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Love Promoter

October 19, 2015

We Christ-followers should be known for our love. Known for the way insults and offenses simply slide off of us. Known for our imperturbable friendship. Sadly more often than not we’re known for our bigotry, bias, judgment, and being easily offended.

Let’s take a moment and soak in the wisdom of the words from Proverbs 17:

Whoever promotes love covers over an offense,
but he who repeats the matter separates close friends. (NIV)

Or, put another way,

Whoever conceals an offense promotes love,
but whoever gossips about it separates friends. (HCSB)

Which are you going to operate as today? A love promoter or a friend separator?

Follow the leader. Take your cues from Jesus. He paid with his own life to silence Satan’s repetitions of our sins, casting them away beyond anyone’s reach, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103).

Jesus’ primary act of love wasn’t his healing or his teaching; it was his covering of our offenses. In the same way, your ultimate act of love today will be the way you pass over the offenses that come against you.

Let’s learn how to let the small frustrations go and instead find joy in Christ. Let’s learn how to address the big issues honestly and then forgive them, covering them with grace for the sake of love, never bringing them up again. Let’s become the kind of people who others know they can entrust themselves to as close friends.

When that happens they can’t help but meet Jesus. Let’s be love promoters, not friend separators. In Jesus’ name.

 

 

 

Best Of, Christian Life, Evangelism, Spiritual Growth, Theology

Freedom and The Glory

July 6, 2015

 

 

The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
– Romans 8:19-21

 

Subject to frustration

You’ve seen and you’ve tasted the futility and frustration of this world, haven’t you? The pain of the stillborn child, the death of two teen boys in a sudden car crash, the hours of work that barely bring in enough money to make ends meet, the frustrated plans for a beautiful marriage. Our world was subjected to this. It wasn’t meant to be this way. Things are broken and in need of fixing.

Subjected in hope

But, unlike what modernism, post-modernism, evolution, nihilism, and their ilk want us to believe, this subjection wasn’t purposeless. It’s not the result of ten billion molecules aligning for the sake of creating purposelessness. We’re not on the treadmill until we die and then off into the void of death.

Creation (note the intentionality in that word) was subject in hope. There’s a massive difference between purposeless pain and the purposeful agony of pushing your body to accomplish a goal. This frustration and seeming futility was done with an end in mind, a hope that it will have a certain outcome. And what is that hope?

In hope of freedom

The hope is that the futility would lead to freedom. Liberation from captivity, from destruction, and from pain. No more bondage to death and decay. Subjected to captivity for the sake of freedom is a strange path to take, but it’s a pattern than God seems to repeat. Israel in Egypt for four hundred years before walking into freedom. Paul blinded and captive for days before being released to shake the world with the Gospel. Jesus bound, beaten, and killed before rising from death as ruler over all, displaying his glory.

In hope of glory

The end goal of this futility is glory. The pent-up wonder and awe that has been tamped down for millennia by the frustration of a broken world will soon explode over the horizons of creation. Glory will cover the earth like waters cover the sea. Jesus was the first deluge, but he was just the start. Just the firstborn among many sons and daughters.

Of the children of God

This freedom and glory is “of the children of God.” It’s something possessed by God’s children, given as a gift to the heirs of God’s kingdom through Christ.(Romans 8:17) Jesus purchased our adoption, yes, but this glory and freedom is ours to give. Creation’s aching and anxious for it to be revealed. God’s made the downpayment, sealed his children with the Holy Spirit and anointed us to be the ambassadors of the free and glorious kingdom that has and is to come.

The present frustration and pain is tiny in comparison to what’s coming. Creation itself is on edge in anticipation. Join in. Embrace the freedom and glory that God has given for today and lean into the future freedom and glory, so hard that you – like Jesus – become a bridge between the then and the now. Let the world taste the good future of the children of God so that they too join the family. The freedom and the glory is yours, child of God. Share it.

 

 

 

 

Best Of, Christian Life, Commentary, Spiritual Growth

Search Among the Dead

June 8, 2015

In Luke 24 a few of the women that had been following Jesus, including Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ mother, go on the morning after the Sabbath to embalm Jesus’ body using spices, as was the Jewish tradition in that time. They arrive to find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. As they stand and wonder what in the world happened (Did someone steal Jesus’ body? Why? Who would do such a thing?) Suddenly two angels show up on the scene and ask a very important but often overlooked question;

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”

– Luke 24:6-7

After the angels ask them this question the women remember Jesus’ words about his resurrection and return to tell the disciples, with no little excitement, that Jesus was alive.

The question that the angels ask the women at Jesus’ tomb is a question God is asking you today. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? Don’t you remember what Jesus told you?”

 

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

On a human level the women there at Jesus’ tomb had good reason to linger, search, and wonder what had happened. The situation made no sense and looked like the work of grave robbers desecrating their friend and son’s corpse. On a human level it was another thing to mourn.

We too often have an abundance of reasons to linger among the graves of our past failures, wounds, and struggles, mourning what we have or haven’t done and what has and hasn’t been done to us. For the man whose father never showed affection, the natural reaction is to let that shape expectations for rejection in the present. For the woman who has gone through failed relationship after failed relationship, it’s natural to look back on those gravestones and feel the overwhelming thought that she is the problem that can never be fixed.

But we serve a God who isn’t confined to a human level. He’s not satisfied with his people operating on a human level either, to the point where he will send two supernatural beings to rebuke the women at Jesus’ tomb for their lingering at the grave. Catch that – God is rebuking the women for lingering at their son, friend, and leader’s grave. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

These woman should have known better. We should know better. They’d been with Jesus for years now, heard him teach, seen him raise people from the dead, heal the deathly ill, walk on water, and so much more. We’ve been with Jesus for years now and have seen him transform lives, heal, restore, and faithfully shepherd us through every trial. Why do we linger among the graves? That’s not where Jesus is! He’s had a plan all along, in every trial and every darkest moment, it’s been according to plan. We just need to remember.

 

Remember how he told you

“He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’”

We, like the women at Jesus’ tomb, need to bring to mind the words that God has spoken to us. Jesus had explicitly told them multiple times that he was going to die and that he was going to rise again. Heck, he’d even given them the timeline (“on the third day…”). They shouldn’t have had to stand around in the graveyard pondering – they should have connected the dots and begun rejoicing!

Just as Jesus made promises to his disciples about his resurrection, God has made promises to each of his people about his plan for their lives. Remember, he said

  • Everything will work out for your good. (Romans 8:28)
  • He will provide for every need you have (Philippians 4:19)
  • We will live eternally (John 10:27-28)
  • He will be with us all the time (Matthew 28:20)

and so much more! Remember what he’s told you. When you find yourself lingering on failures, wounds, and struggles, call to mind what God has promised. We can, like Jesus, go with confidence into situations where we are rejected, abused, and even killed if we will remember.

When we remember what he’s told us it won’t be possible to search among the dead and the gravestones any more. In our excitement we’ll join the women of Luke 24, drop our burdens, and run to tell others the amazing news of what has happened.

Jesus has gone before us and purchased for us the fulfillment of every one of the Father’s promises to us. He’s spoken them over you and speaks them over you every moment of every day. Stop trying to find life among the dead. Leave that graveyard behind. Remember what he told you. Jesus has risen, and we shall indeed have life in him – life to the fullest. Leave the graveyard with joy and proclaim to all the good news of this glorious Gospel!

Best Of, Christian Life, Relationships

Seven Habits Single Men Must Master

March 28, 2015

Kelly and I spend a lot of our time with singles, both young men and young women. It’s awesome. Things change significantly when you get married and both Kelly and I want to intentionally engage with singles regardless of how long we’ve been together.

Over the few years we’ve been married I’ve learned things I didn’t know about Kelly and women in general, and have also noticed that there are a large number of young men who are woefully equipped for marriage on a practical level, despite their earnest desire to find the woman that God has for them and their excellent character. I wanted to take a few minutes and outline seven practical habits that every single man must master if he’s going to operate well in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex – especially in a marriage. None of these are deep spiritual truths. These are practical habits and skills that will each make significant differences in the quality of relationship with your future wife. None of them are difficult but all take determination and practice to build into your life. Trust me, it’s worth it.

  • Habit 1: Clean up after yourself. Somehow it’s seen as socially acceptable for single men to have apartments where dishes are piled high next to the sink and food is slowly molding away in the refrigerator. From an objective standpoint, that’s both gross and unhealthy. From a woman’s standpoint, it’s disgusting and a complete turn-off. Get in the habit of cleaning your apartment, your room, your bathroom (especially your bathroom) and your car on a regular basis. Make sure the place smells clean. Dust. Vaccuum. Mop. If you’ve moved out of your parents house and are desiring marriage, you need to be enough of a man to clean up after yourself consistently and not just when you’re having people over.
  • Habit 2: Clean yourself up. No woman wants to cuddle with a man who smells like sweat and body odor. Care about the body that God has given you. Keep it clean, wear deodorant, and dress well. Don’t live in sweatpants and t-shirts with superheros or video game characters on them. Have a full beard? Groom it well. Can’t grow a full beard? Stop trying. Clean yourself up and be intentional about your appearance. This isn’t vanity. It’s honoring God with your body by caring for what he’s given you.
  • Habit 3: Fix things. Some guys are naturally handy around the house and can fix just about any problem that comes up. I’m not one of those. But even if you’re like me, develop some basic knowledge and skills about how household appliances and systems work so that you can fix minor issues that come up regularly. Figure out how to fix a toilet that keeps running, a leaking pipe under the sink, how to change the oil and replace headlights on a car, how to deal with computer problems, and the like. Your future wife will be hugely blessed and will have a greater respect for you.
  • Habit 4: Know when not to fix things. Some stuff is beyond your skill level. Develop the skill of knowing when something needs to be done by a professional.
  • Habit 5: Be romantic. Hollywood doesn’t seem to think so, but being romantic is a skill that you can develop. Be consciously developing yourself in this area and you won’t regret it.
  • Habit 6: Applaud differences. Your wife is going to be drastically different than you. God generally tends to bring people together who are almost total opposites. When you get married you can choose to value, be thankful for, and rejoice in those differences or you can get frustrated and bitter that the woman God have you isn’t more like you. Practice now by pressing into relationships with people even if your differences frustrate you sometimes.
  • Habit 7: Manage your money. The vast majority of young men I talk to don’t think much beyond the current paycheck. That can work when you’re flying solo, but when you get married you need to start operating as a couple when it comes to money. Get in the groove now by developing a budget and being aware of where your money is going. Use a free finance service like Mint or invest in a program like Quicken. Start out with checking your account balances and where your money is going on at least a weekly basis. Read a book on money management. Start saving at least 10% of each paycheck. Money can be a serious source of tension in a relationship. Prevent that by developing the skill of managing it well now.

Young men, press into these habits and skills. Start now so that you have a sound foundation for when God brings a woman into your life.

Best Of, Christian Life, Commentary, Spiritual Growth

Receive the Love

January 16, 2014

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
– John 15:9, ESV

Abide in my love, Jesus says – don’t just acknowledge it or talk about it. Abide in it. Soak in it. Dwell on it. Let it fill you like the sap from the vine fills the branches, so that where you are broken or cut it is His love that spills out.

As the Father has loved me

Jesus sets the stage by telling his disciples the scope of his love. It is “as the Father has loved;” a love like God the Father’s love for God the Son. We begin by going beyond comprehension or expression.

“As the Father has loved” is a love eternal, a delight and affection without beginning or end. It was before all things and will continue after all things. “As the Father has loved” is a powerful love, a love that reaches beyond the grave to restore the loved one to life – not only to life but to the position of Name above every name. “As the Father has loved” is a fearsome love, a love that opposes all who oppose the beloved; “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” (Psalm 110:1) “As The Father has loved” is a perfect love, a love that sees only beauty. Jesus says to his followers, stunningly, that love like that – love like the Father has for me – is the kind of love I have for you.

So I have loved you

What more can Christ do to prove this statement than he has already done? He has lowered himself and taken on the form of man. He became the lowest of men, the servant of all. His days on earth were given to ministering to us. He bore the mountain-weight of our punishment. He died willingly in our place. He resurrected and devotes his ascendant life not to his own pleasure but to interceding on our behalf. He is preparing a place for us. With every motion of his life, earthly and heavenly, he has declared, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.”

Abide in my love

But how slow we are to believe, oh brothers and sisters! Caught up in our own hurt, struggle, and inability we have declared ourselves unworthy and unlovable. We confuse pride with humility, thinking that we are called to constantly bemoan our sin and shortcomings so that the Lord will know we’re truly sorry, but this is not what Jesus commanded. He never said, “As the Father has punished me for your sin, so I will punish you” or “abide in your failure”. No, his words were, “Abide in my love.”

It is on the love, the delight that Christ has for us that we are to meditate and dwell.

Any area of our life that we refuse to receive Christ’ love is an area that is kept from the fruitfulness that glorifies him. As Jesus said later in John 15, “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.” When we deny the love of Christ in any area of ourselves, that area is disconnected from the vine and can bear no fruit.

Is your past full of wounds that are too painful to think about? Christ’s love is the balm that will heal and restore. Do not think that your past is too far gone to be redeemed.

Does your heart seem to hard to change from its sinful ways? Christ’s love is the forge that melts all metals and burns away all dross. Receive his love.

Do you fear the thoughts and opinions of others? Christ’s love is the shield to circle you round and shelter you. Abide in it.

As His love fills the areas you have kept back they will begin to bear fruit. Wasted years will be returned to you as beautiful years of shaping. Sins will be turned to testimony of freedom. Fear will bear the fruit of beautiful boldness.

My friends, do not cut yourself off! If there is any corner of yourself that you have kept hidden hear Jesus’ words; “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” He speaks it over those corners. In his sovereign knowledge he chose to come to us in love while we were in sin. Hear his call and come to him. Abide in his love.

Best Of, Christian Life, Leadership

The Poison of a Prayerless Leader

December 9, 2013

 

 

Yesterday I spent some time flipping through scripture and looking over passages where prayer is mentioned. There’s a lot of them. Almost 100 if you search for the word “pray” on esvbible.org. Out of all the texts that I skimmed through this one from 1 Samuel stood out to me most. Samuel is stepping down from his role as judge of the nation of Israel because they have demanded a king to rule over them and God has given them one. 1 Samuel 12 is his farewell address to the people who he has led and judged for most of his lifetime, and one of his concluding statements is,

“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.” – 1 Samuel 12:23

This is a paradigm shifting verse for me. Every Christian knows they are supposed to pray. Every leader of God’s people knows they should pray for the people they are leading. But Samuel isn’t comfortable with should. He says that it would be sin for him to stop praying for the people of Israel.
Leader, hear this well. One of the greatest responsibilities you have – perhaps the greatest responsibility – is to intercede for your people. Your great task is to follow your savior in coming before the throne of God and pleading for those who the Lord has given you charge of. Teach them, yes. Train them and council them, yes. Lead them in the study of Scripture and cast vision, yes. Guide them into the mission the Lord has called them to, yes, but above all pray for them. Pray over them. Pray with them. To fail in doing so is to walk in sin.

We need to be men and women who, like Samuel, realize that it is sin when we cease to pray for the people God has given us. God gives grace to the prayerless leader and may allow him to succeed for a time, but shall we sin that grace may abound? By no means! “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray”!

Do you pray for the believers around you? Are these spaces carved from your day-to-day life for the solitary, focused labor of intercession? Does your community gather regularly for the sole purpose of prayer? Is prayer a natural part of your gatherings? If it is not that may well be root of many of your struggles. As R.A. Torrey wrote in his book How To Pray, “There is infinite grace at our disposal, and we make it our experimentally [in experience] by prayer.”

Let us be a people who take a hold of that grace on behalf of our people, praying without ceasing. God will not fail to hear the prayer of those who minister faithfully in the name of Christ. Do not cease in your prayer, oh leader.

 

 

 

Best Of, Christian Life, Theology

Marriage isn’t for you – it’s for Jesus

November 6, 2013

 

To my knowledge this is the first time I’ve written a post in response to something I’ve read on another blog. Generally I feel that internet debates lack positive fruit, however, several people I know and respect have shared this blog post and said that it was a must-read via various social media outlets. Kelly, my beautiful wife, was reading it on Sunday night and commented her disappointment with what she had expected to be an excellent article, asking my thoughts. I read and was similarly disappointed. Over the last day or so I’ve put some time into thinking through what was wrong with the post “Marriage Isn’t for You,” and figured I would write out some of my thoughts for the benefits of my friends.

First, a disclaimer. From a brief browsing of Seth Adam Smith’s blog I don’t see much evidence for him being a follower of Christ. If that’s the case, then my post here isn’t any judgment of him since, without the Holy Spirit, there’s no way to truly know the ultimate goal of marriage. My goal is to correct what may be an error in our understanding of what marriage is about, which is a critical thing to understand in our increasingly anti-marriage culture.

The point of Seth’s post can be seen in his quotation of his father’s advice on marriage;

You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”

The post has obviously struck a cord. Published two days ago, it already has over 3000 comments. I’ve seen it posted approximately 10 times in the last two days on my Facebook feed. Seth has tapped something that we know we need to hear. Marriage isn’t about us. It’s not about what we get out of it. It’s about loving and serving someone else.  Excellent truth, right? No. Not really.

The problem with the post isn’t that it’s totally wrong – it’s that it falls far short of the mark (Rom. 3:23). While statements like, “No true relationship of love is for you. Love is about the person you love,” connect with Biblical morals found in places like 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 that emphasize marriage’s other-contentedness, they hang terribly disconnected from their Gospel end goal.

If marriage is indeed “about the person you married,” even if it’s for your family and your future children, then marriage becomes the sin that Paul warns of in Romans 1:23 where we “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man”. Marriage becomes idolatry when its end goal is your spouse’s happiness. When your marriage becomes an idol then it’s on your shoulder to carry it, and the burden of two human souls is not something that we have the strength to bear. It’s a weight that will inevitably crush the structure it sits on, leaving your marriage cracked and crumbling.

According to God, marriage isn’t about you, your spouse, your kids, or your family. It’s not even about being “better together” and serving more people. According to Ephesians 5, marriage is about Jesus. The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes, “’a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh [be married].’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” God’s declaration is that marriage is about Christ and the church, not about the person you married. The main reason that our King created marriage was to give the world an image of what his love for his people looks like. It’s not about you. Her. Him. It’s about Jesus and the gospel.

Marriage isn’t about us because it’s about Jesus. In marriage we serve each other because Jesus served us. We sacrifice for each other because Jesus sacrificed for us. We raise children, sacrificing for their sake, loving them, and giving unlimited grace to them because Jesus made the way for us to become children of God and is loving us, raising us up in his image, and being infinitely patient with us. Seth Adam Smith’s blog post isn’t all wrong, but it does fall far short of the full truth, and that’s a terribly dangerous place to be.

Kelly and I have been married just over a year, and we have certainly learned that marriage doesn’t work when we’re thinking of ourselves first. But we’ve also learned that we need our marriage to orbit around something much larger than ourselves for it to work. When our marriage is lived out from the grace of Jesus for the glory of Jesus, everything works. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from prison in his “Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell,”

Marriage is more than your love for each other. In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, and office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man.

Check out a couple of other great resources on Biblical marriage below;

 

Best Of, Christian Life, Commentary, Spiritual Growth

Growing Your Spiritual Boldness

October 10, 2013
When Moses first encountered the Lord his response wasn’t joyful adoration or even earnest attentiveness. His response was fear. “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (Exodus 3:6)  He didn’t know the God who he was speaking to; didn’t know his character or his habits. As a result Moses had no real desire to know more about this terrifying God who had just called him to, for all he knew, go back to Egypt to be executed for the murder he’d committed years earlier.

 

I’m convinced that most believers in our day stand in the same place as Moses did that day at the burning bush. We’ve got our shoes off out of respect and honor for the one we know is God, we’re willing to listen intently when he speaks, and we’ll even follow his commands, but we have no real longing for going deeper. Honestly, we’re a bit afraid. We don’t really know this God. We know of him, but we don’t know him. We’ve read the books and heard the sermons. We’ve tasted his grace, gone on the missions trip, even teared up during worship, but we don’t have first-hand experience of his character and power.Our day desperately needs people who know the Lord well enough to make bold requests of him. There are nations falling apart, societies glorying in sin, and people are are trapped in addictions, blinded by Satan, and satisfied with poison. Who will come before the Lord on their behalf? If we don’t have the boldness to ask great things of the Lord how will our world be changed?

 

Fast forward in Moses’ story. God calls him to Egypt and through him performs mind-boggling miracles, frees the Israelites, parts the Red Sea, provides food and water for hundreds of thousands in a desert, and ultimately leads them to the promised land. During those weeks and months Moses spends hours in the Lord’s presence, seeking guidance and help for the tasks before him. The culminating moment takes place at Mount Sinai.

There on the mountain Moses proves himself to be a very different man than the one who hid his face in fear from a burning bush. Instead, Moses utters the words, “Please show me your glory.” (Exodus 33:18) What a transformation! In a matter of months Moses goes from hiding himself from the Lord to making perhaps the boldest request any human has ever made. Moses’ spiritual cowardice was transformed into spiritual boldness. How? I believe there’s one simple principle that makes all the difference:

Following the Lord’s leading fosters a longing for his presence.

As Moses followed God’s commands and experienced first-hand his power, love, mercy, justice, and patience he learned who this God was. He learned, and he wanted more. He asked for what he wanted and God, in his amazing grace, gave it to him. For perhaps the first time since Adam and Eve in the garden, God showed his glory to a human being.

When our longing for the Lord languishes I’m convinced that it’s often because we are refusing to follow his leading. The Spirit has been prompting us to speak, to move, to act, but we’ve ignored him, all the while praying “God, let me know you more.” The thing is, God reveals himself to the people who obey him. People who, like Moses, do what they have been called to do even though they don’t know for sure if it’s even possible or if it was really God who spoke to them.

I for one am eager to overtake Moses in his encounter with our Lord. I want to see God’s glory move in mighty power in and through my life. Moses was used by God to free Israel from enslavement to the Egyptians. We now, empowered by the same Spirit, are sent by Christ to free the nations from enslavement to sin and Satan. As we go out and make disciples, being the ambassadors of reconciliation, we will see our longing for His presence increase in amazing ways.

Don’t be comfortable with a life that is humanly possible. The Christian life is a supernatural one, one that is filled with things that are inconceivable apart from the presence and power of our God. That, my brothers and sisters, is the life that we are called to live.

 

Best Of, Christian Life, Spiritual Growth, Theology

Mighty Men vs. Jesus’ Disciples

September 19, 2013

God’s grace isn’t just a passive shield guarding us from his wrath; it is power to live a God-ward life.

2 Samuel 23:8-38 is a list of the 37 “mighty men” who David appointed to be close to him because of their skill in battle and power. These were the kind of guys that we watch martial arts and action movies about. Guys that left the mere mortals in awe. Guys like Josheb-basshebeth who “wielded his spear against eight hundred whom he killed at one time,” Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, who “went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen,” and later won a battle by grabbing his enemy’s spear from his hand and stabbing him with it. To cap off the feats of the mighty men, there are three who overheard David say, “Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” when Bethlehem was the garrison of the Philistine military and who snuck into the camp, drew water from the well, and returned with it to their king.

These men were close to David. They were his bodyguard, the men he sent on crucial missions, the overseers of his troops and strategies, and in some cases his closest friends. They achieved their positions through proving themselves in war and through hours of experience. Because of what they had done they were close to the king and received the glory of their positions.

Like David, Jesus gathered around himself a small group of men. Like David, within his group there were three who Jesus kept particularly close. Like David, Jesus sent his men out on crucial missions. Like David, Jesus entrusted his authority to his men. But, in a breathtaking departure from common sense, Jesus choose men with no skill or experience. Men who were unproven. Who were unimpressive. Who, by all calculations, were a waste.

Oh the glorious strangeness of our Savior who calls tax collectors, farmers, and fishers to be the mighty men of his kingdom! Paul makes it explicit in 1 Corinthians,

not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 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.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, ESV)

 

David’s mighty men proved themselves before receiving their position. Jesus calls his disciples and proves himself through them after they’ve been chosen. That’s the power of God’s grace – it makes mighty the weakest and brings what didn’t exist into being.

David had 37 highly trained, skilled men at his disposal and all we have left behind is a list of hard-to-pronounce names. Jesus took 12 average men (at best) and launched a movement that still transforms lives and reverberates around the globe. The difference? The indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

We need to stop demanding of ourselves and others the experience and expertise of David’s mighty men. Skill, education, and experience aren’t defining characteristics in Christ’s kingdom. Humility, faith, hope, and love are the mighty weapons of Gospel warfare.

You may be weak. You may be unproven and unable. You may not have a sweet name like Eliahba the Shaalbonite. You may not feel worthy. Exactly. The Spirit in us is what appoints and empowers us to be missionaries and mighty men. If you have that, you have all you need. Jesus has all the authority in heaven and on earth, and you have access to all of him. Go and bring the living water from the wells of  Bethlehem to the world!

 

 

 

Best Of, Christian Life, Leadership, Spiritual Growth

Stay In The Tent

June 13, 2013

“Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.”

– Exodus 33:11

 

For the month of June I’ve been focusing on the study and practice of prayer, investing significantly more time than I have in the past in the Lord’s presence. I can honestly say that it’s been the most spiritually refreshing and empowering couple weeks I’ve had in quite some time. It’s inspired and encouraged me for the work that I have before me each day. I am convinced that the thing the young man or woman who aspires to follow Christ and make disciples needs more than anything else is to spend significant, intentional time before the Lord in the Word and in prayer.

Learn from your elders

Joshua understood this. Exodus 33:11 records that this young man, Moses’ assistant, made sure to be present when Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord. He joined the person who God has placed over him and observed, learning the ways that Moses interacted with the Lord and growing in knowledge, faith, and love. Rather than presuming to go on his own, Joshua entered the tent with Moses and thereby honored the authority placed over him.

Young leaders (I include myself in that category) need to be keenly aware of the authority that is over them. Jesus tells a parable warning against taking the best seat at the table lest the host tell you that it was reserved for someone else. Instead, we should take the low seats, joyfully do the menial tasks, quietly observe the discussions, and realize that we have much to learn.

Linger after your elders

Joshua doesn’t stop there, however. Even after Moses left to return to the Israelite camp and the day-to-day work he “would not depart from the tent.” Joshua lingers after his elder has left in the presence of God, developing in himself a steadfastness and faithfulness that lasts him even to old age. This extra time in the presence of God, I believe, is part of why Joshua is faithful to the end of his life where Moses eventually sins and is called out of leadership because of disobeying God’s command. (Numbers 20) He understood his desperate need for the Lord because of his youth and his inexperience and acted accordingly.

I want to be, and I want the men and women of Threshingfloor to be, a generation that lingers long in the tent of meeting. If we build significant space for prayer, worship, and study of the scriptures into our lives while we are in college, single, and free from many of the commitments that come later in life those habits will carry us for years to come. We need to remember that it is there in the presence of our Lord and King that the battle is decided. All of our preparation and strategy is worthless if we are not following His call in our lives.

Observe Joshua well. Learn from the men and women of God that have gone before you. Be humble enough to acknowledge your inexperience and need for leadership. Then invest more in your own growth by reading, praying, studying, observing, and practicing. By doing so you will prepare yourself to conquer nations for Christ.