I can only imagine how the disciples and the extended family of Christ followers felt sitting in a poorly lit room 7 weeks after Jesus ascended into Heaven. They probably felt defeated and completely drained of all hope. When you think about it, the only instruction they had was to “go back to Jerusalem” and pray. This would have naturally seemed counterproductive, but then again they have seen amazing things happen because of time spent in desperate prayer. But…Jesus was gone now…and it seemed unlikely that anything memorable was going to happen.
They remembered the good ‘ol days when just 12 disciples and their supernaturally gifted rabbi healed, preached, and interacted with individuals with the obvious power and authority of Yahweh. 12 followers grew into thousands of families who longed to be affected by this man who seemed to fulfill all the requirements of the long-awaited Messiah.
The remnant of followers reorganized themselves and scraped together the last set of believers to pray as instructed. Then, something amazing happened. The Holy Spirit came and empowered this marginally talented bunch of commoners and the masses came to faith in Jesus. They simply prayed and then were faithful to what God led them to do. Each person had a role and a small amount of people impacted the world. The events of Pentecost in Acts 2, created a domino effect that has changed the course of history. God’s power was shown and people repented of their sin. The world was beginning to reconcile with the Creator; one person at a time.
There have been 2 movies lately that have impacted my view of God’s call on my life. They have been used as an illustration for my divine purpose.
The first movie is Schindler’s List. If you have ever seen that movie, you know that the main character, Oskar Schindler saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during the brutal reign on Adolf Hitler in World War II. He spent all of his wealth to employ these men, women, and children from death at the hands of the Nazi party. At the end of the movie, Schindler was stricken with grief because he realized there were still things he could have sold to have the money to rescue more Jews. He could have sold his car, his gold lapel pin, etc.
The second movie is a newer one; Hacksaw Ridge. In this movie, Desmond Doss (who was a conscientious objector in World War II) was a medic who saved many men who were injured on the battle field. He single handedly dragged these men and lowered them down a cliff face to safety. Some estimate that he saved over 100 people (true story). While his hands, back, and arms ached heavily as he lowered them to where they needed to be, Doss kept repeating a simple prayer to help him gain strength. “Lord, just one more”, he said over and over. He wanted to save people so desperately, and he knew he didn’t have the strength to do it on his own. He wanted to rescue “just one more”.
There is a theme running through these scenarios. God has shown me that my purpose in life is not to put more butts in church seats, but to help create a traffic jam at the gates of Heaven. I have fervently prayed that God will give me “just one more” person to minister to, and impact for the gospel of Jesus Christ. My heart’s desire is to see people transformed by Jesus. I know I can’t do this on my own, but I can do what I have been told to do.
Can you pray that prayer with me? Can you pray that God will continue to put people in my path to love, serve, and grow with?
If you follow Jesus…I will pray the same for you.
Love you all.
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. –Ephesians 2: 4-7
Have you ever wanted to be rich? I mean, filthy rich? We have heard this phrase so many times, and I don’t know about you but, when I hear this phrase, I picture Scrooge McDuck (remember Ducktales?) swimming in a giant silo filled with coins. Many of us wouldn’t mind never having to worry about bills, and having enough left over to indulge our desires…within reason.
The Bible is very clear about this attitude. We can gather all of the material stuff possible, and the blessing that would result would not even compare to the value we find in a relationship with Christ. Also, we can read that all of the righteousness we can produce is like “filthy rags” to God…because a life lived independently of God’s resourcing is a life that is severely lacking in momentum.
So, when we read this excerpt there is something shocking that jumps off the page. Considering the deep deficit we begin with…the rejection of God, the disobedience, and overall spiritual infidelity, it is amazing to see that an acceptance of God’s mercy and salvation is an act that completely fills this void. It not only fills this void, but there is so much overflow the apostle Paul describes the amount as “incomparable”. This means that there is no quantity of any other substance that can equally be compared to this resource.
It is a relaxing thing to know that God loves us so much that we have immediate and continuous access to this abundance. Not only that, but it is relaxing to know that it is okay to accept it. I know that sounds crazy, but I think there are many people who have a barrier up when it comes to accepting God because they feel so terrible about their past. They feel they should be disqualified from grace, and misery is a punishment well suited for their sorrow.
God is offering His riches to you. More than you could ever imagine. It is okay to be free.
What does God see when He looks down at me?
Does He view my attempts at prosperity?
Does He notice when I try to set myself free?
or insult Him with my “praise”.
When I enter His house with a scowl on my face…
When I hope others will be put in their place…
When I simply reject His unfailing grace…
and it all results in malaise.
Does He see the condition of my hurting heart?
Does He desire, for me, a brand new start?
Do I have a purpose; do I have a part?
is living this life something that pays?
While I do not pretend to know His thoughts
It is easy to connect the dots
my stomach tends to turn in in knots
when attempting to navigate this maze
He loves us; it is easy to see
He showed us through a death on a tree
Christ’s life can set us free
and save us from this phase
So give your life to the one who cares
ignore the scowls, the words, the stares
leave a legacy for your heirs
and surrender the rest of your days.
I have a few favorite restaurants in Indianapolis. Sometimes, which one I go to depends on what type of mood I am in or what sounds good in the moment. Several weeks ago, I went for a quick bite to eat at an Indian place that I have been to many times before…I was in the same location, and the decorations were also the same as before, but this time there was something different. I couldn’t really verbalize why it I thought things were changed, but I could tell because I had been there many times before. I recognized the difference in service and the slight change in product offered.
I have experienced this same feeling when going to different types of businesses. The facility looks the same, but the quality of customer service and variety of products available is noticeably different. All of these experience had one thing in common…they were under new management.
The fact is when a business is under new management the implication is this change is for the better. For the sake of argument…let’s just say this is true :). Whether this is true or not…there is definitely a difference in the quality of care that you receive.
When we surrender our hearts to Christ we are under new management. The fact that there is a new manager also tells the world that the quality of care and the “product” will be drastically different. God changes the way we operate. This change is not a result of legalistic rules and rituals, but a direct reflection of who is leading us.
God’s plans are much better than the ones we have created. When we put our lives in His hands, we find out there is a long-lasting joy and peace that can only be supplied by Him. God does not force His way upon us…but if we give ourselves to Him fully we are telling Him that all we have is His to use.
Today, pray that God will use you for HIs plan…..not the plan that we have created and told Him to bless.
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“Pastor, I just got off the phone with Jim and he said that he wasn’t going to come to church on Sunday because he is going to a party on Saturday night. You need to preach about commitment and the importance of church.” As a pastor, this is actually a conversation I have had…well some small details were changed to protect the innocent, and to keep the guilty from getting mad.
This short conversation brings up a great set of questions. Should the pastor choose sermon topics based on what he/ she finds irritating? Admittedly, it does irritate pastors when the subject they give their lives for is given a very low priority to other people. This is true in all other “industries” as well though. I may not be a fan of animals, but there are people in this world who dedicate their lives to fighting animal cruelty and pet adoption. Also, should pastors be the spiritual police of their congregations?
Many people have the view that pastors preach based on the counseling sessions or conflicts they have had with members earlier that week…or it could be a passive-aggressive way of calling someone out on their behavior (that’s what blogs are for). The art of proclamation of the gospel is far too valuable for actions such as this.
Pastors do not (should not) use the pulpit as a time of corporate police action or venting about irritation. A pastor should not be looked at as the “King/ Queen of the church” and preaching, their decrees. Pastors, who are called by God to proclaim the Gospel, are to teach Christ crucified, and every known variation of that subject and its implications. The pastor can never run out of material with this as their guide.
Now, pastors are called to address cultural issues and lead people in the direction of abundant life…but we are not the gatekeepers of salvation.
Far too many pastors are looked at as spiritual dictators. We live for Christ…because He died for us. We don’t toe the line so that we stay in the pastor’s good graces.
Lately I have been reading the gospels and reflecting on what it truly means to follow Jesus. Some would cite social action and others would emphasize careful study and prayer. We can all agree that both of these are needed…and abundantly so (James 2:17). Even surpassing these things, however is a task that is even more difficult. It is something that we must cling to in order to combat the negativity that the world is throwing at us. It is something that gives an answer to the doubting spirit and energy to the weathered soul. We find examples of what this concept is in the descriptions of who followed Jesus.
We all may know about the 12 disciples. These men followed the Savior for the full length of His ministry. What about the other followers described in the Gospels? Well, when we look at Scripture we find that, over the course of His ministry, Jesus gained a large following. People flocked to him as they witnessed and heard about great miracles that he had performed. They followed after Jesus touched them and commanded them to walk when walking had never been a possibility. Mute people gained the ability to tell stories of His good works. People followed Jesus because of the great things He had done for them and the eloquent words that He spoke.
But… what about the disciples? When Jesus called them to follow, He had never done anything for them. He had not given them a healing touch or had never preached an exciting message to gain their applause. He just simply said “follow me”. So, the concept that needs to be grasped is obedience for obedience sake.
I don’t know about you but I want to be one of the twelve. I want to follow Jesus through the exciting, boring, everyday, and extraordinary. Not only because He has done so much for me…but simply because He said “follow”.