Its what you do next…

conversation - photo credit - David Marcu

Whether its at work, at home, or in your social circle, when you realize that you are the source of another person’s pain, its what you do next that matters. Truly I hate that moment. Most of us who are conscientious hate it too. These are the moments when our self-defence rituals kick in: blaming, shaming, and fear dancing! We don’t want the conflict. We don’t want a share in the pain. We want it to be the other person’s problem. And so if you are at all familiar with that script it probably means you are going to argue with God when He interrupts your worship.

23“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.  Mathew 5:23-24

When self-justification takes over as our lens for relationships it makes us confident that the real problem is someone else’s problem. “They” have a problem because “they” are wrong, “they” are too sensitive, “they” are too reactive.

But reconciliation is our problem. Jesus wants us to see conflict and pain through the lens of reconciliation not self-justification. When self-justification is our lens for seeing people and conflict then even our worship will be framed by self-justification. We will turn the worship of God into a moment in which we are self-justifying ourselves before Him. We are using God instead of loving God.

That’s why Jesus shows his disciples how God interrupts worship. “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you… leave… Go… and be reconciled…” Why would we suddenly remember? I believe the Spirit of God calls us into the ministry of reconciliation. The Gospel shows us the King’s Mission of reconciliation and brings us into it. A true worshipper saved by Jesus is going to have moments in which worship is interrupted by Jesus for reconciliation within the realm personal relationships.

This passage is one of the reasons why I think our worship gatherings are meant to be way more dynamic and active than they are!

The good news: obedience to Jesus leads us into new options for relationships. You are not in charge of what the other person does next after you approach them. You are only in charge of what you are “doing next” because God approached you in worship and reminded you of the pain another is experiencing in relation to you.

So what are you going to do when you go to them? Try this:
1. I was meeting up with God and He reminded me of you.
2. I think you may be pained by me in some way.
3. Would you like to let me in on what you are feeling and thinking?
Then wait, listen and respond appropriately.

Some of your possible responses: Agreeing with them. Acknowledging their pain. Sharing in their sorrow. Asking forgiveness. Confessing your own. Granting forgiveness. Making amends. Making restitution. Praying together. Creating new boundaries. Waiting. Worshiping God together through Christ.

Reconciliation is a miracle work through the grace of Jesus and it cannot be rushed, but it must be started when the Spirit of God interrupts your worship. When God interrupts your worship, its what you do next that matters.

Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. 17He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. Ephesians 2:16-18

Photo Credit: David Marcu

Jesus sees your faith even if we can’t.

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Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”  Mark 2:5

I’ve heard this story (you can get the whole story below) since I was a kid. I  have read Mark 2 a lot. I think about it often as a picture of genuine friendship and the incredible declaration of divinity made by Jesus when he forgave the man’s sins. But last night at our Alpha Course the Lord pressed me on another angle:

The paralyzed man had faith too.

In my mind and in most sermons its just been the faith of the four friends that Jesus saw.. because they were the ones in motion. They were the ones doing all the work. They were the ones tearing a hole in the roof. They were the ones finding a solution to the barriers between Jesus and their friend. But last night it hit me, Jesus saw “their” faith. There are 5 guys and some faith and Jesus saw them all.

The paralyzed man must have had some faith. He doesn’t seem to be protesting. There must have been a a conversation among the 5 guys beforehand. The man on the mat is a willing participant seeking Jesus.

I don’t know why but I never saw this before! But this realization is full of grace and delight for me! And I’m loving God even more today because of it!

When I can’t perform as others might want…

When I can’t move with grace and power…

When I can’t do everything I wish I could do…

When I can’t express all that I hope for…

When I can’t forgive myself…

When I can’t …

He can!

Jesus can act on the smallest glimmers of faith in Him that are in me.

Jesus sees past all that is left undone and He acts on the faith we turn towards Him. He does what seems impossible. And right there Jesus saw past all the “able bodies” and saw right into this man’s heart and did a miracle. Forgiveness! The miracle of a forgiven and cleansed life is priceless! And then Jesus showed the crowd He really did have the authority to do the larger and more costly act of forgiveness, when He healed the man of his paralysis.

Jesus will act on our faith even if for a time all we can do is lay in bed.

What little glimmers of faith in Jesus, the Creator, the Conquer of death, the Redeemer, the Shepherd of our Souls, are you turning toward Him?

He sees. He hears. He acts.
Mark 2:1- 12 NLT

1When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. 2Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, 3four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 4They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.

5Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
6But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, 7“What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”
8Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? 9Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11“Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
12And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”

Mysteries abound when kids are secretaries.

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Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. 7No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 9That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined

what God has prepared for those who love him.”

10But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.  1 Corinthians 2:6-12
Have you ever had the following experience upon arriving home?

One of the kids says, “Somebody called for you.”

Parent: Who called?

Kid: I’m not sure.

Parent: What’d they say?

Kid: I think, that you should call them back.

Parent: What’s the number?

Kid: I don’t remember.

Parent: Did you write it down?

Kid: No.

Parent: When did they want me to call back?

Kid: I don’t know.

Well maybe you don’t have kids. It could have been a roommate! Before the advent of caller ID and everybody having a personal phone attached to them this was a dead-end conversation. Dead-end conversations — that’s sometimes how people see the journey of getting to know God. But that’s not how the Apostle Paul sees it. He believes the messaging of the Gospel specifically dispels the fog regarding God and His intentions. God hasn’t called on you with the Gospel in order to create confusion. No, God has called on you with the Gospel of Jesus in order to dispel some mysteries and to transform your loves.

The Gospel message is much clearer than our secretarial kids.

Who called? God.

What’d He say? The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is His plan for including people in a relationship of love and and in His long-term plan to redeem Creation.
What do I need to do next? Receive Jesus by faith; He gives His Holy Spirit to help you know the wonderful things He has freely given us.

When? Now.

The Gospel has a very specific view of the work of God. The cross of Jesus stood upon terraferma in a specific period of history in order to reveal and make a way for people into the King’s mission. The Gospel is the message and Jesus’ people are now the agents of His message: God is doing something good on your behalf; he is preparing something good for you who love Him. The journey now with the Holy Spirit is to live from and into the good He is giving us.

Ah, Dear world, here’s the challenge for me and even for the church: sometimes I still feel like a kid trying to convey the message. I may not be clear. My lack of skills and the imperfections of my life may create confusion. I’m just a kid secretary, still growing up! And sometimes I struggle to find the words to describe the love, joy, peace, change and hope I have found in Him. But I’m trying. So I go back to the Gospel message. And I know its not all up to me. Its a good thing God is giving His Holy Spirit to help you… and to help me! Of this I’m sure: ’till Jesus Christ returns, God is going to keep calling on people through His Gospel and His Spirit!

The wisdom of weakness when it comes to winning hearts to Jesus.

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1When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.  1 Corinthians 2:1-5

To be sure the Apostle Paul was not a pushover. Nor was he easily swayed from the King’s mission. Paul was trained in the rhetorical conventions of his day and he was capable of entering into the fray without paralyzing fear regarding the emotional discomfort of others. So why did Paul intentionally enter the arenas of Corinth’s intellectual and social conversation with weakness?

The Gospel of Jesus creates a counter-cultural impulse. While the best and most noble virtues of a society may bend people toward the Gospel, there are also prized postures toward life that run counter to the Gospel, create a false gospel, and might be confused with the Gospel. I think Paul choose weakness because he was responding to to the counter-cultural impulse of Jesus as he brought the Gospel to the people of Corinth.

They valued strength. They valued flowery speech. They loved their big personalities and the opportunity to take sides. Those were the trappings of their human wisdom. Paul was capable of delivering all three… and it would not have honoured Christ and the Gospel.

So Paul made himself smaller that Christ could be greater. He came with weakness — timid and trembling. He talked with them plainly. He was very conscious of relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to move the hearts of people. He was looking for the power of God to inspire trust in God. He would not use fear or a form of personalized competition with other voices or logisticians to bring people to “his side.” Instead,  Paul chose dependency on God trusting that He would show up through the grace, truth, and power of the Gospel. This choice shaped his attitude and posture toward the people of Corinth.

Would the Lord have you choose weakness as the pathway to people’s hearts in your community?

If so, what does that look like for you? What adjustments in demeanour are required?

 

From Fans to Followers. Jesus calls us out of the crowd.

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Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

 

Its great to blend in and disappear in the crowd sometimes. There is an almost cellular compulsion to just be like the other. Part of maturing is the acceptance that I’m a lot like and a lot different from folks in a crowd. I can be a part of crowd, enjoying the music, the art of another, or the vibe of a public event. Most artists are going to be just fine with that. But, when Jesus gets in front of crowd he calls people out. He doesn’t seem to be content with “fans.” He wants followers.

His invitation is winsom. He truly does assume the best about the crowd. “If any of you wants to be my follower.” I like that. Jesus knew that being about the Father’s love-work would create attraction. You like hanging around together in this movement? So, you want to be a follower? Jesus is actually looking to move people from being “fans” to becoming “followers.”

Jesus also clarifies what its going to take to be a follower. Followers of Jesus have a disruptive calling: “You must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily and follow me.” People who have become fans like to look at and observe The Gospel at work. People who have become followers like to become participants in The Gospel work. It starts in them. Jesus transforms all of life and relationships through HIS life, death, burial, and resurrection. The Gospel changes everything.

I’m naturally resistant to the Gospel changing everything. We all are! We are all infected with this resistance. So it does take the work of the Spirit to move us into a sacrificial, submitted-to-God, kind of life. There is an ease to the Christian life — Jesus said it himself — “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly.”  But there is also a narrowness to the Christian life that does constrain against my selfishness— “Enter through the narrow gate for wide is the gate that leads to destruction and many enter through it.” Selfishness — the desire to be lord of my life when Jesus is the Lord — will be against what Jesus wants. Fans can do what they want. Followers do what Jesus wants. So, when I’m trying to live the Christian life in my own strength because “its what I should do” its really going to be a slog! On the way to the new life that comes from Him, I’m going to have to also attend to the death and burial of a “thing” resisting Jesus. That’s the cross of discipleship — the movement into obedience. There’s so much blessing on the other side of being aligned with Jesus! There’s no other way to be in His joy.