even fail in epic ways, but that does not mean God is done with us. The moment we stop pursuing God, the moment when we stop striving for repentance that’s when we cease being holy on Earth.

The Holy man is the one who pursues a life of repentance not perfection, a life of service, not a life of ‘I’m right you’re wrong.’ The holy man lives by grace, and grace covers a multitude of sins. Our Savior is that big!