Tag: Paul

People don’t have enough cheerleaders…

DSC_0527People don’t have enough cheerleaders, but they have plenty of critics. I’ve found the difference is really a choice a person makes. We can choose act as a cheerleader or we can choose act as a critic. In our hyper-critical church world, the choice is often to be a critic.

Biblical love is HARD!
Practicing 1 Corinthians 13 love, or Philippians 4:8-9 is HARD! How hard is it to trust and believe all things? Just by saying that the ‘Yeah, but’ crowd starts bubbling up about discernment or sin. Truth does not trump love nor love truth. How can I assume the best knowing that many are [insert the worst possible stereotype you can think of here]? Because that is what the Bible instructs me to do. After all, love is the more excellent way. Excellence is hard, messy and an intentional choice.

Act don’t react
Cheerleading is an intentional act, criticism is a reaction. Cheerleaders promote what they are FOR. Critics promote what they are AGAINST. Cheerleaders see what’s wrong, but push for what’s best. Critics see what is wrong, and push what is wrong. Cheerleaders praise in public and criticize in private. Critics criticize in public and (maybe) praise in private, hedged with said criticism. Cheerleading is hard because there are things seen that are frustrating. Criticism is easy because it is easier to destroy instead of build up. Cheerleaders trust God. Critics play God. What are you FOR?

Yeah, but the truth must be stated, right?
Promoting what you are for is stating truth. The statement “telling the truth is the most loving thing you can do” often puts truth above love. Think of it this way: out of the heart the mouth speaks. If I speak truth critically instead of lovingly, there is a theological error in my heart. We act based on what we believe. The ‘Yeah, but’ Crowd often speaks truth out of theological error.

God is God and we’re not
Paul didn’t mind his critics judging him or his motives. Why? Because God does. In fact, Paul didn’t even bother to judge himself for the same reason. Paul didn’t mind preachers making a name for themselves. Why? Because the Gospel was still being proclaimed. Paul didn’t go nuclear on false teaching in the Ephesian church. WHAT!? Paul sent Timothy to to instruct false teachers and bring them inline with the Bible. Cheerleading is a patient, long-suffering work that “GOD may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth…”

The bottom line:
I choose to be a cheerleader rather than a critic. Praise in public, criticize in in private. Cheerleading is about building up. It is not being naive about faults. Cheerleading is recognizing the value of one’s strengths that we can learn from. The Holy Spirit is really good at his job. He will accomplish his task of making people Christlike. Keep what you are for as the main thing. Promoting such naturally and patiently deals with the things you are critical of.

How long would you wait?

14 years is a long time. I can’t imagine being told I was to do something and then have to wait 14 years to make it happen. Paul waited 14 years or more before he engaged in aggressive evangelism. I define aggressive evangelism as church planting. No doubt Paul was sharing the good news and establishing himself. But 14 years is a long time.

Paul was well trained, he was smart, he was one fine-looking Jew. He waited. Out of the gate he could defined the Gospel and his teacher was Jesus Himself. He still waited. Paul likely started his church planting efforts as an old man.

So, why bring this up? Too often we’re impatient. Here is the take away:

1) Paul remained faithful and continued to pursue doing ministry where he was at.

2) Being established does mean something in a church. There is often a gap between being called and serving, and the gap is important.

3) Humility is a key theme in Paul’s writings. It’s possible it was a key thing God was working on before sending Paul.

4) Even after a long wait, God did some incredible things through Paul in God’s timing.

Ministry is a marathon. Don’t be afraid of a gap in time. Be faithful and God in His timing will send you on mission.

One more thing… Just cause you’re nearing “retirement age” doesn’t mean God is done with you!

Runaway Bride…

Marriage paints a vivid picture of Christ’s love for the church. Paul’s uses the marriage relationship to teach about the church at the end of Ephesians 5. Too often this passage is addressed to marriage. While Paul agrees and consents to this, it is not the point he is making! Paul is describing the passionate unity between Christ and the community of those who believe and follow in Him.

I do not believe Song of Songs describes Christ love for the church, but the book describes what marriage love looks like. Love is not a feeling or a vain emotion. It runs deep.

“Put me like a seal over your heart, Like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, Jealousy is as severe as Sheol ; Its flashes are flashes of fire, The very flame of the LORD.” ~ Song of Songs 8:6

Church is not trivial
Jesus died for His church… We forget this. While he died for you and me as people, He died for his church. He loves His church, and in giving Himself up for her, the church became a key purpose. Church is not a club, program, theological sub-point, intangible philosophical idea or a spiritual option. The church is the center of Christ’s attention. He gave Himself up for her.

Church is not ready
Jesus purposefully gave Himself up for the church. Paul describes the process of cleansing, purifying and readying the church. Getting ready with an aim for perfection is not an overnight task. Jesus’ sacrifice aimed at perfecting the church, and presenting the church blameless. Put another way, Jesus is aware of what is going on, but He isn’t giving up until the bride is ready.

Church is not leftovers
Jesus views the church as He views Himself. We do not have the mental capability to wrap our minds around this. Jesus is not drill sergeant Bob with a cigar in mouth shouting at us to drop and give him 20 as He pushes us to become a fine sanctified unit. Jesus doesn’t worry about His glory and, oh yeah, also the church. Jesus cherishes and nourishes the church. It is a picture of love and tenderness.

Church is Christ’s
Jesus will become one with His bride. What or how this will look, I do not know. Paul states that “this mystery is great.” Jesus paid for the church, Jesus purified the church, and Jesus will be with His church. Jesus did not, does not, nor will He treat the church as trivial or as leftovers. Jesus knows there is still work to be done, but He hasn’t given up. Love runs deep.

The bottom line:
Rather than runaway, maybe we need to wash up and finish getting ready. Church is elusive to us. With the alarming number of young people leaving the church, perhaps we need to look back at what the church is and should be as a starting point. For sure, we need curb the criticism of church. I’m not saying we ignore things, but the tone needs changing. We need to view church as Christ does. To claim following Christ, but harbor disdain for the church misses the mark. Perhaps people and culture treat the church as trivial, as dirty and leftovers because we do. Perhaps its time we medicate on what Paul is actually communicating via marriage in Ephesians 5.

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!