Monthly Archives: May 2014

Help Wanted ____________________

 

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In the Gospel of Luke, in chapter ten, Luke records when Jesus sent out seventy-two of his followers in pairs to the towns where he was going to visit. This is similar in some ways to when Jesus sends out the twelve disciples earlier in the book. There are, however, some differences. Jesus uses very specific words to convey the task he was setting before these individuals. Here is the passage as it is written in Luke:

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.

2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.

4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

5 “When you enter a house, first say, `Peace to this house.’

6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.

7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.

9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, `The kingdom of God is near you.’

10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,

11 `Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’

12  I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

There are a few key things that I want to focus on. First of all, Jesus sends seventy-two (some manuscripts record that there were seventy). Why seventy-two? Well, in Exodus, when Moses recognized that he could not govern the Israelites by himself, he appointed seventy judges to govern the people. This was a familiar number to the individuals Jesus was sending. Even if the actual number was seventy-two, it is estimated that there were seventy-two Gentile nations during this time period and the seventy-two were being sent out to the Gentiles. The twelve that were sent out earlier in the book were sent to the Jews. The twelve represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus knows his audience.

Second, Jesus sends them out in pairs. Why? Jesus tells them that they are being sent out as sheep among wolves. Wolves prey on weak individual sheep, or sheep that are hindered or unhealthy. There is strength in numbers. The two can provide accountability and encouragement. They can also stand against false witness. We cannot live out our Christian lives as islands. We need each other. Jesus designed ministry to be done in teams.

Third, they are told to pack light and not to waste time making small talk. There is a sense of urgency here. This mission is for the seventy-two to go into the ‘fields’ and reap the ‘harvest.’ The Kindgdom of God is near, there is no time to waste!

What is so interesting about this agricultural reference is that when the seventy-two ‘laborers’ go into the ‘harvest’ they are not simply looking for wheat or corn to stick in a basket and store away. They are reaping more laborers to help bring in the rest of the harvest.

What I always missed was that this passage is not about the harvest. That’s the easy part. What this passage is about is the laborers. The laborers were few. We are sent out to those who have not met Jesus yet. We are sent together with other believers to keep us accountable and encouraged. There is urgency and we must go. But here is the encouragement: the harvest is guaranteed. Jesus says it is plentiful. Mark Driscoll, Lead Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, refers to these ‘pre-Christians’ to be harvested as the low-hanging fruit. These are people who have already been prepped. These are not the people who are going to fight you, these are the people who have been waiting for you to invite them to church. The work has already been done, we are just called to collect what God has planted and tended to.

This is not a job we have to do. If you don’t, there will be others to come along and collect the harvest. This is a job we get to do! God is our Father and the land owner. His Son, Jesus is the seed, or the crop. The Holy Spirit is the sun and the water. We get to join in the reaping of the harvest! The reason we do this is not duty. The reason we do this is because we cannot possibly think of a better way to respond to the gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. If you are moved by duty and believe that if you DO, then you can get some reward, you are doing it wrong. There is no special formula. You can’t DO anything to earn your reward. It has been given to you already.

The seventy-two in Luke are not named. We do not know who they were. In the same way it is not about who YOU are. It is about who HE is. God does the work, we just collect the harvest. Pray for more laborers. Ask God to show you the low hanging fruit in your life and join together with the body of Christ and reap the harvest with me!

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Finding the ‘Meme’ing of it all _________________________

For those of you who are unaware, and I was among you until recently, a ‘meme’ is a picture with words printed over it to convey a short, usually funny, scenario. Google defines a meme this way: a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users. Many of these are quite funny and more often they are off-color, or not for a mixed audience. I saw one the other day that struck me on a different level. There are many memes featuring Jesus depicted in various ways. Many are rather offensive, but I have to be honest many of them make me genuinely laugh. This one in particular was one that I initially wanted to just gloss over, but I thought about what it said.

 

Becoming a parent almost four years ago has taught me a great deal about love. I never understood the love of God towards humanity fully until I had kids. What you realize as a parent is that your heart and your capacity to love expands and morphs into this incredible thing. Regardless of what my kids do, I never stop loving them. Nothing they do makes me love them more or less and I never understood how this was possible. The same goes for God. Nothing we do can earn God’s favor. He loves his children. Now, do I agree with every choice my children make? Will I ever disapprove of them? But will I ever stop loving them and wanting the absolute best for them? No, I do not agree with every choice, yes I will and do disapprove of things they do, and no I will never stop loving them and wanting the absolute best for them.

 

Loving someone does not mean you agree with or condone everything they do. This is a big misconception. You can love without aligning. Jesus tells us that the world will know you are a follower of him by how you love people. (John 13:35) Unfortunately, this is not the way that most people would describe Christians. The meme that made me stop and think is this one:

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I think a lot of Christians put a lot of conditions on their love for others. Maybe they are afraid that if they ‘love’ someone that it means they are in line with every philosophy and failing, every statement and stance. If this was what Jesus meant, than I can tell you that he would not ‘love’ me. I am a flawed person, cursed to live in this imperfect body until I get my new one. (2 Cor. 5:1-5) Thankfully, God loves us, his children, regardless of what we do. God does NOT agree or align with everything we do, but he still sent his Son to die for us. If that is not love, I don’t know what is.

 

When Jesus told us to love others, do we just question? Did he stutter? There is a Tim Keller fan twitter account and it usually tweets Tim quotes. This was one from the other day: “In American society most people only know of either a mild & nominal or a separatist & legalistic Christianity. Neither is the real thing.” Ouch. I want to be known as a follower of Christ by my love for others. Jesus said that the two greatest commands are love God and love your neighbor. It all comes back to love. But just because you love someone does not mean that you have to agree with them on everything. Jesus put no conditions on who he would love, but he did tell us to ‘go and sin no more.’ (John 8:11)

 

Maybe you are struggling with accepting the love of your heavenly Father. Maybe you have a bad relationship with your real father. Let the love that sent Jesus to the cross touch you today. Whether you know it or not, God loves you. Think about that today.

 

May the Fourth be With You _______________

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May the fourth just passed and with it, many Star Wars fans dressed up, watched the films, had parties and celebrated this beloved franchise. Ask any Star Wars fan to give you a quote from the movies and almost definitely someone will say, “May the force be with you.” I was trying to get a number as to how many times this phrase is said in the films, but all I found was that “the force” is mentioned 91 times in all six films. Many people like to draw comparisons between ‘the force’ and the Holy Spirit. This was my inspiration for this post. As you notice, I am a little late in posting, but better late than never!

 

Speaking to Judas (not Iscariot)  Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But 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. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid …” John 14:23-27 ESV

 

In this passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus is promising the Holy Spirit to his disciples. The same way Luke Skywalker did not understand the force is the same way that, at this point in Scripture, the disciples did not understand Jesus or his true mission. The disciples thought that Jesus was going to establish a physical kingdom on the earth and overthrow Rome. They had not grasped the concept that he was to be the savior of the world through his death on the cross and resurrection. Jesus kept talking about leaving and the disciples were left scratching their heads.

 

At times it seems like when reading the Gospels, Jesus is speaking to the disciples the way that Master Yoda spoke to Luke Skywalker. Yoda was the Jedi Master and teacher of Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader who were both at opposite sides of the force. Darth Vader was originally a force for good, but was turned and was operating in the Dark Side of the Force. Ben Kenobi, or Obi-Wan, operates on the Light Side, or positive side, of the force. Luke did not fully understand the power that he possessed or how he could use it for good. Jesus is promising his disciples a comforter; a guide, the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit will ‘teach [them] all things.’ The Holy Spirit alive on the inside of all who believe in Jesus as savior and all who claim him as Lord. This is the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. It is easy for people to compare ‘the force’ to the Holy Spirit, but there is one big difference. In the universe of Star Wars, there are two sides to the force, Good and Evil. 1 John 1:5 tells us, This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. There is no other side to our ‘force’ who is the Holy Spirit. John goes on from this verse to say, If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 

When we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness! That is the power of the ‘force.’ The Holy Spirit is what we receive as believers. When Jesus died on the cross, it erased the records of those who believe. Each time we mess up, and ask God to forgive, he says, “OK, that’s one.” Next time we mess up, he says, “OK, that’s one.” God forgives and forgets, the slate stays clean. As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)

 

Nothing you have ever done or will ever do can disqualify you from receiving the Holy Spirit. Whosoever believes will have everlasting life. When you are a believer, and you receive the Holy Spirit, you will be operating with ‘the force’ alive inside of you.