Category Archives: Christian Living

Walking With God

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There is a man in the book of Genesis, who I find very interesting. Though his life is summed up in just a few short sentences, I find in him a source of encouragement as to the walk with God we mere human beings can actually have if we’ll go for it.

I have written before about the famous quote that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. However, no matter how many of us use that quote over and over, most of us fail to cultivate a deep friendship with God that carries for more than a few days or weeks before we lose it again. Something about a lasting relationship with Him seems to be unattainable in our mountains and valley journeys of spiritual life and if we’re honest, also too mystical to actually hold real value in our daily activities. Being too heavenly minded to be of earthly good, or something like that.

The man in Genesis seems to be exactly that kind of guy, though. His name is Enoch and all that the Old Testament has to say about him is this:

When Jared had lived 162 years he fathered Enoch…When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:18-24)

It is that last sentence that I find so amazing. I mean, can you even imagine having a friendship so deep with God that one day He decides He wants you to be with Him completely, so He just pulls you out of your life and takes you away? Enoch didn’t die. He just ceased to be, at least in terms of a corporeal existence within time and space.

Enoch Got What He Wanted Most

On one hand, this story is actually kind of unnerving. In our minds there is something “not right” about the fact that God would just take you away, forsaking everything you’ve spent your life building – family, relationships, work, etc.

On the other hand, though, I love this story. See, to have the walk with God that Enoch had, it takes a lot of time and effort and passion. I honestly believe this takes more of yourself than pursuing any human relationship ever can. And yet Enoch pulled it off. He pursued a life with God above all else and he absolutely got the reward He was seeking – life with God.

With this “reward” in mind, it is interesting to read the New Testament account of Enoch’s life.

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5)

Now I do notice that this does not say he “walked with God.” Instead it says that he pleased God. But with a little word study what we learn is that the New Testament writer would have been reading the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament, the translator of which could not distinguish the idea of “walking with God” from “pleasing God” in the original Hebrew. They meant the same thing.

Why is that worth mentioning? Because after reading Enoch’s story and recounting it in verse 5, the lesson the author of Hebrews passes along is this:

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

What I find very interesting is after seeing that the reward for Enoch’s pursuit of God was the he got God without limit, the writer now tells us that “whoever would draw near to God (like Enoch) must believe… that (God) rewards those who seek Him.

like a twinkie in zombieland

Let me use one of my favorite movies as an analogy for this. In the movie Zombieland, the character known as Tallahassee, played by Woody Harrelson, has lost everything that meant anything to him in life in the zombie apocalypse and now has one driving pursuit that keeps him motivated every day. He wants a Twinkie.

Early on in the movie there is a wrecked Hostess truck on the side of the road. Hoping to find a Twinkie, Tallahassee risks a zombie attack to check it out, but when they open the truck up, a pile of Snoballs falls out all over the ground. Tallahassee was not happy about this, and goes to stomping on all of them. Why? Because if all you want is a Twinkie, a Snoball is not going to cut it.

The Reward of Your Pursuit Must Match Your Desire

Now let’s look back at our verse. “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that…He rewards those who seek Him…” There is a desire. There is a pursuit. And there is the promise of a reward. If your desire is to draw near to God and you pursue Him, what reward other than getting God Himself is going to fulfill this passion? Nothing.

When God is your ultimate desire, He will give you exactly what you are after.

Jesus Himself said this same thing.

For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:10-13)

So the ask, seek, and knock verse is not an open promise that we will receive whatever we go after in prayer. It is instead within the context of asking, seeking, and knocking to receive more of the Holy Spirit in a desire to reach a new depth in your relationship with God. And the reward is that He gives you more of Himself.

This is the same promise God made to exiled Israel in the prophecy of Jeremiah:

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Just like Enoch, I absolutely believe that when the deepest desire of our hearts and the pursuit of our lives are in seeking more of God and to have a deeper friendship with Him than we do right now, He will reward us by giving us exactly what we seek.

The question is, do you really want it?

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The Time for War

You know that point when temptation rises in your heart, and there is that uncontrollable fleshly pull – a longing, a gleeful sin-filled desire – to act on the opportunity in front of you. In that moment you know it’s wrong. You know you shouldn’t. You know the Holy Spirit is crying “No! Don’t!” Yet the old nature in you fights so strongly for that moment of fleshly fulfillment.

I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, though for every person reading this post, the temptation is something different. It may be that draw of sexual temptation or pornography. It could be that moment standing in the gossip circle with something juicy to add. It may be the desire to throw a punch, or pour another drink. The opportunity to sin is an ever-present reality for all of us, though we all struggle with different things. In fact, look around. Right now you may be in what you consider a completely benign situation, yet someone around you in the same situation is in the middle of a temptation you can’t even imagine.

The question is, why, in that moment of temptation, is it so easy for us to give into the flesh and go for it? Why, all-too-often, do we so easily give up our firm stance to the enemy, and fall?

One story in the Bible that I think speaks so much to this spiritual reality is the story of King David and Bathsheba.

“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her…” (2 Samuel 11:1-4)

This temptation and sin of David, as we know, led to further sin on his part; even the death of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, in an attempt to cover what he had done.

Now in reading this story, for any honest guy, we can understand David’s problem. Lust creeps up so easily on us. I want to believe David was on the roof of his house doing his Kingly duties; thinking about some strategy for his next military conquest, or even in prayer for God’s guidance through the day. But then out of nowhere he is blindsided by a beautiful, naked woman nearby, and he looks. That’s all it takes for those moments of temptation to hit us. A glance. A situation out of our hands. A thought. A small taste of the forbidden fruit. And way more than most of us would care to admit, in the same way as David, we too fall.

Changing the Scenario

Now, while I fully understand the situation David found himself in, I don’t think the scenario had to play out that way. I see two glaring problems in this story that add up the David’s fall into sin. And I think these two issues are the same issue too many of us find ourselves facing when temptations come our way as well.

The first issue is David’s recklessness with his God-given identity. God had anointed David and called him as King. David also heard the voice of God and was known as a prophet. He was called to be the Man of God at the head of God’s people. And he knew this. He knew what the anointing carried, because many times in the book of 1 Samuel we see David refuse to kill King Saul because of that anointing on him. Yet in a brief lapse in his judgement, David threw away all notion of the life and responsibility of being the Lord’s anointed for a few moments of sinful pleasure. David fell because he forgot who he was in God.

The second issue is that David wasn’t where he should have been. Verse 1 above says, in “the time when kings go out to battle… David remained in Jerusalem.” When as the head of God’s people, David should have been leading God’s people into battle, David did not go to war. Notice, he didn’t excuse anyone else from going to war. He sent them all to the battle. He knew the battle was necessary, but he did not think it necessary for himself to be engaged in. It is in his not going to battle, that David finds himself in the situation where the temptation could even arise. David fell because he neglected to go to war.

What about us?

I said I think these two issues apply to us, but how? I mean none of us have been anointed as King or the head of God’s people. None of us have been called to a physical war with the enemies of God. Our situation is quite different from David’s, right?

Well not so fast.

First off, though it is true that you are not the King of God’s people, it doesn’t change the fact that as God’s child, you are royalty. We are children of the King and heirs to the Kingdom of God. As such, we have an anointing on our lives that carries expectations and responsibilities that those outside the Kingdom do not have.

Secondly, we are called to battle. We are to be both warring against the desires of the flesh and the works of the devil. As the church collectively we are to be engaging and plundering the gates of hell. The people of God and His Kingdom have an enemy, and now is the time for war.

I would contend then that when the moment of temptation comes so strongly on our hearts and we fall it is because we, like David, have neglected these two things. We don’t stand firm in our identity as royalty in God’s Kingdom, and therefore do not see the dangers in giving in to momentary pleasure. And for too many, we have never even entered the spiritual battlefield. We think that all that “spiritual warfare” stuff is only for the spiritual elites – the pastors or missionaries overseas. We don’t deny the fact that spiritual warfare is a real thing. But most of us just don’t think we are called to that battle too much of the time.

If I were to put into the scriptural phrasing what I think happens to us too often, it would be this:

In the time of temptation, the time when children of the King go out to battle… we don’t go to the fight.

We fall because we don’t grasp who we are, or the fact that the battle is ours.

It’s time for War.

If you have given your life to Christ and believe you are saved by His grace, it is time for you to go deeper into this thing than having just having said a prayer in sunday school as a kid.

You are royalty. You are seated in heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:6) and have access to all the resources of Heaven. And you are called to the battlefield.

Stop playing the victim to sin. Stop acting like you can’t do anything about it. Get up from your non-engaging life, accept who you are in Christ, and take up arms. It’s time for God’s Children to go to war. Welcome to the fight.

Boasting in God’s Amazing Grace

As I have been thinking on the subject of grace and the forgiveness of God for our sins through the cross of Christ, I am becoming more and more aware that all-too-often, we as believers forget just how amazing it really is.

Now, I know that you know that we are completely forgiven of all sins – past, present, and future. And you know what it took to get that forgiveness – the brutal murder of the sinless Son of God. None of us purposely downplay those things, because as followers of Christ, we stake our life and eternity on these things.

What I mean to say is that if you are like me, you probably tend to look at grace as a daily occurrence of forgiveness whenever you fall to sin, rather than as an unending flow that covers you all the time. For instance, right now, think of that one sin that always knocks you down, brings so much self-condemnation, and seems to cut off your relationship with God until you repent and get back on your feet. Usually, we are not even aware of grace at the point of sin or during the self-loathing. We usually don’t realize that grace is for us until we come to the point of repentance.

But what if that isn’t the extent of grace? I mean, what if the bible teaches that grace covers more than just your big sins, or sins you’re aware of? What if all of those little hateful thoughts you never spoke, or that little piece of gossip you delighted in at work actually offends God as much as the big sins you feel knock you down? What if God’s free grace covers that as well, whether you realize it or not? I believe it does.

Let’s go a little further. What if it isn’t even the things we call sin, that grieve the heart of God? What if sometimes, even the good things we accomplish and pride ourselves in can offend God? What if our self-glorification in obedience and well-doing are the same in the eyes of God as those sins we loathe in ourselves?

That sounds ridiculous, right? Well… The bible may not think so.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12 and Proverbs 16:25)

This word for “right” in the Hebrew translates as righteous or upright. It means there is a way that seems honorable, but is not.

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. (Isaiah 64:6)

The Hebrew here for “polluted garment” is speaking of a woman’s menstrual cloth. To God, even the good deeds we do outside of walking in the Spirit and being led by Him is  that disgusting.

And for good measure here is one more, in which Paul is discussing all of his righteous acts prior to meeting Christ. He did everything the law requires, but of those things he says this.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish (Hebrew word for feces), in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. (Philippians 3:8-9, parenthesis mine)

Now, I don’t say any of this to bring condemnation on you or to make you feel down. This is the condition of all humanity. Theologically we call it “total depravity.” It carries the idea that, contrary to the world’s opinion of itself, people are inherently sinful.

What this does for the believer, though, is that we get to join with the Apostle Paul, as we glorify God and boast of only in His grace.

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31)

This week my challenge to you is that you look at your life, count everything as loss for the sake of knowing Christ, and let the boasting of His grace begin.

A Wonderful Parallel

I love the story of Jesus getting baptized as the Holy Spirit descends of Him and God speaks from Heaven, “You are my beloved Son, with You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). Imagine what it would be like for you if, right now, God spoke such encouraging words over you.

It isn’t long however that while spending some alone time with His Father, fasting and praying in the wilderness, Jesus finds himself tempted by the devil. Probably not surprisingly, it is the last thing God spoke over Jesus that is the first thing the enemy tries to rob from Him. “If you are the Son of God..,” the temptation begins.

This isn’t just a temptation to sin. This is a challenge to His identity. If this challenge succeeds, then the plan for our salvation would fail. But Jesus resists the enemy, and because of this victory, where the Bible says he walked into the wilderness “led by the Spirit” (Luke 4:1), he now returns “in the power of the Spirit” (4:14).

Identity enables purpose

From here, after He has stood firmly in who He is, the next thing we read in the story is that Jesus walks into the Synagogue in Nazareth, stands up to read from the book of Isaiah, and finds these words.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

After reading these words, Jesus rolls up the scroll, sits down, and essentially says “I know who I Am. You want to know who I Am? I Am the fulfillment of this prophecy. Messiah is here.” The personal realization of His identity as the Son of God, enabled Him to publicly accept His role in life.

At first the crowd is confused and amazed at his teachings, but the amazement fades as they realize the identity He is claiming is different from the one they know. To them, Jesus is only the carpenter’s son. They grow angry and eventually try to kill Him over this issue.

I can’t help but wonder, if Jesus had not been confident in the Word of His Father, would He have ever had the courage to stand before men and accept His destiny? Had the enemy not challenged Him privately, would Jesus have claimed His anointing publicly? I can’t answer those questions, because there is too much behind the scenes that we don’t know. But what I can say is that I find here a wonderful parallel between the story of Jesus and the life of every believer today.

YOU ARE MY SON!

God spoke the word over Jesus, “You are My Son.” Now while most of us haven’t heard the voice of God over us in the same way, as believers we do hang our faith on the scriptures as the Word of God. And in the scriptures we read this:

“But to all who did receive (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

The Bible says that by our faith in Jesus Christ, His death on the cross and resurrection three days later, we have been adopted by the Father, and now, just as Jesus was the Son of God, now we too are the sons and daughters of God. This is the identity we are given when we receive salvation in faith.

ARE YOU REALLY GOD’S SON?

The hard part is that just like Jesus was tempted to doubt His identity by the enemy, we too will face the same challenge. All of us will go through an identity crisis as we have to “put off the old self which belongs to the former manner of life” (Ephesians 4:22) and “present ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life” (Romans 6:13).

The temptations will always come, and it is at these times that our spiritual reality will be challenged to overcome the weakness of the flesh (Matthew 26:41). This will be a battle fought on many fronts as Jesus also said we will not be accepted by the world because we no longer belong to the world system (Matthew 10:16-25).

By faith we have to take hold of our identity as the children of God and not let the enemy, the flesh, or the world rob us of it. And the reward for standing firm is that it enables us to fulfill our destiny in Christ (Ephesians 2:10).

ANOINTED TO PROCLAIM GOOD NEWS

Jesus stood in the synagogue and declared from scripture the role God has called Him to. It was laid out plainly in the book of the prophet Isaiah. Once we understand our new identity in Him, we too can find that our mission and anointing is clearly spelled out in the scriptures as well:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:15-18)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

So do you know who you are? Are you sure enough of that to stand firm in the face of trial and temptation? Then what are you going to do with this revelation?

Would Jesus Lie?

In John 14:26, Jesus tells the disciples that, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Jesus goes on to say in John 16:7, “I tell you the truth it is to your advantage that I go away…,” which most modern Christians fundamentally disagree with. After all, if Jesus was here, things would be way better, right? And we’d know exactly how to live the Christian life because He’d show us, right? But He still says His leaving was to our advantage because, “if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.”

So Jesus said that it is to the benefit of the church that He has left the earth because He has sent the Holy Spirit in His place. This is a benefit because the Holy Spirit will not only remind us of what Jesus said, but He will teach us the full truth of the Gospel, revealing to us the Kingdom of God in fresh and deeper ways every day.

Would Jesus Lie to Us?

Now, let’s get real for a second. I don’t think there is a single person reading this who doesn’t stop for a moment and think, “Yeah, having the Holy Spirit is good and all, but I think it’d be better if Jesus were here to fix everything.” For those of us raised in the rationalist, naturalist worldview of the west, we fundamentally cannot imagine that an unseen, metaphysical presence of God is better than the physical, touchable, seeable and hearable presence of God in Christ. We are convinced that physical reality is better. So the question is, would Jesus lie to us?

In mentally resolving this issue, it can easily become a test of faith for us as our logical mind, clinging to primacy of Jesus’ physical presence, is placed against our faith in the very words of Jesus saying it’s better that He goes away.

In fact, Jesus even tells us that there are things we need to learn, but that they had to come from the unseen Holy Spirit, and not from Him directly.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak and He will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:12-13)

An Issue of Identity

I believe our desire to have Jesus with us comes from a place of misunderstanding about the identity and calling of the church. See, Jesus said He would establish the church, which throughout the rest of scripture, after Jesus’ ascension to Heaven, is called the “Body of Christ.” In essence this is saying that Jesus’ hands and feet have not left the world, but in His going and sending the Spirit to dwell within the church, His hands and feet have been multiplied millions of times over. Christ has physically left, but it is Christ’s Spirit that is now living and active in the church when we learn to follow His lead.

This is why so much of Jesus’ teaching time with the disciples was spent telling them, “This is how things work in the Kingdom…” “This is how you engage with God…” “Where is your faith?” “Don’t be afraid.” “How long will I be with you? You have to learn this…”

And it seems that when Jesus left, He really did expect that all of the things He has been doing on earth (including the crazy miracles and such) would continue on in the church, as we learned to walk by the leading of the Spirit. He even says so in John 14:12

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Yet the works that Jesus did were only the works that He saw the Father doing through the leading of the Holy Spirit:

“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19)

And the words that Jesus spoke were only the words that He heard the Father speaking through the Holy Spirit:

“The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” (John 14:10)

Claiming Our Calling

So if the church is to be the hands and feet of Jesus, active in this world, and continuing the ministry of Jesus, then the only way it’s going to happen is when we learn to pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s leading as He teaches us what to say and do.

We can no longer just passively sit back, watch the world go to hell in a handbasket, and think to ourselves, “I can’t wait until Jesus comes back and fixes this mess.”

When Jesus gave us the authority of Heaven, He was telling us that it is our job to be cleaning up this mess ourselves. We are to seek Heaven for the transformation of our world, and then be the active agents through which that change comes.

So it’s time for the church to come alive again. It’s time for the disciples of Christ go, be who God is calling us to be, and do what the Holy Spirit is leading us to do. I believe Jesus is still sending us out with the same instructions He began with:

“Go…And proclaim as you go, saying ,‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleans lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; now give without pay.” (Matthew 10:5-8)

Be On Guard

“O Timothy, GUARD the deposit entrusted to you.” – 1 Timothy 6:20, emphasis mine

“But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to GUARD until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, GUARD the good deposit entrusted to you.” – 2 Timothy 1:12-14, emphasis mine.

Paul closes his first letter to Timothy, and then quickly opens his second with this same command. “Guard what God has entrusted to you.” Now, I think this is an interesting dynamic in who wrote this letter to whom when it comes to application. Paul the Apostle wrote this to Pastor Timothy, so this could very easily be taken as a command to protect the ministry God had given the young man (and I believe that is a part of this). However, we also have Paul expressly telling Timothy to put what he learns in front of the brothers; to lead others in the Christian life by his example, and to take what he is taught and to teach others who can continue to teach others down the line (1Timothy 4:6, 11-12; 2 Timothy 2:2).

We must therefore assume that Paul expects Timothy as a Pastor to be teaching his flock to guard what God has entrusted to each of them as well. In thinking about what this means, I believe that what God has entrusted us that we must guard are things like our freedom from sin and ability to pursue holiness; being given the right to enter God’s throne room and build a strong relationship with Him, and the ability to see the fruit of the Spirit working in our lives (see Galatians 5:19-24).

Why do we need to guard these things?

The reality is that until “that Day” comes, and Jesus returns to finally, fully set up His Kingdom on earth, we live in a dark world that wants to rob from us every benefit and fruit that comes from the Gospel in our lives. The enemy will attack us on the inside by playing on our emotions and fears and by continually trying to lead us into temptation. At the same time, the world will attack us from the outside by calling us fools, mocking us, persecuting us, and making all kinds of threats and political accusations. Jesus told us to expect these things, and to be prepared to stand against them.

This is the same call Paul is making when he tells us to “guard” the gospel’s work in our lives. This is a command for us to daily do battle against the flesh, putting to death our wicked desires and pursuits of self-glorification. This is a call to engage against the attacks of the devil by devoting ourselves to cultivating a relationship with God, through the Holy Spirit, in worship and prayer.

God has entrusted us with so many benefits through the Gospel that the world and the enemy want to rob from us. This knowledge must lead us into the spiritual battle. We can’t just sit back and say, “God is in control. Whatever happens happens.” Jesus has made us stewards of the Kingdom on earth today as the Spirit lives in us, and we must stand firm against any threats to that Kingdom as one who will give an account.

I encourage you today to take stock of all the wonderful benefits the gospel offers and the fruit is has born in your life. Then I challenge you with the Apostle Paul, build up your defenses, relying on the Holy Spirit, and guard those things. Anything else is temporary. This is the one thing that matters. Don’t give them up without a fight.

Responding to Reckless Faith (A Personal Confession)

Here in Haiti, unless I have other church engagements, I have been attending Port-au-Prince Fellowship, which is an English-speaking church originally targeted (it seems to me) at the large number of expats, NGO volunteers, and foreign government workers. Today the church has a pretty balanced congregation of English-speaking Haitians and us foreigners. I love this church because I encounter God there on a weekly basis in a room full of truly diverse cultures.

Two weeks ago I invited my translator, Junior, to attend with me if he would like on a Sunday. He usually attends a Haitian church, but from what I can tell, he is not very consistent and his faith is still very shallow. That weekend he came and he really got into the worship time. Then in the sermon he gained some enlightenment on the Christian life that he had not been exposed to before, which he kept talking about all week. (I am not saying this to speak against Junior’s normal church. I don’t know it. I am speaking only of his personal lack of understanding.) This experience led him to come back again with me the next Sunday.

This time Junior was even more moved in the worship time. He was already dancing the time before, but now that he was familiar enough to be comfortable in the church, he let loose. He was more expressional with his hands. He was singing every word to every song whether he knew the tune or not. Then… he embarrassed me…

Now I say that he embarrassed me simply to be truthful. I am convinced that this is my fault as you will see, and not anything he did wrong. I was caught up in my own expectations of what should be done in church, and was in a bind on how to respond to him once this all happened.

Now, this church is what you might call “less-than-traditional.” It started for people who wanted a more contemporary style and more freedom to express themselves in worship. As you might expect, then, during the prayer time it isn’t just the pastor that prays, but throughout the congregation you hear many voices rising up asking God to meet with us. My embarrassment on Sunday came when one voice rose up louder and longer than any other during the prayer time: Junior’s.

Louder, at times, than even the pastor’s voice coming through the sound system, was Junior’s voice calling out to God in pursuit of Him. I believe his prayer was sincere, committing to follow God with His life and asking for a stronger faith and forgiveness of sin. And normally in church we love those prayers. The problem wasn’t what he was praying, but (as most American church-goers would notice) was the disruptiveness of his prayer. Apart from my own, I could also sense some impatience and agitation on the part of those seated closest to us, in front and behind.

I mean, yes, this is church so we want to meet with God. But there is still this sense that people need to have boundaries in their pursuit, even in the freedom of worship. Or is that just me?

Another Disruptive Worshipper

As I have been going through the book of Mark in my devotional time, one of my favorite stories in scripture was brought back to mind to challenge me during Junior’s prayer on Sunday. It is found in Mark 10:46-52:

And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:46-52 ESV)

As the crowds are following (pursuing?) Jesus, what we see is one voice that cries out above the rest, disruptive to what everyone else was doing. What I have always loved about this story is that when the crowd tells Bartimaeus to shut it, he refuses and cries out all the more recklessly. And the Bible says that because of his cries, “Jesus stopped” and granted his request.

What is interesting to note is that the faith of the crowd did not receive the miracle in this story. The status quo seldom does. Instead it was the faith of the one who, even obnoxiously, refused to let his requests go ignored by God.

What sticks out to me so pointedly in this story where the experience with Junior is concerned, is the fear that I have become on of the people who feels the need to rebuke and silence someone who’s worship is too disruptive for the crowd’s tolerance level. I sincerely want people to encounter Jesus, so why then would I tell them to tone down their pursuit?

To be honest, I don’t know why I felt led to write this today. Maybe it’s simply a confession that I too easily lose sight of eternal reality because I’m distracted with the here and now. Maybe it’s a warning to all of us who hold so tightly to our personal preferences that we will fight to maintain the status quo. Maybe it’s a commentary on Christian judgmentalism, even by those who decry such a thing.

For me, I think it’s a challenge. I am learning that I can either be a part of the crowd and only receive from God what the crowd receives, or I can let my faith – like Bartimaeus’; like Junior’s – get a little reckless sometimes in hopes of seeing more.

What about you? When have you been a part of the crowd, caught silencing the dissident? When have you been the one with the reckless faith and had it pay off despite being told to tone it down? I would love to hear your thoughts or stories in the comments section.